film & game reviews, the retro way.
MS-DOS, Master System, Apple II, C64
WHERE IN THE WORLD
IS CARMEN SANDIEGO?
Now there’s a good question.
Another one would be “Who The Heck Is Carmen Sandiego”?
Of course today, we’re only one Wikipedia search away from any answer but back in the late 80’s/early or mid 90’s this was a legitimate riddle. I knew about the animated series, I even knew the song but I had no idea that it was the educational console/computer game that started it all!
Carmen Sandiego, of course, is the name of the thieving red coat and hat-wearing villain who goes around the world stealing priceless treasures as her minions, who are scattered all over the place, make your life increasingly difficult should you get too close to the evil mastermind.
And no, before you ask: she’s NOT in San Diego.
I’ve looked there.
The game was originally released back in 1985 and that version could soon be found on various platforms from the Commodore 64 to the Apple II but it’s the Sega Master System port I’ll be looking at today.
So this is the kind of mission/story you can expect: something’s been stolen somewhere, go figure it out and recover the item within the time limit.
Along the way, the game will conveniently (if not subtly) throw historical and geographical facts at you just to make sure you actually learn something before or instead of switching to some other, perhaps more mindless and, by extension, more enjoyable game you might have waiting in the sidelines.
Each city includes various mini locations (see the Embassy above, for example) and clues can be found there. Usually those come in the form of some weird-looking lady or dude telling you something or other relating to the case at hand.
That or they purposely mislead you because you’re just not in the right place at all.
Because that’s helpful.
Amusingly, here and there the game is not super accurate about its “factoids” and there’s a disconnect between the images shown and the locations described.
I don’t think the game itself knows where in the world Carmen Sandiego is.
The 90’s were a confusing time: not only was Mario missing at one point but we couldn’t find Waldo or Carmen Sandiego and we spent our time coloring dinosaurs.
I like how the game attempts to establish a (sort of) realistic travelling concept with “flights” and “ticket agents” and yet it doesn’t really bother to make that a real, useful thing. Why fill half the screen with nonsense when you could just have a world map with dots and names of locations on it?
There’s actually a good, varied bunch of cities for you to visit from Baghdad to Reykjavik but the basic graphics sadly let the game down. In other versions (SNES, Genesis), you are shown pictures of the places you go to which legitimises the facts given to you a little bit more.
Otherwise, they just sound made up!
I’m going to find Carmen Sandiego and prove to this game that I am the ultimate traveller: I can travel anywhere, anytime and I’m solving this case. It’ll be just like in Around The World In 80 Days, where this guy *SPOILERS* travels around the world in 80 days.
Carmen Sandiego didn’t even try, did she? At least S.P.E.C.T.R.E. sounds mysterious and shadowy, V.I.L.E. just sounds like something Stewie from Family Guy would call his villainous team of misfits.
Hey, at least I’m on the right track, look at it that way!
Why does this game hate my inferior brain so much?
I found a dude, just come and get him, for crying out loud. Not my fault the in-game police are crazily slow.
It’s actually very easily to let the thieves slip through your fingers as they not only attack you when you find them but run away awkwardly when you get close to them. Plus warrants need to be issued, yada yada yada.
The game also gets tougher as you win cases and get promoted then, obviously, you’re left facing Carmen Sandiego herself right at the end. It’s not bad and even has some action in it, something which isn’t always a given in educational games. You might want to find a better-looking port of it, though, as the Master System doesn’t exactly do it justice.
I’d say give it a go, for sure.
Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
Consoles, PCs, game shows, cartoons, Montreal, Oslo, back in time, even on the internet!
And so is Waldo.
Starting to think these two are an item…