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SummaryThe butler did it!
The GoodBeing my first "cinematique" adventure game, I wasn't too sure what to expect from Cruise for a Corpse, having only heard some good things about it's original Amiga release. The truth is that Delphine proved once again to be on top of things and released a stellar adventure jewel that should be better remembered by adventure fans.
Taking it's inspiration from the classic Agatha Christie/Arthur Conan Doyle detective novels, Delphine casts you as a classic early-twenty century detective a-la Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes. As the game starts, a wealthy acquaintance invites you to spend some time on his luxury cruise along with a group of close friends and relatives of him. You don't get to enjoy much of the sea breeze however, as not long after you arrive your benefactor gets murdered. The ensuing scenario thus will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played "Clue": you find yourself isolated with no law enforcement in sight, everyone is a suspect and turns out to have lots of skeletons in their closets and reasons to have the victim murdered, and returning home will only allow the murderer to flee, thus your pleasure cruise has just turned into a race to find the murderer using nothing but your wits and deductive instinct.
The game starts on the right track by taking the detective-oriented gameplay and not messing it with the usual crappy "adventuresque" inventory-related annoyances. Basically, the game revolves around you triggering flags, be it by talking about a specific topic with someone or by uncovering a clue. Whenever something like that happens, the game's clock advances a few minutes and you go at it again, as somewhere in the boat a new clue awaits to be uncovered or an event waits for you to pass by and trigger it. This works wonders to create the feeling of a tangible plot that develops following your lead. And while it may translate into a completely linear affair, the game makes the stellar decision of following this gameflow only until the final moment, were true to it's mystery novel roots, the entire cast of characters gets comes to meet you and the final decision of who's guilty falls entirely on your hands, as it's up to you to weight all the clues and threads you collected in the game and decide who did it. Obviously, there's only one right answer and the other ones lead you to a generic ending, but it's still a great touch.
The most impressive aspect of the game however, is the technical one. True to Delphine tradition, the game uses filled-vectors graphics for characters, which translate into silky smooth character animations and which meld perfectly with the backgrounds. The game's interface is an example of class, with a fully mouse-driven context-sensitive floating menu that appears whenever you right-click and which gives you easy access to the classic verb menu and the inventory. Further refinement comes with the use of an overhead map of the vessel, from which you can easily navigate your character and "warp" to each part of the ship without having to walk all over the decks. And the dialogue tree-interface is equally well crafted, with a collection of topics and sub-topics for each character that allow you to easily sort all the massive amounts of information each character has to share with you.
The BadThe vector graphics aren't fit for all situations, and you'll easily see why whenever your character comes close to the camera and his model explodes into blocky chunks that remind the player more of lego blocks than anything else.
Also, the distinctive gameflow has the problem of causing lots of stucky situations. A lot of times you'll be wondering aimlessly just because you haven't stumbled with the next clue or event. I would also have appreciated a graphic inventory instead of the text list.