Safecracker II Review
First of all let me say that this game is not for everyone. There are no dragons, spells, special effects, spies, quests, mummies, worlds to save, power gems, space ships to fly or holy relics to reclaim. There is nothing but a series of safes to open, all of which present you with a variety of challenges from simple to maddening. If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, don’t buy this game, don’t play it, and don’t complain about it later. ‘Nuff said. BACKGROUND
At the beginning, your environment is limited to a small part of the interior of a mansion. You have to begin right away to open safes in order to get keys to open doors to the rest of the mansion. The story line is pretty much nonexistent: it is basically the tired cliché of the eccentric millionaire leaving a behind a hidden will that all of his relatives want to find. You don’t meet the millionaire or his relatives, but I hope you didn’t buy this game to socialize -- you bought it to be pleasantly tormented by a series of diabolical challenges. There are notes and letters left lying around to give you hints about the missing protagonists and their personalities, but that is it for people. You are on your own. GAME PLAY
The graphics are good throughout the game, with great detail and well-rendered colors, highlights, and three-dimensionality. The musical background is so insignificant that I can’t even remember it as I write this a day after finishing the game. Character movement is slide-show fashion, although within each "position" you can rotate 360 degrees and fully scan up and down. There is no padding or bogus hot spots; everything that you can interact with is obvious. You don’t waste any time on false leads, like scanning every book in the library or opening every cabinet in the kitchen.
Immediately at the start, you get a map of the mansion. It expands as you gain access to more of the mansion. The map also keeps track of all the safes by showing a red "X" in each room where a safe is located. Once you have solved a safe, its "X" turns green. This helps when you are deciding where to go next. I recommend you also draw your own map because you will want to annotate it, to remember which safe is which. Some need a card key, some need a special shaped key, some need a combination of numbers, some need some special handle or cranking device. Once you open a safe and find a key or device, you’ll want to remember where to go to use it.
Keeping notes is important for other clues as well. You’ll find clues as well as red herrings, and it is easier to just copy them down than to try to remember everything. In any case, the end safe combo cannot be obtained without collecting and combining four sets of clues that you can’t contain in your head.
The inventory is standard, as is its use. Once you have correctly used an inventory article, it is "crossed out" in your inventory. This makes it obvious what items are still "live" when you open inventory and makes management easier. You don’t pick up any bogus inventory, so no effort is wasted there, either. THE SAFES
So, on to the safes. All of the safes "reset" if you back away. I liked this feature because sometimes I would get confused and want to start over. So I’d just back out, then go back in.
The first few safes are pretty easy, and you rapidly gain access to the whole lower floor of the mansion. A couple of the safes at first seem to have no obvious solution, but then you look harder and start to see a pattern. With several of them, I felt I got the solution by luck. With one, I still don’t know how I got it. For most, there is a definite and addicting "AHA!" feeling when you get the green light and the door opens.
I never got the sense that any puzzle was a cheap shot or was presented without giving you an adequate chance to solve it. That is not to say that they were easy, just not "tricky" in a mean way. The game is fun. No one is mocking you, like in 11th Hour, although the dead millionaire has left behind some snide notes of congratulation. You don’t need an encyclopedia or a degree in physics to have a fighting chance to solve everything. For the most part, everything you need is to be found in the mansion itself. You just bring your brains with you.
Having said that, there is nothing as simple as finding a key inside of a drawer or a combination written on the inside cover of a book. You have to work for everything. You do get some keys, but only by opening another safe first. You do get some combinations, but only by figuring out complicated clues in the house – or opening another safe.
All safes are opened by first solving a puzzle. Yes, there is a slider puzzle. Yes, there is a Magic Square puzzle. And yes, there are several of the "push-a-button- and-watch-the-effect- then-push-again" type of puzzles that take some time just to figure out the WHAT of the objective before you can begin to solve the darned thing. SUMMARY
It doesn’t take that long to play this game, unfortunately. I wish it had gone on much longer. Even including the time that the game was running in the background while I was working on a puzzle solution on paper, it only took about 9 hours to run through it. Seems to me there isn’t that much effort involved in creating a few puzzles like the ones required to open these safes, and the puzzles are the raison d’etre
of the game – so why not just have more of them? I loved the game, and was ready to restart it from scratch again as soon as I finished it. It was really fun, just too short.
I give the game an A for interest, presentation and challenge. I give it a D for length, only because I didn't want it to end. GAMING PLATFORM
Intel P4 (2.4GHz)
ASUS P4T-E motherboard
Western Digital 120 gig HD
nVidia GeForce 4 TI 4600 video card
Direct X 9.0+