Clue Chronicles: Fatal Illusion

Review by Jen

In what must be a masterpiece of undermarketing, I had never heard anything about this game despite being pretty plugged in to what's going on in the adventure game business. I simply saw it in my local Software Etc. and bought it based on my fond memories of the board game Clue and because it looked like—gasp!—an adventure game. And sure enough ... read on while I chronicle my Clue experience.

Egypt, not long after the turn of the century. A shocking murder in a tent by an assassin with an impressive array of weapons that includes a knife, a candlestick, a rope ... (he uses the knife). Fast forward to New Year's Eve 1938. The world is on the brink of war, and a group of people find themselves thrown together on a mysterious yacht cruising the Rhine on the way to attend a mysterious party given by a mysterious host at his mysterious castle atop a mysterious mountain. Murder and mayhem. What does it all mean? You, as "Player," the private investigator, must find out. Your mysterious host, Ian Masque, mysteriously dies immediately after you hand him a Chinese puzzle box. You interview all of the usual suspects, Colonel Mustard, Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, et al., plus a handful of new characters tossed into the mix just for this game. And no, Mrs. White did not do it in the library with the wrench. I don't want to discuss too much more about the premise for fear of taking away any surprises. Suffice it to say, the story in this game is surprisingly tightly plotted—not what you'd expect from an adventure game based on a board game.

There are definitely some odd things about this game. For instance, great care was taken in rendering the locations, even down to the moving reflections in the shiny hallway floor of the mansion. But the characters would plunk themselves down in one spot and not move—once you knew where they were sitting, there they would stay until the end of the act. Even if they were to get up off their duffs and participate in a cutscene, they would return to their original spots. And then since I figured this out right away, of course I would always go right back to where I'd expect to find a certain character, and the character would be gone! only to magically reappear as soon as the CD quit spinning.

Fatal Illusion's interface was cumbersome. The backgrounds and locations were richly detailed, but the directional movements and what you can look at are severely limited. This made for a very easy game. Again, too, you have to wait for the CD to spin down before you can see your cursors. Inventory items are awkward to use—you have to left-click on something to pick it up, which is simple enough, and right-click on something to view it—again, simple enough—but to combine inventory items, you have to pick one up and click it on the other, and then the bigger of the two will pop up on your screen and the smaller one stays in inventory, so you have to pick it up again and then put it on the bigger item. Also, even if you know what to do with an item, sometimes you aren't allowed to do it until it is "time."

On the other hand, there were a couple of times where I was allowed to do something out of order, to the detriment of the gaming experience. For instance, right near the beginning, there is a combination lock. I had no clue what the combination might be and thought I'd already talked everyone to death, and so I took the hint (there is a built-in hint system, a nice feature), entered the room, did everything there, and only later found I'd missed talking to the character who gave me the clue to the combination. Other times, you see something you'd like to fiddle with, and the "Player" says, "better not fiddle with that until I know more about it," and you have to get the character's clue first and then go back to it. Very inconsistent, what?

Overall, though, despite what I just said, most of the puzzles were logical and fun. Most of the first act aboard the yacht involves talking to the characters and getting a feel for what's going on, why the characters are there, and why they have been thrown together to attend the party. The second act is purely mechanical manipulation as you repair a cable car to take you to the mountaintop mansion. The third act, the bulk of the game, is where the puzzles get really intense—you must get a clue from each "color" character and locate six jewels based on their clues. The puzzles are mostly pretty easy, but there are a couple of stumpers. I do confess to resorting to the hints more than once, maybe even more than twice, if the truth be told.

Character interaction is done via use of a notebook. You click on the character with whom you wish to speak, and the notebook pops up with the available questions/remarks. You click on the one you want to try, the full question shows up on the bottom of the screen, and then you click on that to actually "say" it. However, there are no dialogue trees; you simply ask what questions are on the notebook and that's it. You, as "Player," have no voice—there is just a moment of silence and then the game character gives a response. This was a little disconcerting at first but turned into a blessing since you didn't have to listen to yourself "read" the question.

The voice acting is simply atrocious. Every character has a (bad) accent, and they all sound like they're reading from a script into a microphone in the conference room there at Hasbro's headquarters. The music is awful, too. It's much too repetitive. However, there are options for turning down both music and voices, and you can even turn on subtitles. I turned the music down and turned up both the voices and the subtitles, and the subtitles didn't always match what the characters were saying, and I don't mean just a word here and there—sometimes whole sentences would be missing from the text.

Overall, despite its many flaws, Clue Chronicles: Fatal Illusion was a fun game to play, if too short (it took me maybe six hours). The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Engineering Animation, Inc.
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive
Release Date: November 1999

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

133 MHz Pentium
Windows 95/98
2 MB SVGA video card compatible with DirectX version 6.0 or higher
80 MB free hard drive space

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