This is the game that, for years, tricked children into learning. In 1985 Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego was released for both the Apple and the Commodore. It was released on one of those delightful five and a quarter inch disks that had a big hole in the middle of them, preventing them from being used as disk bombs in school computer labs. For those of you who grew up after the days of this game (which would place you at about ten years old, and as such you have no business reading this site... trying to recapture a youth that you never knew. Bah!)
|its... so... beautiful. look at the high rez details |
the game placed you as a detective on the trail of the thieving Carmen Sandiego who would steal ridiculous things that were made only more ridiculous when the TV. game show was first aired (more on that later). As the detective you were always one step behind this female mastermind chasing her from country to country. Luckily for you though there were always people willing to give you clues as to where she went next.
|Chasing in style |
So step on board, and become the detective!
You: Hey, I'm looking for this highly secretive notorious criminal, you got any leads?
|It's just THAT easy |
Random guy on the street: Yeah, I saw a flag with the colours red and white on them.
(good thing for you she always flew the flag of the country she was to head to next)
You: Hey, I'm looking for a chick with a red and white flag, what you know?
chef at some random restaurant: Well, I don't know much about that flag, but I can tell you she ordered a big plate of Kraft dinner!
(eating the food of the country you're going to next puts you in a better mood for when you get there)
You: I'm looking for a red and white flagged, KD eating lady, what you know?
Shop Keep: Not much, but I know FOR A FACT she just bought a mini hockey stick.
Now it's off to the airport with you. Time to take the next step in your journey, but where will you go to? A few options present themselves to you: Norway, Canada, Mexico. But what one to choose? Canada seems the obvious choice. Why would she point you right there with flags, and food, and hobbies? I mean she's not been caught for years, she can't be this stupid, can she? And Mexico is to close to Canada so it's off to Norway.
You: Have you seen an evil woman?
|Steppin it up for the SMS |
random guy: Nope... Sorry.
(Now this is ok, I mean she wouldn't just make herself obvious would she? She'd be deep in hiding, right?)
You: coooome oooon! Tell meeee!
guy: seriously I know nothing!
(Crap! Well back onto the plane and head for Canada)
You: so what you know?
Canadian: Well, eh, I just saw this lady with a red and white and green flag, you know? but that was hours ago now.
(Blast! Perhaps all the other detectives were fools, I mean hell! She led you right to her!)
but wait... you're not trying to capture her are you? That's not the point of the game... oh god! Now you know what foods people eat where, and what their top grossing import and export is, and by god you know all the flags of the world! (Sometimes you would need to look at the flag cheat sheet, but after months of playing, sweet god you knew them all!) It was a horrible thing to learn like this, and when Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego was released for the Sega Master System it became only more addictive. This version of the game added (unless I'm remembering wrong and forgot it was in the original versions that I played) a gun! That's right, these criminals weren't just gonna take your crap of following them all the time, oh hell no! They were making a stand, kind of.
|Tricked into learning. |
In each country you had to unravel who you were after, because very rarely was it Carmen herself. Normally it was her thugs, and you couldn't arrest one without a warrant, so you had to get tips from the locals such as "He had a tattoo" or "she had a nose ring" (not that nose rings existed outside of Africa at this time, but you get what I'm saying) and then when you wanted to get the arrest you had to walk to the end of the level (on the far left) to get to a telephone booth, but every now and then a bad guy was waiting there. BANG! The bullet came flying at you (took a good five seconds from one side of the screen to the other, but whatever, that was fast paced in those days. Hell, Tetris was hardcore back then) and you could either duck it, or jump it. If you guessed wrong you would be hit and lose hours (hours referring to the time limit you had to catch the dastardly foe). At any rate, this gun made the game all the more enticing.
|Double Trouble's.... in... jaaaaail! |
But wait, you say, if Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego shouldn't there have been about a million games just like it? Well yes there were, one of the most popular being Super Solver, but I just might be the only person who remembers that series. It was a cross between Carmen, and Maniac Mansion. A good cross, but it just wasn't the same.
The game also had a whole truck load of sequels that, with the exception of the updated World versions were horrible. HORRIBLE! What the hell was Broderbund Software thinking? Ohh yeah, they thought: hey, we can trick kids to learn about other things. So here, now, for all you lucky kids I present a list of the games:
Where in Europe is Carmen Sandiego? (1988)
|Time Travel = Kewl! |
Where in the U.S.A is Carmen SanDiego (1986)
Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? (1989)
Where in Space is Carmen Sandiego? (????)
Where in the Universe is Carmen Sandiego? (????)
Carmen Sandiego: Math Detective (????)
