Wednesday, August 4, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Clue

Clue is one of the few classic American games that has actually benefited from being poked, prodded, squeezed, and occasionally reinvented.

Various Monopoly incarnations are essentially the same core gameplay with new proporties and actions cards. Clue, however, has provided some nice variations on the basic theme. Clue Mysteries, Clue Suspects, Clue: The Great Museum Caper, Clue DVD Game and even the much maligned Clue: Secrets and Spies all have their strong points. Heck, even some of the themed clues, such as Harry Potter and even Seinfeld (seriously) are not a total wash.

Never one to leave well enough alone, Electronic Arts has decided to reinvent Clue yet again for the the App market. They seem to have designed their Clue app to be as unappealing as possible to fans of the game. There is no traditional board layout, the classic visuals have been updated to make the characters and locations look more contemporary, and the entire pace and structure of the original game has been dropped.

In its place EA offers something very different, but with its own charms.

Rather than turning the classic whodunit game straight into an app, EA has instead hung a kind of interactive mystery on the bones of the original. Instead of moving around a board or competing against other detectives, you move from room to room asking questions from a menu of dialog options and searching for clues. 

As an ace reporter on a deadline, you can perform only a certain number of actions before your time runs out, and you need to call your editor with the suspect, location, and weapon used to kill Mr. Boddy. You’re able to use a map of the game to place suspects and weapons where they were located when the crime occured, and then cross potential suspects off your list before you make your final accusation. 

The touch controls are a bit fussy, with a little too much screen flipping and awkward input locations. There's also a timing element, which limits the number of moves you can make before you have to solve the mystery. This timing element seems to mimic the "clock" cards that are being added to some clue variants in order to make the game more suspenseful. Actually, they only make the game feel rushed and somewhat random.

Needless to say, the contemporary setting is nowhere near as appealing as the old English country house mystery captured so effectively by the original. Hasbro has so little clue about what people like in this game that they even created an updated edition, called Clue: Discover the Secret, that dispensed with the classic setting in favor of a cast of washed-up child stars, videogame designers, and football players. Note to Hasbro: People like cozy English mysteries. They don't like dated pop-culture pandering.

Those reservations aside, this is a still a fun little interactive mystery. There are ten cases in all, and each has random elements and a scoring system to encourage repeat play. This isn’t Clue, but it has its own appeal.


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