The Detective (Argus Press) Review | Commodore User - Everygamegoing

Commodore User


The Detective
By Argus Press
Commodore 64/128

 
Published in Commodore User #45

The Detective

Arntcha just sick of detectives with dirty macs, wide brimmed hats and permalit Marlboros? Add to that lot spooky stately home, a loony Major and assorted suspicious characters, and you've got a story that even The Dukes Of Hazard wouldn't touch.

So, with that out of the way, I'll tell you that The Detective is, after all, a respectable piece of sleuthsoft. It's a pity the programmers couldn't come up with a better story because the mechanics of solving the murder - did I say murder? - are very good.

But first, the story so far. Angus McFungus is dead - probably died of a lousy name. You, as Inspector Snide, must go to his mansion in the country and solve the crime using sheer brainpower, your astounding deductive powers and a joystick.

The Detective

The story unfolds as you wander round the mansion's rooms picking up clues and questioning the many characters who've got nothing better to do than wander round with you.

There are lots of them too, and they're all true to the Agatha Christie recipe. Major Sludgebucket loafs around the corridors mumbling deranged phrases whilst his moustache flaps up and down. There's a cook, a maid and Bentley the obligatory Butler. Then there's Cynthia, the Major's Sloaney daughter, a mad professor, a doctor and a vicar. Last but not least is Mr Dingle the solicitor, who's come to read the will - but may not get the chance.

All the characters can be questioned, but whether they'll tell you anything is a different matter. Both the cook and butler are pretty cagey. Daniel the maid will talk but she's not very bright. Both the major and the professor are raving loonies. Then there's the viar who looks as though he mugs old ladies in the confessional. Rumour has it that he did his wife in - Daniel told me.

The Detective

The mansion is set out in three floors. Upstairs you can explore the bedrooms and pick up any objects you feel are evidence. You have ten padded envelopes and eah must have a piece of evidence in it before you can crack the case. Objects you've picked up can also be used in various ways.

Similarly downstairs there's a dining room, library and hall to be snooped through. You'll find the kitchen and servants' quarters in the basement.

If I've made the mansion sound large, it's not. The locations are remembered easily and you won't have to bother mapping it if you play long enough. By the way, there's a time limit for solving the crime. At one stage of the game, somebody turned out the lights and shot me dead. I don't know whether I ran out of time, or maybe the characters are nastier than I thought.

Anyway, if it were all just asking questions and finding evidence you'd soon get bored. What makes The Detective consistently interesting is that events happen whilst you're playing.

There I was upstairs questioning snooty old Bentley when somebody pushes a piano from the balustrade and flattens Cynthia who's lurking in the hall. Blast, and I'd not got round to questioning her.

And Mr Strangle gets dingled, sorry, Mr Dingle gets strangled before he can read the will. But his briefcase might be worth looking into. And poor old Gabriel, I found her done to death in her own room. All this was happening, I admit, whilst I was snooping around in the kitchen. Would you believe it, there's a microwave in there.

Argus have made the game easy to play by providing you with an icon for every action and function. Simply select the appropriate one by pressing the joystick button. Moving around is done via the joystick too.

There's absolutely no text to be typed in. Asking a question merely involves activating the question icon. You can then select anyone in the room. That person will then wait whilst you position yourself to face them.

Having done that, you can ask any of the other guests about Angus or about any of the objects you've collected. Their answer appears as a scrolling line of text. Be warned, nobody's keen to spill the beans.

Graphically, The Detective is no masterpiece. All the bedrooms look the same and the designer hasn't gone overboard to make the house look lived in. But the characters are nice and large, and their faces move when they talk. I particularly liked the vicar, who looks more like a vampire - or a red herring.

Soundwise, there's little more than the title tune, a particularly inappropriate wailing guitar number. The only sound in the game is the tapping of footsteps, and a nice organ crash when something disastrous has happened.

The Detective is a well-thought out and well implemented game. And it has unexpected depth. Try following Bentley around to get into his locked room and he'll eventually turn round and say snidely, "Looking for clues, Inspector?". Just for that, I'll nail him whether he's guilty or not.

And in those respects the game deserves better than the mouldy old story Argus have lumbered it with. Still, for what it is, it's pretty enjoyable. One small gripe, the blurb says there are secret passages in the mansion. I haven't found any yet. But then again, I'm not wearing a dirty mac.

Bohdan Buciak

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