Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
This week we are looking at the most famous, most award-winning, most critically acclaimed, and best selling female character in the history of video gaming. She’s had more games that Jill Valentine and Lara Croft put together and can boast one of the most played franchises out of any video game series ever. She’s had a successful cartoon series, two popular game shows and just saying her name reminds tens of millions of gamers of not only her titles that combined education with entertainment but a song that is hard to get out of your head once you’ve heard it. Click on the YouTube Video to the right for the appropriate soundtrack for this article as you join ten Diehard GameFAN staffers as they talk about Carmen Sandiego and what should be done with her franchise, which hasn’t seen a new release in North American in six years. Do it Rockapella!
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Dave Olvera – Start Over
The world could use another Carmen Sandiego game, so the game series should start over.
The United States, as a whole, is quite ignorant of other nations and cultures. Carmen Sandiego games helped kids learn about the history and nations of the world. You can make it a Phoenix Wright-like adventure, add some RPG elements or just keep the old format. Start over with a more modern coat of paint, but don’t change the core of the series.
With willful ignorance and partisan ideology running rampant, a Carmen Sandiego game could be a bit of help in having people learn about things beyond their immediate world. While I only briefly played the games, I respected what the aim of the series was and how it tried to accomplish its mission. Truly, with so much anti-intellectualism in the US, a revival could really be a good thing.
AJ Hess – Start Over
There are a ton of ways to reboot this franchise. The best might be an online game show, or a local party game. I see the way to go as playing against four or five people online answering geopolitical questions and roaming a cartoon globe as a great way to spend some hours with the remote.It might even help kids learn something, which was part of the originalreason for the game.
Aaron Sirois – Start Over
“Well she sneaks around the world from Kiev to Carolina…”
I’ll admit it. I loved the old TV show, the old game show, the board games, and even the computer games. Carmen Sandiego was a great part of my early childhood.
That’s why I think the series should be reinvented for a modern age. Detective games are back on the rise on the DS, so the time is now for Carmen to entertain new generation of junior sleuths.
Somebody get on it!
Mohammad Al-Sadoon – Start Over
I recall playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Where in America is Carmen Sandeigo almost religiously as a kid, mostly because they came free with our family’s very first PC back in 1995 (or was it 94?) and I still have the disks lying around somewhere.
It was one of the first educational games I played that was entertaining rather than mind numbingly boring. It did indeed make you feel like a detective hunting down cartoon criminals, but then they had to release endless spinoffs including Carmen Sandiego Math or some other such nonsense.
Wiiware, DSiware or perhaps even iPhone could be an excellent platform for a reboot for Carmen as the gameplay style would probably be considered “too casual” for other systems.
As for using the internet to cheat? Who cares? If kids are usingGgoogle for reasons other than porn and learning something about the world they live in, then the game has fulfilled its purpose.
Mark B. – Start Over
Anything I learned about the world when I was a kid, I learned through the Carmen Sandiego series. She stole things in the US, she stole things around the world. Hell, she even built a time machine and stole things from the past. That right there, is dedication to the craft. She was an evil criminal mastermind, one of the greatest thieves ever, and she was totally dedicated to teaching you about the world and stuff. Carmen’s like some sort of highly educated, highly capable female Riddler, where instead of leaving you weird puzzles about doors not being doors, she leaves you notes telling you she’s going to be hanging out in Stalin’s birthplace.
How can you not love that?
I have no idea what happened to the series, but the last game in the franchise I’m aware of was The Secret of the Stolen Drums, and HOLY CRAP was that a terrible idea. “Let’s take a series based on solving puzzles and learning and make it into an action game!” If there is a just God, whoever came up with that idea is shining shoes for a living. With his tongue. The point is, yeah, the franchise kind of died (of shame) after that, which is a shame. I’m kind of sad to know that no one is doing anything with the license, as it was not only a highly profitable series, but it was a good series to boot.
Given the choice between making a sequel and starting over, I’d sooner start over, if only because a modernized Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego would be great to have. You could branch off into the various spin-off titles from there and modernize Carmen and her gang as needed while still keeping the core gimmicks intact. Heck, you don’t even need to give Carmen a gang at all anymore. With technology having advanced the way it has, you could just keep having Carmen get away at the last second all on her own to make her even more of an unstoppable thieving juggernaut. “Oops, this one was a robot.” “Aww, this one was her highly unstable clone.” “Huh, turns out this one was a hologram.” By the time you caught her you’d be aching to put her behind bars so bad that you’d break all sense of composure and give yourself a high five, then run outside and demand that random strangers congratulate you for your efforts in preventing the theft of the Statue of Liberty.
Okay, so that one got away from me a little, but the point is that I think we should have more Carmen Sandiego games and I feel very bad for you if you don’t.
Alexander Lucard – Start Over
I loved both the original series and the video game. Any game that tested my intelligence as a child was one I gravitated to, so most of my PC gaming experience was split between old RPG’s like “The Bard’s Tale or Wizardry and the Carmen Sandiego titles. I also really enjoyed the game show even though I was in high school at the time. I liked Geography and History so the game show appealed to me and even to this day, I can’t get the song out of my head after I hear it. DAMN YOU ROCKAPELLA!
As Mark mentioned in his piece, the last game to hit North America was a clunk action-platformer that tanked horribly because both the developers and publishers forgot what the entire appeal of the Carmen Sandiego series was all about. It’s actually not the last game to come out bearing Carmen’s name. In early 1999, a brand new developer, Strass Productions, gave us ? Mais Ou Se Cache CARMEN SANDIEGO? Mystere Au Bout De Monde. Although I can find neither screenshots nor any real depth about the game, it appears to be a return to the classic Carmen Sandiego style, with a tie-in from the cartoon series and Professor Layton style puzzles. I’d love to see this come to North America, and supposedly there is an English translation out there, but none of the European online gaming stores carry it or ever have heard of it. My hope is that some publisher reads this, realizes the love diehard and casual gamers alike still have for the series and brings this game stateside.
