Cruise for a Corpse is a graphic adventure game with a point-and-click interface.
1927. When Inspector Raoul Dusentier is invited to a cruise upon a mighty sailing ship by the wealthy businessman Niklos Karaboudjan, he looks forward to nothing but a relaxing week on the sea. Instead, his host manages to get himself killed on the second day. Murdered, to be exact. Too convenient that a policeman is aboard -- Dusentier sets out to search for suspects. He doesn't need to search long. Why is it that none of the family members seem awfully sad about the demise of the old man? Is the mysterious Father Fabiani really as pious as he says? In the best tradition of Agatha Christie, each and every person on board has a motive for the murder.
You advance in the plot not so much by solving common object-based puzzles, but by talking to the right persons about the right subjects at the right time, thus collecting clues. You will also find pieces of evidence scattered throughout the ship. However, most items suddenly appear in cupboards and drawers that were previously empty -- an awfully unnerving process. The clock advances in ten-minute-steps whenever you discover an interesting clue, which conveniently informs you of your progress. The protagonists move around the ship; so whenever time passes, different persons to talk to might appear at certain locations.
With Cruise for a corpse, Delphines Cinematique interface reached "Evolution 2". Instead of containing a fixed number of verbs, the command menu is now context-sensitive. The mouse cursor will change its appearance when moved over an interesting object; a left-click brings up a set of appropriate verbs. For example, a cupboard may be opened and searched, whereas a key can be picked up and turned. A right-click accesses the inventory. Another interesting improvement: All the persons in the game are animated polygons.
Cruise for a Corpse is notable for a technical feature: Most animated objects in the game, from door to persons, are filled vectors rather than bitmaps. This allows for animations which are not only fluent, but consume only a fraction of the disk space that sprites would require. Also, the figures are scalable without loss of detail, although the rather crude vector models used in Cruise for a Corpse are not too spectacular in close-ups.
The year is 1927 and you play as Inspector Raoul Dusentier, a Frenchman... but don't let that put you off, it's a good game! Right, one day you receive a letter inviting you on a cruise. It seems some rich man named Niklos Karaboudjan has refurbished an old pirate ship, yar! Not only that, but it's rumored that an old pirate treasure is still hidden somewhere on board... a sunny cruise, a treasure hunt and... a murder!
Yes, shortly after you arrive, your generous host Niklos is murdered and found dead in his room by his butler. When you arrive at the scene of the crime, you are knocked out by someone. After a few hours you wake up again and you can start investigating.
This is truly an adventure game for those who love reading Agatha Christie. The characters are deep, they all have secrets and everybody has an opinion about everyone else. As you walk around the vast cruise ship you'll discover numerous clues and motives. It seems everybody has a reason to kill poor Niklos; from his son-in-law, up to the gambling priest.
It won't take long before you really get immersed into the storyline and get the feeling of being some sort of Hercule Poirot... right down to the silly moustache.
Graphically the game has a charming feel to it. The backgrounds are pretty and detailed. As for the characters, while not being as detailed as the background, they move fluently and have a 3D feel to them. While interrogating characters you'll get a more detailed view of their face, which is also rich in detail.
I won't tell you any more of the story because if I say too much I'll ruin it. So I'll move on to the weaker points of the game (oh goody!). As with all games 'Cruise for a Corpse' has some flaws, but I'm happy to report that they hardly hamper the game play.
Firstly "cruise for a corpse" was originally made in French and was called "Croisiere pour un Cadavre". Translations never work out that well, so it is no surprise "Cruise for a Corpse" has a few vocabulary errors here and there. For example, at the beginning of the game the clock says 'tomorrow morning' to indicate one day has passed. While this is a correct combination of words, it doesn't take a genius to figure out this isn't done. But saying the game is bad just because of a few linguistic errors would be nitpicking (and I love to nitpick).
Secondly, when I say "Cruise for a Corpse" is just like an Agatha Christie book, I mean it! There are quite a few characters and initially you'll be having a few problems figuring out who is who and remembering who did and said what. There is also a hefty amount of talking to do, and the list of dialogue options is ever growing. Eventually you'll end up asking characters questions you've already asked. While this can be frustrating, it's avoidable if you concentrate (it's still not exactly Tolstoy's "War and Peace").
Thirdly, the last (and biggest) flaw: As time progresses items will appear in certain places. This means you'll have to check places often. Just because a cupboard was empty last time you opened it, doesn't mean it won't contain an item later on in the game. Combine this with the fact that you can interact with almost every object you see on the screen... and you'll often find yourself stuck and quite annoyed.
But there are two small mercies: The game uses a map, so you can easily move around from one part of the ship to the other to avoid long walks (if only life were that easy). The game also uses a clock, whenever you find a set amount of clues the clock progresses a few minutes. This lets you know when new objects can be found. While this doesn't seem like much, it can be quite handy.
Well, there you have the facts. Now it's up to you to decide if you are in the mood for a good, but often difficult, whodunit adventure game.
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