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"Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" is an puzzle video game. It was first released through a series of floppy diskettes in 1985 for the personal computer. I was not able to immediately find an age guidance rating but the topics covered in this title are educational and appear to be marketed directly towards children. It is dependent on the DOS platform for operation and is not fully compatible with modern Microsoft Windows builds. It can, however, be played through DOS emulation environments such as "DOSBox".
I remember being given this video game as a gift from my parents. I regularly followed the American television show of the same name, and this title was perhaps my first "full version" computer game. I've since lost the packaging and the Almanac which it is distributed with but recently came across the floppy diskettes. The setup does not execute natively under Windows XP but I found the process to be functional and simple when using third party software. It wasn't long before I was immersed within the game once again.
In this game, players assume the role of a detective and must seek out jewel thieves based on clues. Clues will be presented as the player travels throughout worldly locations, and following these will eventually lead to the suspect. The game has a strong geographical influence as clues will relate to landmarks, flag colours, currency, noteworthy cities and other places of interest in the world. Both the identity of the suspect and location must be revealed by interrogating townspeople and entering data into a small handheld device. After the device has had the necessary fields, such as hair colour and special markings, filled in then a warrant can be generated for the suspect's arrest. Players then must find the suspect and perform an arrest which results in an on screen pursuit by the police. If the arrest was correct, the police will apprehend the suspect otherwise the person will flee the scene.
Where the game becomes difficult for me is its timed missions. Each mission requires completion under a certain time and flying around the world drains several hours; one wrong flight to Australia could spell defeat for the player. The detective will also sleep through the night time hours. Some basic geographical knowledge is necessary for successful participation within the game but I did find through playing this title I became more apt with world geography.
The graphics of this game are functional but are very basic in terms of today's computing standard. The game is presented in 2D with a small palette of colours. The player will engage with four buttons on screen titled "See", "Depart" "?" and "Crime". Moving the mouse and clicking these buttons will execute appropriately categorized actions. See will bring up a menu of the next available locations for travel, Depart will bring up a world map with three to four locations which can be flown to, the question mark will speak with three local townspeople, and Crime allows users to input information to generate a warrant. A warrant must be filed prior to a successful arrest or it would be deemed illegal and invalid regardless if the suspect is found or not. Each city includes a small graphic of a famous landmark or domestic scene. The drawings are very basic but they did appear to reflect their intended purpose. The sound is likewise very basic. There are a few snippets of sound which include the stomping of a foot as the player walks around town to speak with local residents and a hissing noise when flying in an airplane. A few musical scores also accompany a sneaky thief as he runs from the screen when the player is on the right track.
Where in the World provides me with a strong blast from the past. As the game is 24 years old it can no longer compete with more modern video games in terms of its audio or video capabilities, but the game itself is still a functional experience with a solid educational foundation. I would happily recommend this title to players seeking a world geography based puzzle.
This game has cult status in my home and trying to find educational games that are actually fun and what the children choose to play, is a bit of a rarity !!
There are a few great educational CD roms that I would recommend and this is one of them, especially to help reinforce the learning of geography.
Carmen Sandiego herself is a globe-trotting thief, learning all she knows from her days as an ACME detective agency operative. (She's kinf of like a female James Bond should he ever deflect from Mi5 !! ) And it's up to you to track her down and bring her to justice using different crime-scenarios with which to investigate and solve. As I said, the book forcuses on geography and world cultures as the game pursues Carmen through Earth's major cities. This introduces you to the languages, customs, and landmarks of their peoples along the way. There are also other Carmen Sandiego games that focus on other subjects such as "Where in time is Carmen Sandiego" (history) "Carmen Sandiego Word detective" ( English ) and "Carmen Sandiego maths detective" (maths.)
However, whilst you will find that although certain games 'target' different subjects in the main, they will also help children expand on other skills too. This particular game also helps master skills such as reading, deductive reasoning, logic, maps & symbols, combining information, memory and matching, problem solving and listening comprehension.
*Who is it for ? *
I would recommend this for 9 years and up in general, however, I would base that decision on what your child is capable of. However, the software programme was developed to support the UK and Scottish National Curriculum at keystage 2 & 3 level in general.
*Minimum system requirements*
With any game that has been reviewed I would ALWAYS check with your supplier about the minimum requirements for any software programme. That is because you will find that some games are updated from time and time to work with more powerful operating systems which will require higher specifications from their PC/Mac.
However, the version that I won, is for Windows 95/98. Should people who run their PC on a newer version of Windows have problems with running this software, I would always recommend running the programme in an older version on Windows. To do this you simply 'right click' on the desktop icon and click on 'properties'. Then click on 'compatibility' and chose a Windows platform with which you would like to use to play the software in. You can also change the display settings should your game require it so.
For the version that requires Windows 95 or 98 these are the minmum specifications.
66MHz 486DX or faster
8 MB RAM required, 16MB RAM recommended.
Minimum of 5MB Hard Disk Space
2 x CD rom drive or faster
SVGA video card : 640x480 display, 256 colours; High colour supported on Pentium with Direct X
Video and sound card compatible with Direct X for Windows 95/98
For a Macintosh on this version, the minimum specifications are :
Power PC required
system 7.1.2 or higher
9.5 MB free
Minimum 5MB hard disk space
2 x CD ROM drive or faster
Monitor : 13 inch or larger, 256 colours.