The year is 1927, and you play Inspector Raoul Dusentier, a Frenchman - but don't let that put you off; it's a good game! One day, you receive a letter inviting you on a cruise. It seems some rich man named Niklos Karaboudjan has refurbished an old pirate ship. Yar! Not only that, but it's rumoured that an old pirate treasure is still hidden somewhere on board: a sunny cruise, a treasure hunt and … a murder!
Yes, shortly after you arrive, your generous host Niklos is murdered, and found dead in his room by his butler. When you arrive at the scene of the crime, you are knocked out by someone. After a few hours you wake up again, and you can start investigating.
This is truly an adventure game for those who love reading Agatha Christie. The characters are deep, they all have secrets, and everybody has an opinion about everyone else. As you walk around the vast cruise ship you'll discover numerous clues and motives. It seems everybody has a reason to kill poor Niklos, from his son-in-law right up to the gambling priest.
It won't take long before you really get immersed in the storyline and get the feeling of being some sort of Hercule Poirot - right down to the silly moustache.
Graphically, the game has a charming feel to it. The backgrounds are pretty and detailed. As for the characters, although they're not as detailed as the background, they move fluently and have a 3D feel to them. While interrogating characters you’ll get a more detailed view of their faces, which are also rich in detail.
I won't tell you any more of the story, because if I say too much I'll ruin it. So, I'll move on to the weaker points of the game (oh goody!): Like all games, Cruise for a Corpse has some flaws, but I'm happy to report that they hardly hamper the gameplay.
First, Cruise for a Corpse was originally made in French and was called Croisiere pour un Cadavre. Translations never work out that well, so it is not surprising that Cruise for a Corpse has a few vocabulary errors here and there. For example, at the beginning of the game the clock says 'tomorrow morning' to indicate one day has passed. While this is a correct combination of words, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this won't do; but saying the game is bad just because of a few linguistic errors would be nitpicking (and I love to nitpick).
Second, when I say Cruise for a Corpse is just like an Agatha Christie book, I mean it! There are quite a few characters, and initially you’ll be having a few problems figuring out who's who and remembering who said and did what. There is also a hefty amount of talking to do, and the list of dialogue options is ever growing. Eventually you’ll end up asking characters questions you’ve already asked. While this can be frustrating, it's avoidable if you concentrate (it’s still not exactly Tolstoy's War and Peace).
Third, the last (and biggest) flaw: as time progresses, items will appear in certain places. This means you’ll have to check places often. Just because a cupboard was empty the last time you opened it, doesn’t mean it won’t contain an item later on in the game. Add to this the fact that you can interact with almost every object you see on the screen, and you’ll often find yourself stuck and quite annoyed.
But there are two small mercies:
The game uses a map, so you can easily move around from one part of the ship to the other and avoid long walks (if only real life were that easy). The game also uses a clock; whenever you find a set amount of clues, the clock progresses a few minutes. This lets you know when new objects can be found. While this doesn't seem like much, it can be quite handy.
Well, there you have it. Now it's up to you to decide if you are in the mood for a good - but often difficult - whodunnit adventure game.
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