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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: June 8, 2000
Code breaking is one of the most sophisticated skills on Earth. At the National Security Agency in Washington, D.C., some of the brightest minds in the world have been assembled to engage in cryptography — the art and science of cracking codes and assembling impenetrable ones. This endeavor is so cranium-crunching that most computer games stay away from this kind of challenge, or at most inject one or two tame variations so as not to scare away the faint of heart. The number of combinations and permutations in most codes is so staggeringly huge that it boggles the mind to think about mastering this kind of complexity.
Well, Dreamcatcher Interactive’s newly-released Safecracker does not shy away from this kind of intellectual brain teaser at all. Indeed, it is entirely composed of a seemingly endless series of codes — in most cases safe combinations — to figure out. Developed by the Swedish DayDream Software way back in 1996, this release has taken quite a while to make it to North America. Now that it has, the big question is whether the current crop of game consumers have the stamina, fortitude, and mental confidence to take on this kind of daunting challenge.
The basic story in Safecracker is quite simple: You are an elite security analyst who wants to obtain employment at the world famous firm of Crabb & Sons Safe and Security Systems. To land the job, you must break into the eccentric employer’s heavily guarded mansion and crack the combinations of an almost endless array of safes. Within each is a clue to your ultimate goal, the Master Safe. If you succeed in opening them all, Crabb will hire you. This premise is so patently thin that it is clear from the outset it was concocted simply as an excuse for having to crack so many codes.
I have argued over time that there ought to be a subcategory of adventure games called adventure-puzzle, to distinguish products that have a lot of entity-to-entity interaction (pure adventure) from those with very little interaction but lots of puzzle solving (adventure-puzzle). To be honest, though, Safecracker barely belongs in this second category, as the plot ends up being so peripheral to your main activity of safecracking that it might as well not be there at all. In a sense, then, Safecracker is a pure puzzle offering, as there is virtually no adventure here, with more similarity in gameplay to Microsoft’s Pandora’s Box — although Safecracker is quite different in that everything takes place within one very confined physical environment — than to MYST.
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