Carmen Sandiego: Jr Dective Edition (????)
[I'm sure there are more too... frightening]
Now the where in time game was alright, but that's just because time travel in general is Hyper-Kewl (a talking doll told me that, I can't back that up). But It's true, I think. Now CD-ROM's came along just in time to breathe life back into this series that really didn't need that much breathing, but the new CD ROM version did cause for many a person to rush out and buy it (in some cases it caused them to buy a CD ROM drive too, or a new computer making the ungodly switch from Mac to IBM for the first time ever).
The Deluxe edition, released early in 1990, featured photorealistic graphics (alright, so they were just straight up photos, but at the time that was incredible. No longer were we limited to pixilated backgrounds, we had real photos where highly detailed cartoon characters would pop up. Also the manual for this thing was one of the greatest I've ever read. It was informative and fun to read through. The mid nineties flight simulator games had equally entertaining manuals, but let's pretend I never read through those, or took them to school to read, or anything like that.
Now if it had of all ended here that would have been great, but other companies saw this globe trotting series as something they could rip off and put their mascot in. *cough* Nintendo */cough* do you all remember a little game in which Luigi finally had the spotlight? Mario is Missing was one of the most hideous games I've ever had the misfortune of playing. I mean it was fun because it was like Carmen Sandiego, but come on, you had to save Mario from Bowser who was going to melt Mario, and as a result, the polar icecaps causing ruin to befall the world. Alright, whatever. Let's just pretend that never existed.
|And you thought Luigi's Mansion was bad? |
Now we all know that when something makes a lot of money (and this game did, I mean as of 2002 they were still updating it, so that's over seventeen years of gaming... hell people in high school today are younger than this game) spin-offs are created. Something to jump in there and milk more money from a series. Now normally this is via horrible comic books, and while it's true that National Geographic DID create a Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego comic strip I couldn't find anything about it, and as such I'll pretend that it never existed. What a good plan! But it's out there, if you want to search for it.
|Look at that smarmy host, with his smarmy tie. Sadist! |
Now Carmen Sandiego was a way of tricking kids to learn, and you know what, they needed to do that on a bigger scale. And in what way can one reach the public? TV! That's right there was not one but two, count 'em, two Carmen Sandiego TV shows. One, the most loved of the pair, was a game show and the other was a cartoon. I'll talk about the game show first though, because as I said, it was by far the best loved.
The fame of the show was in no small part due to Rockapella the group responsible for the theme song which still pops into peoples heads today, eight plus years after the show last aired. On this game show you would have to guess what country she was headed to, in the same way you would in the game. Then all the points you got were rendered useless in a lightning round that awarded far more points than anything else. And the one with the least amount of points would lose, and cry, and go away. Then it was on to round two! This was a round where you would play a "match game" having to match the thief to the stolen item (Which could be the sphinx, or the Eiffel tower, or the Brooklyn bridge, or any other giant object that could never be stolen) to the warrant, I believe. And once you did this the loser was sent away to cry and the winner was sent to the most impossible final round ever to find its way into a game show.
|They're just all so beautiful. |
I, like many other people, wept for the pour saps that made it to this killer round. Placed before them was a giant map of the world on the ground, and they were to run around placing markers on different countries in answer to the hosts questions. This would not be so hard if the host didn't try his beast to make damn sure the contestants lost. There was a time limit with which to place these markers and the sadistic host would always stumble over the clues, and stutter, and sometimes just not read them. Other times he would read them so slow that he knew you couldn't win. I'm not sure if this was on purpose so the game show would not have to give away a "486 computer with cd rom drive!" or because he just hated children, but as it was I think I only saw three or four people EVER win, and I watched this every day after school. When someone would win though the lights would dim, and the markers would glow red, and it really was quite amazing. Still, I feel sorry for those contestants. They all end up crying, but the one who made it furthest had to run and then cry while catching his/her breath and know they only lost because of the ineptitude of the clue reader.
|Ivy stickin it to Carmen |
|zach likes 'em roped up |
And then there was the cartoon. I hated it. Kids typed on computers and tried to hack their way to Carmen Sandiego, also it was called where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (I assume to prevent mix up with the game show). But I think it's better to pretend this didn't exist. IF you really care I'm sure you can go look up information on it all by yourself.
There was also game shows dealing with the where in time aspect, but once again, the less said the better. Some cartoon movies were also later released on DVD, but talking about that is like talking about the newer Oregon Trail games, rather than focusing on the original Apple version with the horrible hunting mini game that kept be occupied for hours, and the fear of watching your wagon sink while calking it and floating it across. The older the better I say.
Sure things can become prettier as they progress, but they'll just never be quite as neat.