About two decades ago, gamers were introduced to the Carmen Sandiego game series. Gamers were asked to help catch criminals all over the world by finding clues in a cluttered area (along with the accompanying World Almanac) that would lead to the apprehension of said criminal. The game was packed with humor and fun gameplay, making it a game series that was enjoyable for years. Sadly, the type of gameplay that it had introduced has all but disappeared from today's gaming scene. Microsoft's latest Xbox Live Arcade Game, Interpol: The Search for Dr. Chaos, is an attempt to bring back that gameplay style for modern gamers to enjoy on their Xbox 360 consoles. Unfortunately, this new game has a few significant issues that make it difficult for people to enjoy it for very long.
The story is fairly standard stuff and does a god job of emulating the bare essentials from the Carmen Sandiego series. The evil Dr. Chaos has been stealing ancient treasures and artifacts from all over the world, thanks to the help of his three major henchmen. As an Interpol agent called in from vacation, your job is to travel from one world location to another, gathering clues at each site in hopes of recovering the treasures and seeing all four criminals put behind bars.
Gameplay is rather simple. Each mission requires that you visit a world-famous city and investigate three or four hot spots where the criminal was last seen. Each spot consists of a still picture and a list of objects to find in order to successfully clear the area. Each object is hidden somewhere in the picture, and while some are plain to see, others are well-hidden. Along the way, you can find three extra objects in each spot that were left behind by the suspect that will either give you extra guesses, bonus points or extra time. In each city, you have 30 minutes to complete the mission before it is determined that the trail leading to the perpetrator grows cold, forcing you to start over.
Interpol is a bit fun for the length of time given. There are 11 missions, with each mission containing three or four sub-missions. Two bonus missions are also included, where you must find eight differences between two very similar-looking pictures. What kills the game is the length of time it takes to finish it. During the course of the review, it only took a little over two hours to beat the game, including bonus missions. Going back to each conquered mission gives you the opportunity to improve your score and look for other objects in the scene, but there's not much else to do here. As a result, this title can easily be beaten in an afternoon and still leave you with some time to start another title.
Controls, as expected, aren't difficult to handle at all. Both the d-pad and left thumbstick handle cursor movement, while the X button and left trigger make your cursor zoom in on the area indicated. The right trigger and A button confirm the selection, while the Y button brings up hints for objects. The analog stick movement isn't a perfect substitute for the mouse when it comes to precision pointing on pictures, though, which becomes a bigger problem since some of the objects require precise selection in order to be counted correctly.
There isn't much to speak of concerning graphics, but what's there definitely needs some work. The graphics consist of a HUD and a still image. Sometimes there will be a few moving parts such as blinking lights or flickering monitors, but for the most part, everything is frozen. What hurts the most here is the quality of the pictures. For a system that is made for the high-definition era, the game forces the Xbox 360 to display pictures in a low resolution. This is especially true of the bonus missions, where the pictures there seem lower in quality than those featured in the main missions. The magnification system simply amplifies the low resolution found in the scenes, making the task of finding miscellaneous objects harder than it should be. The small playing area doesn't help matters either, making this one of the few games that seems to punish you for going widescreen by giving you such a small space to work with.
Sound is sparse but gets the job done. As far as sound effects go, there is only a small handful to be had here. Outside of confirmation and error sounds, you don't get any other effects filling your speakers. The same goes for voices, which are completely absent in this game, though it would have been nice if they were present during the mission briefings too. The only sound you're going to hear during the game is that of the musical score, which does a fair job of reminding you that your sound system still works. The music isn't bad, just forgettable. For a game that's filled with music, having mediocre music doesn't help make a case for the quality of the title.
Interpol: The Search for Dr. Chaos is certainly a casual title that has good intentions but is hampered by a few big issues. While the sound and controls are fine, the somewhat-finicky detection system for clues doesn't help make things easy for beginners. The game length is also very short, and you have very little incentive to keep playing once the main story line is finished. The biggest offender, though, is the graphics; blurry pictures and a small playing area don't make this a very desirable title, especially for the $10 (800 MS points) asking price. Unless the demo gets you excited about this game, the best thing to do is save your MS pfor something better from the XBLA service.
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