Video Games

Revivification: Carmen Sandiego

One of my favorite games is the Professor Layton series on the Nintendo DS. It’s a story based puzzle game where puzzles are an integral part of the imagined game world. This is one of the few games where I can point to it as a fun, educational game. This style of game is still around, of course, but the success of this franchise, plus the focus on alternative gaming, leads me to believe that this genre of game is fresh for either new titles, or the return of some older titles. Chief among these is Carmen Sandiego.

As you might or might not be aware, Carmen Sandiego is a series based on a female criminal mastermind that is a former government agent, and relies on contextual clues and logic problem solving in order to put together clues and follow correct police procedure. While this isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea, you have several routes to go with something like this. You have the obvious route of story-based port to hand-held devices, which makes a lot of sense given the possibility of episodic updates via app stores. Each story focuses on a specific theft and the user has to solve a series of puzzles related at least tangentially to history. This would be very similar to the Professor Layton series, though with a well-known and specific branding and distinctly historic bent.

This isn’t the only way the reboot could go, however. If they were looking for a departure that would add some interesting elements to the series, taking a page from Portal and Mirror’s Edge in having physics puzzles, such as disarming traps that the thief left behind, or having to break in somewhere without getting caught and thrown off the case would be pretty good. Running around talking to people, and having to prove your investigatory skills in the form of puzzle solving in order to get clues would be interspersed with more classic running, jumping and sneaking elements. If it was integrated well, it would be a lot of fun to have two very different puzzle genres in one.

Another fun and easy mashup would be to add in the courtroom element to the game series, allowing for even more logic puzzles and wordplay, a staple of the series. Phoenix Wright is another one of these style of games, and this element is not out of place at all in the Carmen Sandiego universe. The original game formula had you investigating and issue warrants, after all. Following along with the judicial process would be an interesting addition. Teaching the actual steps to the process, but adding in puzzles and such instead of pure dialogue to ensure game elements would be fascinating to me. Getting a kid excited about the discovery step in a trial would be a thing of beauty. I know that this is something other games have attempted, albeit in a much more silly approach. I love Phoenix Wright and Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law, but series games they ain’t.

Anything that promotes both problem solving and education while still remaining a good game is something I want to see. Carmen Sandiego managed that for a longtime, and did well as a kid’s game show, too. It clearly had a lot of appeal, and given the trend of gaming, a return is certainly warranted.

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