Hello everyone, and welcome to Inside the Guide: the column in which I discuss a particular videogame and writing a guide for it. This month’s game is Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?.
For those of you who don’t know, there used to be a TV show on PBS called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?. The show was really cool and had to deal with spies, secret agents and all-around funny characters. Unfortunately, I was about seven when I saw the show, so I can’t remember any of that. All I remember is that the show had really, really difficult geography questions that the contestants all knew the answers to. It went like this:
Host: What is the capital of Zimbabwe?
Host: What European nation has the same Gross National Product as Lithuania?
Host: Name three African countries Angelina Jolie has adopted babies from.
Contestant: The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Arsbekistan, and Chad.
Host: Where is the best place to take a date if you’re hoping to get some “action”?
Contestant: Carson’s “Make-out” Cave, four miles past the Ben & Jerry’s on 8th Street.
Host: Really? Screw asking questions to you little know-it-alls, I’ve got a date at Make-out Cave!
Then the host would run away with Carmen Sandiego to Make-out Cave, and the show would end. Or something like that. I was only seven when I saw it, after all.
Anyway, the TV show eventually dropped the geography theme for a history theme and became Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?. The videogame adaptation managed to combine the TV shows’ history and geography elements, making players determine which of twelve places (China, England, France, Holland, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Spain, and the United States) and which of four historical periods (400 to 1300, 1300 to 1700, 1700 to 1900, and 1900 to the present) Carmen Sandiego’s criminal buddies are hiding in.
Basically, you play the game by first going to a place/time where one of Carmen’s criminals was seen. At that place, you get three clues as to who the criminal is, where the criminal is and when the criminal is. Use the clues to follow the criminal and, if you’ve identified the criminal, use your warrant to arrest him or her. Then you solve the case!
In order to beat the game, you have to solve 80 cases. This gets really boring, because every case is practically the same. However, it made writing a guide for the game easy, because I had to do was describe how to beat one case!
Unfortunately for me, one of the GameFAQs staff members actually read my guide and wasn’t pleased with it. The guide was given an “empty dot” classification, which means that it “covers general points of a game…but is not a walkthrough or beginning-to-end guide”. In other words, they were saying “DON’T READ THIS GUIDE BECAUSE IT’S A PIECE OF CRAP THAT CONTAINS LESS INFORMATION THAN THE INSTRUCTION BOOKLET.”
Well, crap. I didn’t want to have a guide rated like that. I then busted my butt for a few hours and, through the magic of save states, came up with a comprehensive list of all 168 clues in the game. That way, anyone could beat the game simply by matching the clues with where to go. I also added a detailed section about the various criminals in the game and a password that leads to its last case.
I then submitted an update, specifically requesting that my guide be reclassified. The staff members thought it was good, and so they reclassified it as a complete guide. In other words, they thought the guide was good enough to help you beat the game without having to learn anything about geography or history. Of course, that defeats the whole purpose of the game, but no one has complained about it so far.
See you all next month, if I get back from 1550’s Peru in time. If I don’t, the GameCola editors will probably be asking “Where in Time is Michael Gray?”