Adventures - I can remember when they consisted of screenfuls of text, and you manipulated your environment by typing short sentences like GET SWORD or CLIMB ROPE. Then came graphic adventures, basically the same but with static illustrations, but the advent of the 16-bit computer brought on-screen animation and mouse-driven point-and-click interfaces. Improvement? Detriment? You decide, but there's one adventuring adage that will never change - a good game MUST boast strong, logical puzzles. Alas, the designers of Nippon Safes have hidden very thin gameplay behind excellent atmospheric graphics.
Nippon Safes is really three loosely connected adventures in one. Before starting you choose your character, a dumb dame called Femme Fatale, Doug the dubious tech-head, or big, bold Dino - a former boxer who's as thick as two short planks and too nice for his own good. Each character starts fresh out of prison. You're given no indication of what you're meant to be doing, but as all three characters are down on their luck you can assume it involves a 'get rich quick' scheme. All three explore virtually the same locations but diverse abilities make the adventure different for each. You can't swap between them during the game but you occasionally meet one of the others going about his or her business independently of the player, a neat touch that adds a real feeling of being there.
Unfortunately the game as a whole doesn't live up to its huge potential. The user interface is nothing short of a disgrace, with its clumsy clicking and limited options. It won't even let you drop an object! To leave a location you click on the edge of the screen. Fair enough, but in most games the pointer changes shape in some way to indicate an exit, but not here - be prepared to leap locations by mistake. It doesn't change when the disk is being accessed either, a silly flaw that leads to untold irritation.
Where Nippon Safes really falls flat on its oriental orifice is in the puzzles department - they're just too obscure. When you play Dino, one of your first tasks is to open a door in a museum by pressing buttons in a set order. Set by what I can't imagine, because the only way of finding the correct combination is trial and error. When you've sussed it you enter a museum store room and find you can lift all the exhibits except one. Despite being told to look after them, the only way of getting it is to destroy one artifact by abusing another, and to cap it all, the solution isn't even logical.
As stated earlier, you start with very little idea of what you're supposed to be doing. This isn't a bad thing in itself, but you often manipulate objects and enter locations simply because they're there. You haven't a clue why you need the aforementioned museum exhibit, but you need to solve a problem to get it so it must be useful. This destroys all sense of freedom and leaves you in no doubt you're treading the paths the programmers intended.
Nippon Safes boasts ace cartoon graphics, hilarious animation and some excellent atmosphere-enhancing touches, but the heart of the game just isn't there. I look forward to Dynabyte's next offering, though - there's no reason why it shouldn't be a killer.
Also known as a prequel to Big Red Adventure, cartoon adventure. The gameplay takes place in Tokyo. You can control three characters separately, each of the heroes has its own story to follow and puzzles to solve. When you have finished all three storylines, you'll get a final with all three characters acting together.
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