The life cycle is self-explanatory: sign up for a case, travel between locations questioning witnesses, obtain warrants, and make arrests, and you have approximately a week to do so. The options you can do in each location are the same: you can question witnesses, look up evidence reports, or contact Crime Net to receive additional information about the suspect such as features, hair and eye color, auto, and sport. If you're lucky, you can contact other informants like Bart Samson and Vinnie the Squealer.
Once you get enough information about the suspect, you can transmit this information to Warren the Warrant Robot to make him get a warrant for you. If you're not sure about the information you've entered, you can look up the dossiers on each suspect.
Unlike the rest of the Carmen Sandiego games, you're given a quiz just before you get promoted, requiring you to look up the reference that came with the game. If you keep getting promoted, you may find yourself in the hall of fame.
Locations include (but not limited to) Kathmandu, Dar-es-Salaam, Baghdad, Manila, Lima, Port Moresby, Singapore, New Delhi, and Tokyo. You can also travel to ACME HQ in San Francisco, but the only thing you can do is start a new case, or assign a new detective.