Review: Safecracker (Nintendo Wii)

Safecracker (Wii)
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Kheops
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: 12/5/2008

To say that the Adventure Company gives us a mixed bag of games to review is a bit of an understatement. They released the excellent Traveler’s Tales game Sam and Max: Season 1 and the Evidence series of games. On the other hand, they released the rather terrible Riddle of the Tomb and a whole slew of Agatha Christie games that were underwhelming. Thankfully they chose to publish a Kheops game which…. Oh crap. Kheops are the Dracula 3: Path of the Dragon guys aren’t they? Poopie. Well Safecracker is without question the best game that Kheops has ever made. It’s still a below average effort that really isn’t worth more then a rental because of both the short length and the numerous problems with the game, but hey, Safecracker is an improvement.

Safecracker tries its hardest to substitute “concept” for “plot” with very predictable results. It’s as if the developers at Kheops on their secret island jungle volcano base (because that’s where all evil developers live) decided it’d be really neat if you played a game where all you did was break into safes using a variety of puzzles. I won’t lie. The concept for the game is very interesting and something that I’d like to see tried again. The real stumbling block for Safecracker comes in the next step as the game tries to develop a story from this. Since the majority of plots that spring to mind fit “stealth-action” better then “adventure”, Kheops went down a less obvious avenue. You play as an expert detective hired to find the will of the late Duncan W Adams who besides being a billionaire was also an avid safe collector. I guess billionaires need to spend their money on something. In any event, you proceed to unlock a bunch of bizarre safes in true adventure game fashion with each one bringing you closer to finding the will. While the concept is interesting, the story is undoubtedly weak. Unlike, say Professor Layton or something of that ilk ,the story is never really integrated into the puzzles. Furthermore, the story isn’t just bad; it’s also a total afterthought to the rest of the game. In a genre that is driven primarily by story, it is simply ridiculous that it can play such a minimal role in this game.

Beyond the story, Safecracker’s other major flaw comes with the presentation. While there is a full 3-D world, the exploration is done in the point and click style of adventure. Rather then being able to move freely in the world, you move from stationary spot to stationary spot. This is particularly frustrating when you’re forced to change locations to interact with an object even if it’s a matter of you being at a slightly off angle. What makes matters worse is that there are slight load times when you change sections. While this wouldn’t be an issue in most games, the loads are happening at a near constant rate whenever you need to change or explore anything. The two or three second loads break the pace of the game constantly. The other major break in the game is whenever you stumble across a new piece of information. A giant block of text jumps up on the screen and your faceless player narrates through all of it. While it is nice to hear it narrated, the presentation of the text is perhaps the worst way of doing this.

Beyond those two major gripes Safecracker is a mediocre game from top to bottom. The graphics aren’t great but they also aren’t in the typical Wii shovelware area that we tend to see these days. Same goes for the sound, the controls, and pretty much everything else. From top to bottom, Safecracker is either average or below average in every way.

The one area worth commenting on that still remains to be discussed are the various puzzles. They range from simple find the four-digit code in a different safe to some actually challenging brainteasers that really require some out of the box thinking. I’m a little disappointed that the majority of the puzzles are tiered. When I first heard about this game, it sounded as if you would have access to all of the safes from the outset and would have the ability to find the right one at any given time. I think it’d be significantly cooler if each time you played the game the will randomly placed itself in a different safe. It’d add a degree of replay to this one trick pony. Regardless, there are still some fun puzzles to play through especially if you’re willing to be patient enough to try and think them through and not just look at a FAQ.

There’s just not a whole lot to say about Safecracker other then it’s a decent concept for a game with a rather shallow game built around it. Nothing overwhelms and the lack of a decent story coupled with the flaws in presentation make Safecracker a below average game. Like I said earlier, Kheops did an admirable job compared to their earlier efforts, but they’ve still got a long way to go in making something that the general public would want to play.

The Scores
Story: Dreadful
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: Below Average game

Short Attention Span Summary
Safecracker isn’t a very bad game. Its just underwhelming in every aspect as soon as you get over the fact that it’s an okay game from Kheops. I suppose the best that can be said about Safecracker is that it’s a marked improvement over what was Kheops usually puts out. Having said that, simple changes would have made this game go from below average to maybe even above average. If this game didn’t have the load times that it did or a bit more care was taken with the story I could even recommend this to the adventure game playing crowd. As it stands now though, Safecracker is a rental at best for even the most hardcore adventure gamers.

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