Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego is an educational, web-based (originally released on the Apple II and MS-DOS) detective adventure game developed and published by Broderbund Software. Carmen Sandiego has the player, as InterPol detective, track down members of Sandiego’s gang of thieves, through a series of geography and cultural trivia-based puzzles, after they’ve stolen various national treasures. The player must successfully track the thief down and obtain a warrant in less than a week, otherwise the thief escapes. After the player successfully captures all of the subordinate thieves, he tracks down Sandiego herself.
Carmen Sandiego starts the player off in any number of randomly picked international capitals, such as Paris, Rome, or Tokyo. The player travels to local sites, such as libraries and palaces, wherein the player asks the locals for clues as to the thief’s most likely whereabouts. The clues can be anything from books that the thief checked out (encyclopedias on Mayan ruins), the cuisine of the next location (the thief looks forward to eating some good sushi), or a pastime (the thief always wanted to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro). Once the player determines the thief’s next location, he hops a plane there and repeats the process about six times until he catches the thief.
The clues range from the obvious (the thief wants to check out the Statue of Liberty) to much more obscure (the thief wants to know the market price of diamonds). The player can leave a city any time to travel to the next, which is advantageous if the player correctly guesses the next location, but if he guesses incorrectly, at the next location the locals have never heard of the thief. If the player has to get more than one clue, he runs the risk of wasting his time and the thief escaping. An additional risk is sometimes it takes several investigations before the player gathers enough clues to gain a warrant, so he runs the risk of tracking the thief down without being able to arrest them.
The visuals, while only rudimentary by today’s standards, have a certain by-gone charm. The buildings that the player visits, from hotels to harbors, bear only a slight resemblance to what actual buildings might look like, but the background images representing each city are actually pretty decent. The animations, such as when the player finds one of Sandiego’s henchmen or when the police chase the suspect, are very cute.
The sound is probably the weakest part. The music is caught very much in its era, with simple melodies that sound cranked straight out of a 1980s mono synthesizer. The sound effects, too, amount to little more than clicks and beeps. Thankfully, though, neither are so bad as to be distracting. And the tune that plays once a thief has been caught is actually very catchy.
Another weak point is the length. Since Carmen Sandiego is designed for children, with individual missions lasting at maximum only a few minutes, the entire game can be finished in about an hour. Thankfully, though, there’s a good amount of replayability as Carmen Sandiego features a wealth of possible clues the player can discover.
With a fun chase around the globe, sometimes challenging clues, and pleasant visuals, Carmen Sandiego is definitely worth a quick romp back to the mid-’80s.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego was reivewed on PC.
Investigations and animations aged well, but length and sound did not.