Some readers have recommended that I lay off the interactive movies, for the sake of my own sanity. I thought about it. But I see this list of known, unprocessed I-movies staring back at me from the surface of my gaming command center and I just can’t bring myself to abandon, or even postpone, the mission at this point, no matter how much it might be wearing on my psychological and emotional well-being. That, my friends, is commitment.
Besides, the next game on the I-movie roster — Spycraft: The Great Game — is one whose movie sequences I have perused before using a video decoder I helped reverse engineer and re-implement. Thus, I know it’s not all bad. In fact, the movie sequences are very good. Further, when I actually played the game this evening, I realized that it’s not pure I-movie but actually places heavy emphasis on some very unique puzzles. For that, I have placed this game in the puzzle games category in addition to the I-movie category, and I think even the I-movie category is iffy.
You play some CIA guy. There’s a big international event brewing. You are summoned into the director’s office to be on a team to investigate a new international crisis. But first, there is training. Generally, these are unique puzzles with a little faux FPS-type action thrown in for good measure. For example, the first training exercise is to use an image enhancement device to make out the license plate on the following picture:
The game features a lot of convenient little gadgets. Between two of the training puzzles, your tutor shows you a camera that operates on film but explains that it has backup, low-resolution images stored in a digital chip. What’ll they think of next? (This game was published in 1996.) Actually, now that I think about it, that device would work better for espionage applications (or would have worked better before film cameras were more or less crushed by digital counterparts) if it operated on more of a steganographic principle and allowed a knowledgable operator to snap innocuous photos on the film and secret photos on the digital chip.
The game is filled with tools that are so sophisticated that it’s a wonder why they need human intervention at all. But there wouldn’t be much of a game in that case. Here’s another interesting puzzle:
This is the K.A.T.– Kennedy Assassination Tools. This program uses a camera panorama to reconstruct a 3D wireframe model of an assassination site. You need to find two places on the scene where the bullets impacted. Then, use the tool to draw a trajectory to figure out where the round was fired from. Use the panorama camera view to find the suspect and then use the suspect ID computer to put together a computer sketch of the suspect. Finally, you can ask the computer to perform a search for possible matches based on the sketch.
There are lots of information resources in this game, including your PDA and your computer which both have access to impressive databases. Among other things, you have an org chart of your immediate superiors and reports. Here’s the dossier for one your subordinates:
I thought the game designers were taking things pretty seriously until I saw where she lived. Chevy Chase, Maryland. Come on, Spycraft, what do you take me for? But on a whim, I googled. Well, I’ll be– town of Chevy Chase, dot org. In fact, there does exist a Chevy Chase Blvd. in Chevy Chase, MD (though no Chevy Chase Road). I can go to bed knowing I learned something new tonight.
The answers to the puzzles always seem to be multiple choice. This is fortunate in most cases, such as the license plate puzzle. Rather than actually having to make out the grainy characters on the plate, the solution is obvious out of the three given. However, the choices grow more bountiful later in the game. And don’t you dare guess. If you get the wrong answer too many times, the director reassigns you to the CIA World Factbook division, which I’m guessing isn’t thought of very highly inside the Agency, or at least not in this game’s story arc. Here’s that particular game over video:
You know, I should start listing the games from this experiment that I have really enjoyed and that I want to revisit someday when this experiment is over, or when I simply need a break. This game definitely makes the cut.