A shallow cash grab that’s riding the retro coat tails of Carmen Sandiego, Sandiego Inc. is undeserving of the name. The FingerGuns review;
I was lying in bed the other day, scrolling through the Google Play store looking for something to play on my shiny new phone when something caught my eye – the trademark red hat of Carmen Sandiego. For those too young to remember, the “Where in X is Carmen Sandiego” games were an edutainment series in which you played a ACME detective who was tasked with chasing down master thief Carmen Sandiego and her thieving V.I.L.E. subordinates. The series, which was pretty popular in classrooms in the early 90’s, consisted of 10 games which tested the players knowledge of world geography, history, astrology and more in order to track a thief based on clues they left behind in various locations. I was a huge fan of the series when I was a child so I was instantly drawn to Sandiego Inc. which bore the name and distinctive red hat of the famous antagonist.
To say I was underwhelmed with Sandiego Inc. would be an understatement.
Sandiego Inc. is a light version of “Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego”. You’re presented with a case (via a ACME fax machine), often in broken and poor english, which explains that something has been stolen from somewhere in the world and you have to track down the thief before a set date and time. You start where the theft took place and you get the opportunity to “Search” 3 different spots at each geographical location. Each “Search” returns a clue as to where the thief went next and possibly a characteristic that can be used to issue a warrant for their arrest such as hair colour, favourite writer or gender. You then have to choose between 3 different locations as to where to go next. Each action – searching, travelling or submitting a Warrant – costs time which edges you closer to the deadline. This is repeated until you’ve gained enough information to issue a warrant and you’ve bagged you man/woman or you’ve run out of time. Except – this never happens because Sandiego Inc. is so damn shallow.
You can, if you’re really stuck, watch an advert via the games hint system which will give you a nudge in the right direction. Not that you’ll actually need to use this because after only half an hour of play and only 10 cases, you’ll have seen every hint and every location that Sandiego Inc. has too offer. This game’s so light on content and with such simplistic clues that it’s never a challenge to catch the crook, even for my 8 year old who’s geography knowledge is still rather rudimentary. The only time you’ll be scratching your head is when the game throws its one and only curve-ball – “the suspect changed their money into pasos” which could indicate they went to Argentina or Chile – and even then, there’s only ever been one of these options to travel too next.
Sandiego Inc. is a glib replication of the Carmen Sandiego game mechanics but it also forgets the 2 biggest selling points from the original series – the charm and the incentive to learn.
There’s no “Where to Gumshoe?” voice bite when you choose to travel somewhere. There’s no humorous pictures of witnesses when you search the area. There’s just a sterile black and gold aesthetic which is drab and is far flung from the game it takes its inspiration from.
Then there’s the clues the game uses. One of the greatest things about the Carmen Sandiego games was that it often gave you clues which required some research. You’d get hints like “A reliable source told me the suspect planned to study the Indigo Macaw” at which point you’d have to hit the books to find out where the Indigo Macaw is indigenous to (Brazil, btw). With Sandiego Inc., the clues can be as blunt as “The suspect was talking about traveling to Geneva” which obviously indicates Switzerland. Just laying it on a plate like that means that it’s hardly educational at all and rather than stimulate learning, it’s just a test of your general geography knowledge.
There’s also the “facts” that every Sandiego game provides on your current location. The original Sandiego games had concise and well written facts which were geared towards the player learning more through independent learning rather than spoon feeding them useless facts. In Sandiego Inc., these facts are like copy and pasted Wikipedia entries just to add text to the screen. An example:
Why? Why does the player need to know this? And what’s with the random “date” after 1707?
Sandiego Inc. is a game trying to ride the retro coat tails of the Carmen Sandiego games but it doesn’t deserve to carry that name. It’s a cheap, insubstantial imitation that completely misses the point of why the Sandiago games were so fun to play. It might be free-to-play but even that felt like too high a price to pay. Sandiego Inc. is a bad clone of a retro gem and one has to ask – “Why in the world was this game even made?”.
Sandiago Inc. is available now on iOS for iPhone & iPad and Andoid devices (review version).
Developer: Think Tesla Studios
Publisher: Think Tesla Studios
Disclaimer: In order to review this game, we downloaded a free-to-play version of the game. For more information, please see our review policy.