The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure
Review by MrLipid
Once upon a Time
The original 1996 Safecracker
was a puzzle game with an adventure veneer. The player, in the
role of a security expert applying for a job with Crabb & Sons
Safe Company, had to audition by cracking every safe in the company's
headquarters within 12 hours. As a witty final touch, when the player
got to the end, the game provided a printable version of that employment
contract. (There was also a video walkthrough of the developer's
offices revealing that creating digital entertainment takes place
in a glamour-free zone.)
While I am as fond of the original Safecracker as I am of
other puzzle/adventures, such as Jewels of the Oracle, Gems of
Curse of the Twelve Caves, and Cassandra
Galleries, I'll be the first to acknowledge its shortcomings.
The 12-hour time limit stymied some players, and in-game glitches
stalled others. As MW's review points out, turning away from a safe
without removing everything in it meant losing whatever was left
in the safe. And as PCs grew faster, the inventory system scrolled
too quickly to allow players to select needed items.
Though time has not been kind to the technology of the original,
the premiseSafes in a Placeremains as engaging as ever.
And Kheops Studio has done a terrific job of developing intriguing
challenges with which to fill that house. (I'm going to attempt
to save time and avoid confusion by referring to Safecracker:
The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure as Safecracker 2006. I
like that better than referring to is as STUPA.)
Our Story Begins
The justification for cracking safes in Safecracker 2006 is
a study in minimalism. Duncan W. Adams, a fabulously wealthy old
coot who designed, restored, and collected safes as a hobby, has
died. Since no will has been found, the family assumes it must be
somewhere in one of his many safes. Good assumption. You, as the
safecracker, must follow the trail of clues left in the old man's
safes to find the will. All of this is conveyed in the voiceover
that kicks off the game. Oddly enough, the game never states its
title. There is a title sequence, but the title, Safecracker,
Once the title voiceover ends, it's time to start opening safes.
No pressure, though, because there is no time limit in Safecracker
2006. The game does keep track of how long a player takes to
get to the end, but there is no penalty for taking as long as one
After cracking the first safe, the player will discover there are
now three safes, which can be cracked in any order. Crack one of
the three and others become available. Eventually, all safes will
need to be opened to complete the game. (There may be one or two
that could be skipped, but where's the fun in that?)
Once a safe is open, it remains open. It is possible to leave items
in the safe that contained them and return for them later. The inventory
system is a clean series of images along the bottom of the screen
that indicates when a clue has been used with a red X. If a key
or other mechanical item is used, it disappears from the inventory.
The mansion is rendered in the lush 360-degree panning style that
has become one of the house characteristics of Kheops Studio. If
you've played Return
to Mysterious Island or The Secrets of Da Vinci:
The Forbidden Manuscript, you'll know what to expect in terms
of visuals and game play mechanics from Safecracker 2006.
Since I cannot imagine myself opening safes by the dawn's early
light, I have chosen to believe that the gentle beams coming into
the mansion are from a pink sunset. And the objects upon which those
beams fall are given a believable heft and solidity by the outstanding
sound design. The safe in the loft may be just a pile of pixels,
but when its massive door swings open, I'm convinced its hinges
Something Old, Something New, Something Baffling
The measure of a puzzle game is not, of course, how pretty it looks
or how convincing it sounds. The measure is how well it plays. I
am happy to report that Safecracker 2006 plays beautifully.
There are some familiar puzzles, some unfamiliar puzzles, and some
very clever twists on the whole idea of what constitutes a puzzle.
Among the familiar puzzles, players will find a slider, a variant
of Sudoku, a magic square, a warehouse puzzle, and a parking lot
puzzle. The unfamiliar puzzles include a combination based on light
frequency, an interior decorating puzzle, and a puzzle based on
repeatedly being in the right place at the right time. And then
there are the puzzles that require players to refrain from punching
keys and twiddling knobs long enough to really see and study what
is before them. These puzzles are among the most compelling in Safecracker
2006 because, other than endless random fiddling, they can only
be solved by scrutiny.
As one moves from room to room, picking up clues, keys, and combinations,
one will also find notes and diary entries that provide modest insights
into the sort of family the billionaire left behind. This information
will prove useful once the final safe is opened.
A Minor Quibble
The only design choice I have a quibble with is the use of a voiceover
narrator as a form of in-game hint system. When a puzzle appears,
a male English voice, purportedly the voice of the safecracker,
muses about how the puzzle might work. Unlike the subtitles, which
can be turned on or off, the voice cannot be silenced without silencing
all music and sound effects in the game. And, to quote the off-screen
narrator, "That's a bit much."
Those familiar with the original Safecracker will remember
that it provided more than an in-game hint system: it provided pretty
much everything a player needed to solve the puzzles. Those looking
for that kind of support in Safecracker 2006 will be disappointed.
While the unseen narrator will identify several of the puzzles by
type, there is no further information available in the game on how
that type of puzzle works.
Yes, I Liked It
I'm awarding Safecracker 2006 a Mega Supreme for its elegant
and witty revival of a great puzzle game premise. I'll be first
in line for the next edition, and the next, and the next ...
Safecracker 2006 comes on one CD and installs completely
to the hard drive. This CD does not need to be in the drive in order
for the game to play. Hooray!
More than a few people have bought Safecracker 2006 and
discovered that it would not run on their shiny new systems. This
appears to be due to cost control on the part of system builders
who offer great deals on boxes that use motherboard-based integrated
graphics. Safecracker 2006, along with many other games,
requires an honest-to-goodness freestanding 64 MB VRAM video card
in order to run.
Release Date: August 2, 2006
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III/Athlon 800 MHz
64 MB RAM
DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
16x CD-ROM drive
700 MB free hard disk space
DirectX® 9.0c (included)
64 MB DirectX® 9.0c compatible graphics card
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).