Oh no! Another game that isn't exactly a new release. It's been out for a while now, but it's yet another game that seems to have suffered in the realms of distribution. We've just managed to get our hands on it by mere chance, hence this belated review.
SafeCracker is a tricky title to categorise as it fits somewhere in between the adventure and puzzle categories. Though at first glance it might seem to be purely based on solving logic puzzles to open safes, this is not strictly the case as there's a lot of diligent searching to be done to find many safe keys and combinations as well.
Essentially the game is based on a premise rather than telling a story. You have applied for the position of Design and Development Chief with a security/safe making company, Crabb & Sons, and as part of the employee assessment program you must search their premises to find your employment contract that is locked away in the master safe. To get into the master safe, however, you'll need the combination and this in turn is secreted away bit by bit in a string of minor safes that dot the building, so there's more than one safe to crack, and only 12 hours to complete the test.
As the game opens you are in a telephone booth awaiting a phone call with your instructions to enter the palatial premises. You are not identified in any way as the game is designed from a first-person perspective so you never appear on screen and you never utter a sound to break the illusion that you are really you. From the very beginning it's just you and the house and, sadly, the ticking clock to remind you not to waste too much time snooping around.
This game has 360 degree turning and movement is smooth, controlled and satisfying. By controlled I mean that you move incrementally at the click of the mouse button. For turning (and looking up and down) you can either use the appropriate cursor or keyboard arrow keys.
There's a lot of searching to do and the gameworld is detailed and interesting as Crabb & Sons occupy a fascinating old home decked out in splendid furniture and with copious works of art. The action window occupies around two-thirds of the screen with controls for sound, etc, on either side with a scrolling, text inventory beneath. Just select an inventory item and it will be pictured. There's also the clock, of course, and a helpful gauge that displays how much time remains. Another button opens a small menu for saving, restoring, quitting and pausing the game.
Almost every location in SafeCracker has, you guessed it, a safe to crack ... several locations have three of them. Some safes require straight-out codes whilst others require specific keys and still more are sealed with different types of puzzles including several of the dial-twiddling-type, one number association puzzle, and there's also one sliding tile problem.
Generally, the safes are not too difficult to crack. Even though the gameworld is strewn with useful hints relating to individual safe-puzzles it's often quite easy to work them out immediately without searching around for added help. But in the case of keys, for example, you have no choice but to go looking for them. In fact it's recommended that you read/look at everything and pick up anything that isn't nailed down. Also, be especially careful to take all the contents of an opened safe because it might contain part of an all-important code, or the key to another safe, and if you leave anything behind there is no second chance to retrieve it.
Each room at Crabb and Co. is named and numbered so it's simple to keep track of unopened safes so you can return when you have the key or whatever you need to crack them. A fast travel map would have helped a lot here, pity SafeCracker doesn't have one. And, if you are anything like me, don't panic if you can't do everything instantly, there really is plenty of time. Now I'm not saying this with too much confidence because I know that many players won't believe me ... I wouldn't. Even in the face of such assurances I know I'd still save, search, and restore endlessly, just in case time ran out. I did exactly this and ended up completing the game in less than half the allotted time.
Ok, so I've said it before, I do wish that game designers would dispense with the ticking clock or, at the very least, offer the option of cancelling it. I would have enjoyed this game much more without it, and I know that this 'feature' will put off quite a few players.
SafeCracker really is quite an enjoyable game and there is some challenge in accessing and opening every single safe. It kept me entertained and I had lots of fun exploring as there are secret passageways to find as well as many clues and items to discover.
This game comes on one CD and on installation it offers the choice of seven languages ... English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Swedish. Pity there are no subtitles for the opening sequence as this sequence relates to a later puzzle and, of course, there's also a music puzzle to defeat anyone who is tone deaf or musically inept. This particular one took me the longest of all.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1998.
All rights reserved.
486/66, Windows 95, 8 MB of RAM, QuickTime, DirectX