Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (39506)
Written on  :  Mar 08, 2008
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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96 hours of good, old fashioned detective work

The Good

Players take on a role of Mason Powers, a former agent for the CIA. After you are pinned for the murder of your chief, Frank McBain, you are placed inside a sanctuary with your memory erased. Upon his arrival, Mason will ask himself a series of questions, including where he is, how did he get inside, and who sent him there. During your adventure, you will find a way to get out of the sanctuary and discover these answers yourself.

During Countdown, you have the opportunity to interrogate people. Not only can you find answers relating to your case, but you can find out the whereabouts of other suspects. If they appear to be uncooperative, there are four buttons at your disposal, which you can ask for help, hassle them, be pleasant toward them, or call a bluff. I spent minutes trying each combination on everyone I met, and what they had to say was interesting reading.

When you get out of the sanctuary for good, you can use a map to travel to different countries in Europe. There are only four locations you can select when the map first appears, but you will be able to choose more when you do some interrogation. The map is quite accurate in relation of where everything is.

You can also access your CAD, your computer access device. You use this to read e-mails, analyze messages, and research people that you heard about from someone. What I enjoyed most about the CAD is the analysis. To travel between countries, you need to decide what to travel on – plane or train. Personally, I like to go on the plane because I find it easier to use and the tickets don't cost as much.

I liked how you have a timer. You have to keep an eye on it while you are playing the game. More often than not, something will happen in a certain amount of time, and you have to stop whatever it is from happen. You have 96 hours to find out who murdered McBain while trying to stop a major terrorist attack from happening, and that is plenty of time on your part. The only way to make sure that you have plenty is by not asking far too many questions and by choosing wisely how you are going to travel between countries.

Vital clues are obtained through a series of flashbacks, which I enjoyed looking at. These flashbacks are triggered when you look at blood stains or dead corpses on the floor. There are about three of these, and all come together at the end of the game to reveal McBain's killer. No, I won't tell you who the killer is, so you have to finish the game to find out.

The puzzles can be easily solved by reading something for a clue on how to solve them, or by doing a bit of trial-and-error. The easiest puzzles are at the beginning of the game where you are still somewhere in the sanctuary. The major puzzle is at the very end where you must disarm a bomb in a strict time limit.

Although the graphics are not up to today's standard, they were the best for its time. The sanctuary looks like the way sanctuaries should look in real life. McBain's mansion looks tidy and clean, albeit the broken glass and the pool of blood on the floor. The interface is well laid out with the action occupying most of the screen, the command bar and the dialogue/inventory area below it. The buttons look good, white text on a red background. The same goes with the interrogation screen. The digitized actors look real. I was about to have a crush on Lisa Loomis, Mason's ex-girlfriend.

I tapped my feet to the excellent soundtrack that played during the credits, both opening and closing. I believe that this is the best soundtrack that Access Software has done for a game around its time.

Unlike Martian Memorandum, there is no background music while you are playing, but this did not bother me. I enjoyed listening to the digitized sound. One example that I like was listening to the hitman saying “Make sure he remembers nothing.”, to which the doctor says “Don't worry, I'll take care of him.” All this goes on with a psychedelic background. The lip-syncing is excellent.

The Bad

You have to navigate a huge labyrinth in order to escape the sanctuary, but at no point prior to this does the game offers help on this by showing the player the correct route through the labyrinth. The player would have no choice but using trial-and error to find the right way, while they are wasting a lot of time doing so.

Most of the time, you can pick up objects while you are far away from them. However, I remember sometimes I get a “You're not close enough to do that” message. As a result, I had to walk over to the object and try again. Since the object is quite a distance from where I was standing, walking over to it wastes precious minutes.

The Bottom Line

Countdown's main plot is to stop a major terrorist attack from happening. But before the excitement can begin, players have to find some way to escape a sanctuary. The majority of the game has them searching locations for clues and question people for new leads. Players have a certain amount of time to finish the game, so fun as it is to question people about others and learning something new, they can't afford to waste time. A few parts of the game has the player use their CAD to analyze messages and do a bit of research.

Countdown had good graphics for its time, and the game has an excellent soundtrack. The sound effects are creepy, especially at the beginning of the game. Flashbacks are easily triggered just by looking at blood stains or dead corpses, and give vital clues as to who the assassin is. The map of Europe is detailed, giving an accurate representation of where everything is. If you like games where you get to play detective, I really recommend this game. It is a precursor to the Tex Murphy games of the future.