I had to check I was holding the right book when I turned the page to find out what the next game on the 1001 list was. Cruise for a Corpse, it said. What? I said. Cruise for a Corpse, it said. Well, I never, I said.
Cruise for a Corpse has you fill the shoes of Detective Desuntier, invited aboard a cruise ship only to find the man who invited him dead. An investigation on the open seas the only way to solve the murder - if it really is a murder - in this point and click adventure.
Sorry, Mr Karaboudjan, but it appears your killer will very likely get away with their crime...
What I first saw when playing Cruise for a Corpse wasn't what I expected. It looked better than I imagined it looking, even down to the inclusion of blurry just-been-hit-over-the-head-o-vision effects
Once I had control over my actions, the mouse cursor changed to indicate what action could be done at this point of the screen, namely move or interact, and when interacting with an object, the first thing to appear is a context sensitive menu allowing you to fine-tune your interaction. Do you examine something first, or just take it? Do you knock on a door or just open it?
For someone who tends not to like point and click, this was almost marvellous. It's friendly, it makes sense, it allows you to focus on the scene and not on all kinds of menus and so on. It allowed me to be a bit more invested in what was going on as I explored the ship and chatted to the passengers.
Niklos Karaboudjan has been killed, and it's up to you to find the killer. How you go about that is largely up to how good you are with point and click adventures... aaaand that's where my time with Cruise for a Corpse started to go downhill... fast...
For all the neat views and rotoscoped animation, Cruise for a Corpse is still a point and click where you need to point at seemingly everything, click on seemingly everything, remember what is useful, or might be useful, or might need further investigation later, and keep a map of your surroundings at hand, updated with whatever you find and think you'll need.
And that's before mentioning the need to keep up to date with the passengers and what they can contribute to your investigations as and when you make some new developments. And all of that is before mentioning that time advances, such that these passengers will move about the ship and subplots and short scenes will take place, whether you're there to see them or not.
Oh, this is your first murder mystery game? Well, good luck...
Walking into a locked door, then another locked door, then another locked door, is a prime example of trying to make forward progress but getting repeatedly blocked in doing so. "Ah, well, you should just interact with something that isn't a door - obviously they don't want you going into any of those rooms right now". Hmm, yes, obviously. So where are they trying to funnel me? Where the heck am I supposed to start this investigation if not in this room, or this room, or this room?
This is as smart as I got during my time, and it occurred when I spoke - spoke - to a carving of a mermaid or whatever it is. I sure as hell didn't go into that menu option thinking I'd get a code out of it. Who would? What am I meant to do with this information? Who the hell knows.
Watching Cruise for a Corpse, you can see time was put into the look of the game, and you can see there's a tangled web of mysterious connections between the passengers, their pasts and their potential futures, but I simply can't see anything here that makes me want to go back and try it again.
It looks pretty good, and the music isn't too bad - when it wants to play - but it's not a game for me. I'm sure there's something there for people who love whodunnits, but for the rest of us, it might be a hard sell.
Try it out and see for yourselves how little chance I have of solving any puzzle, murder or not.
Fans of The Adventures of Tintin may recognise some references in this game. Or they may not. It depends how big a fan you are, or how good a detective you are, perhaps.
Cruise for a Corpse, developed by Delphine Software International, first released in 1991.
Version played: MS-DOS, 1991, via emulation.