What I’d really like to see is a fresh start with the classic style and gameplay. You’d play as an ACME detective and you slowly climb through the ranks of the agency as you track down members of Carmen’s gangs with their punny names like Rob M. Blind, Ruth Less, and more. I want the exact core game from my childhood with updated graphics and questions for the modern geo-political climate. It would sell, it would be popular and honestly, it’s really needed. It’s one of those games that would work on a PC, console, or portable system and it would be a nice reminder of when people didn’t have to separate “casual” and “diehard” gamers into two separate categories because they all played the same things. Carmen Sandiego‘s franchise is one of those series and honestly, if you don’t have love in your heart for the cast and characters of these titles, than you are lacking either your heart or a soul -possibly both.
The other option I could get behind is a game show style title. This would be similar to Buzz!, but would play out exactly like the old TV show complete with the cheesy animation and catchy tunes. You could play it with four of your friends either online or in your home and try and take down Carmen and her gang. Turning the old 1990’s game show into a video game would be exceptionally east to do, and I’d love to see it if people won’t go back to the formula that worked.
Christopher Bowen – Sequel
The Carmen Sandiego games have always been very good, because they combine good gameplay elements with geographical learning. I learned a lot from those games playing them on an old Macintosh running OS/6, and I think kids today can learn a lot, too.
They’ve tried to bring those games back a few times – I remember playing a more modern version on Gametap before Gametap started to suck – but they always struck me as… different. Cheezy. They tried adding characters other than Carmen and the villians to the game. It came off as a bad Saturday Morning cartoon. They don’t need that. Hell, they could remake the games with the old graphics and interface for all I care. The game is good enough.
There’s only one weakness that Carmen Sandiego has today: Google. It’s much easier to cheat nowadays when we have Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips than it was back in the old days, when we had to break out encyclopedias. So the game would probably be gamed in a sense.
But who cares? Anyone that’s willing to cheat is missing the point. Fact is, Carmen Sandiego would be perfect for schools, especially if the developer can make Mac and Linux versions. I’d slap that sucker on an Edubuntu install in a heartbeat.
Aileen Coe – Sequel
This was one of the games I used to play often on the old Apples at school as a kid. It managed to be entertaining while you actually learned something, and I loved playing detective and piecing clues together. I’d also regularly watch the game show and the cartoon.
With the resurge of the edutainment genre (Oregon Trail, the Brain Age and My ___ Coach games, and others of their ilk), this would fit in perfectly as long as they stick more closely with the original formula than the most recent games did. I’m kind of surprised they haven’t released a version on the DSiware or Wiiware service already, seeing as how the aforementioned Oregon Trail got a DSiware release.
Branden Chowen – Sequel
There were always a select few games that I would wait for my dad to boot up the old PC to play, and the words Camen Sandiego came at the end of at least three of those titles. I started off with Where In the USA is Carmen Sandiego?, got pissed off countless times with Where In the World is Carmen Sandiego?, and then learned about the first sewage systems in Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego? Mind you, I couldn’t do much in these games without my Dad or my trusty atlas (which came packed in with the first two games), but I had a blast. Not only was I having fun with the zany characters (I don’t use that word often) and colorful graphics, but I was actually learning something! In all honesty, I learned more from Carmen Sandiego than I did from any trail through Oregon I’ve ever traversed.
Nowadays, more and more kids are playing video games, and a Carmen Sandiego sequel would fit perfectly next to the other edutainment titles like Big Brain Academy.
Come to think of it, between Carmen Sandiego and Zoombinis, it’s no wonder I’m so damn smart today
Widro – Spin-Off
At the time, the Carmen Sandiego franchise was a top notch game andTV show that taught world geography to kids. For an educational title, it was unique and fun, and reached crossover appeal as a game to play not just for the educational purposes. As such, it still has nostalgic value with some core gamers, and could be used in that aspect for a new game. Also as gamers who grew up with the Carmen Sandiego game and song have kids of their own, it is a great opportunity to reintroduce the brand to get new kids a taste of the world of Carmen Sandiego.
End Result –
Start Over: 6
Stay Dead: 0
It’s rather telling when we have more staff that would rather wax philosophically about Carmen Sandiego than titles like Legend of Dragoon or Double Dragon. Needless to say the Carmen Sandiego games are amongst the most popular, successful and critically acclaimed titles of all time, and it’s a damn shame to see the series lie dormant here in North America. This is also one of the rare few times where someone hasn’t wanted a series to Stay Dead, which shows just how beloved it really is. Hopefully some publisher will be smart enough to revive this franchise with the same love and passion that Broderbund Software put into it. Until then though, people will have to be content with the knowledge that Carmen Sandiego is out there somewhere – it’s just she’s really hard to find.
Next week we’ll be looking at a fighting game franchise that spawned four titles and was also the only fighting game to ever feature Earthworm Jim as a playable character. See you then!
Alexander Lucard was the Editor-in-Chief of Diehard GameFAN and Director of Operations for the InsidePulse network. He has since retired from writing, but clearly shows up now and again. He has worked in video game journalism since 2002 and is also a paid consultant for Konami and The Pokemon Company. Alex has previously written for Tips N Tricks, Gamespot, White Wolf, TSR, Wizards of the Coast, Eden Studios, 411mania, Not a True Ending and more. His writing could also be found in the monthly periodicals Massive Online Gamer and Pokemon Collector Magazine.