Publisher: The Learning Company
Developer: The Learning Company
System requirements: Not available
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: Available now
If you’re the type of gamer who vomits at the thought of Facebook apps being considered as legitimate games, run. Run far away. Actually, wait, stay here a while. Maybe we can be convinced to give these apps a chance. As far as I can tell, Facebook games only have one major strike against them: they encourage all your annoying FB friends to send you an overwhelming amount of app requests. Facebook games are developed entirely for profit, but they are free and can offer a decent level of entertainment. Facebook’s Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? adheres closely to its origins as a 1980s computer game, but brings with it a social media twist packed with plenty of entertainment.
Once again you’re an ACME agent, and your job is to track down the villains of V.I.L.E. in an attempt to find former ACME agent Carmen Sandiego. As you travel between continents, you are given clues based on geographic locations or suspect traits. Narrowing down suspect lists based on suspect traits is addicting, but I constantly enlisted the help of Google to figure out the geographic clues. Each case has a timer, and each action costs you in either hours or ACME coins. Starting out, you’re given a limited amount of ACME coins, and once they’re gone, you have to use Facebook credits to acquire more coins. If you’re like me and refuse to engage in Facebook’s micro-transactions, you’re stuck with solving cases quickly with minimal mistakes and traveling. Quicker travel requires ACME coins, as do higher quality clues. Slower travel and basic clues are free, but they have a higher time penalty.
As you track criminals from one continent to another, you’re presented with clues to help you narrow the suspect list. Once you’ve reduced the list to a single criminal, you request a warrant, then find their current location. When you enter a new city, you’re shown a handful of local buildings, but the clues are clearly marked with a magnifying glass icon. If you’re on the right trail, you get a useful clue, otherwise you get a citizen that has no idea what you’re talking about and you’re forced to retrace your steps to previous cities. All of these actions require anywhere from a couple of hours to half a day. If you run out of time, the case is closed and your permanent record is irreversibly marred.
Facebook’s edition of Carmen Sandiego might not possess all of the characteristics of a AAA game, but it’s entertaining and a good option if you’re at work and need to kill a few minutes. It’s still very much a casual game, something most serious gamers won’t play. I enjoyed playing the game and searching the Internet for answers to the geographic clues, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was wasting my time. As far as I can tell, the main appeal to Facebook games is that you can engage your friends and make the experience more “social.” A lot of us are addicted to Facebook and constantly log-on to stalk our friends or reply to comments. If I found a game most of my friends enjoyed, I might be lured into participating if I wasn’t dedicated to playing real games such as Rift or Left 4 Dead. However, to be fair to any of you who might be into Mafia Wars or Farmville, Carmen Sandiego offers a similar experience, with the addition of educational gameplay. If you find yourself stuck on a clue, you can cheat like I did and enlist the help of Google, or you can request help from your friends. Either way you expand your knowledge of geography and popular monuments around the world. If you’ve found yourself pulled in by similar casual games, then definitely give this game a try. Just don’t send me a request or I will de-friend you.
At the end of the day, we gamers must make choices not only regarding what game to play, but we must also choose between real-life responsibilities and the enchanting singing of our gaming Sirens. Usually I give in to the Sirens and dive into one of my trusty go-to games; other times I’m not even motivated enough to play a console or PC game. In those situations I might go to the Addicting Games website, or I’ll surf the web. Games such as Carmen Sandiego give me a third option. It’s easy enough to require minimal effort, and it’s on Facebook, so when I’m wasting time on the world’s most popular social networking site I don’t have to navigate to a new browser tab to play a game.
I already know you’re on Facebook. Isn’t everyone? If you get a chance, give the game a few minutes. It’s free and you’re already wasting time on FB, so what’s to lose? But don’t expect anything worth the hype. I’m still perplexed about the popularity of Facebook games. I’ve tried most of them and became bored quicker than that time I tried playing Final Fantasy. Now if Carmen Sandiego had zombies, maybe then I’d stay interested.