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IF... * £29.99 * 1/2 meg * Mouse * Out now

If you want a really good laugh then get your hands on the short story that accompanies this little adventure offering. It really is the most clichéd and unbearably bad piece of blurb fiction I've ever read. Here are some examples: "Maybe one day lady luck would shuffle the deck and I'd get a better hand." and it gets better as well. Check this out: "The girl was about 5ft 6in, with legs that looked longer than that." briljant! And finally: "The words hit me like a hard right to the jaw from Mike Tyson." Absolute cobblers, isn't it?

The whole story fiasco is the usual lame way of introducing the player to the plot of the game, although it could have been done a lot quicker, and with a lot less embarrassment, in a few paragraphs. So, to save you he physical pain of rehashing this epic tale, here's the cut-down version.

Your Dad's a private eye, his mate's been murdered. Dad's in the nick, you've got to prove his innocence. There, no need for anything more than that.

The game is similar in style to one of those sport management efforst. You know, you see your desk and you can select different actions by clicking on the telephone, the computer, the diary etc. The number of options isn't quite as great as you might expect, but there's plenty of scope for exploration in your first hour or so.

The manual, despite the crap story, promises great things from Crime City, but the game doesn't quite deliver. Apparently, in you'll become embroiled in the seedy underworld, dealing with hit men and informants and all manner of low life. And as the blurb tells us that characters' reactions to you will alter to suite the way you talk to them, I was looking forward to a pretty exciting interactive experience. The trouble is that, well, the manual lied. As far as I can tell, the characters' responses are as predictable as a BBC sitcom. I mean, I went to my girlfriend's house, and told her we were splitting up. She threw a right wobbler, as I expected. Then I said I'd see her later, she kissed me on the cheek and called me "Cubbywubbykins" or something. Not quite what the manual promised.

If you keep asking the same question, you get the same response over and over. In short, the characters are about as responsive as the scenery. What a bunch of fibbers.

Another way in which the game let me down was its distinct lack of anything even remotely seedy. Even though it is called Crime City, the map makes it more look a lot like Trumpton. The seedy bar is more like a cosy country pub and your main character lives at home with his mum. Crime City? More like flippin' Enid Blyton's "Five investigate a Beastly Murder" if you ask me!

I'm getting probably being a bit unfair here. Crime City's actually quite good fun. You can while away a few hours making 'humorous' phone calls to the local bobbies, or making dates with your girlfriend that she never even shows up to.
The trouble is that the action is repetitive, making the whole game feel about as involving as watching someone else's home video. A nice idea, but Cruise for a Corpse did it first and a million times better.

Crime City logo

IF * £29.99 A500 Plus incompatible!

Ever wondered what it must be like to don your Trilby and trenchcoat as a private dick? No? Well, IF give you the chance in their latest offering: a role-play/detective style adventure where you must clear your father's name of murder.

It's a task that requires you to interrogate suspects and gather information from sources such as the scene of the crime and the local coppers' nark, who somehow manages to gather juicy secrets without ever leaving the pub.

Like the other characters yhou meet, he's pretty two dimensional, but your encounters with the city minions are only one part of a very involving game. From your office you are able to gamble on the stock market, read your mail, put tabs on people, hack into suspects' computers or even dial a pizza. This makes a variety of actions possible, but progression within the story is limited due to the nature of your options which resemble the layout of an adventure book, where only one route enable you to complete it.

Until you have solved the crime, Crime City is fascinating, but much like any whodunnit the thrill is gone once you know whodunnit.

Hol einer Papa aus dem Knast...

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Privatschüffler wie Harry White leben auch im neuen Detektiv-Adventure von Interactive Fantasy Fiction gefährlich! Zwar wird nicht White erschossen, sondern sein Freund - aber dafür nimmt ihn die Staatsgewalt postwendend als Tatverdächtigen in Haft!

Ziemlich scheußliche Lage, zumal der einzige, der jetzt vielleicht noch die Unschuld von Sir Henry nachweisen kann, dessen ziemlich abgehalfterter Sohn Steven ist.

In der Rolle von Stevie-Boy startet man seine Ermittlungen von Papis Büro aus: Der Rechner auf dem Schreibtisch steht dabei nicht nur mit wichtigen Informationen zur Seite, man kann über ihn auch in den Aktienhandel einsteigen (Geld regiert die Welt!) oder sich im späteren Verlauf durch den Polizeicomputer hacken.

Natürlich soll und muss man Leute verhören (Multiple Choice-Verfahren), verschiedene interessante Orte im Städtchen besuchen. Verdächtige beschatten oder die Freundin bzw. Mutter mit heiklen Aufträgen betrauen - ja, man kann sogar in Rollenspielmanier gegen Cash bestimmte Fähigkeiten aufbessern lassen!

Allzu hohe Ansprüche stellt die actionfreie, aber manchmal ganz witzige Mausklick-Detektei indessen nicht; hier sind eher Knobler gefordert, die das Game nicht gleich zum Lebensinhalt machen wollen. Rein optisch ist wenig Überwältigens dabei, und ein paar Ungereimtheiten gibt es auch zu vermelden, so ist die Freundin z.B. manchmal unter zwei verschiedenen Telefonnummern gleichzeitig erreichbar. Aber die Steuerung geht voll in Ordnung, und die seltenen Musikstücke bzw. FX sind immerhin erträglich.

Fazit: Für ein kleines Tänzchen zwischendurch ist dieser Kriminal-Tango allemal gut. (jn)

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Steve White is a crime writer who is frustrated by the fact that he is not living what he writes about. "It was fate's cruellest trick, to give me a job of sitting endlessly at home, doing nothing real, and yet forcing me to immerse myself in a world of vividly real actions and people and decisions." he bemoans in the manual's introductory story. Just think what tedious books he must write if his idea of 'vividly real actions' are anything like the humdrum real-life mystery he gets embroiled in Crime City.

The plot has it that Steve's old man has been stitched up like a kipper and is now doing porridge for the murder of his best mate, David Walker. This obviously isn't very fair, so Steve takes it into his hands to find out what really happened and present the evidence to the police.

Steve's dad's office is where the adventure begins, and it is a scene returned to time and time again, mainly because of the computer system used for the storage and retrieval of records, surveillance and telecommunications (it also features a version of Pong, which turns out to be the most entertaining way of passing time in Crime City).

Anyway, Steve's father's messages and diary offer some leads, with the latter revealing appointments and telephone numnbers, so it's onto the telephone to see what anybody has to say for themselves. I thought dialing 999 throw up some chucklesome dialogue. I wasn't wrong. I asked the police for the time, and their response was both believable AND funny... "Is this a joke? It is an offence to waste police time you know." Hahaha. Sorry, but that kills me every time.

Still, musn't tarry, my old man's life's at stake here. A map of the city shows the locations unconvered during the investigation, the idea being to search them and talk to the residents for clues. Calling up the map - there is a little resistance from the fussy mouse-driven 'point and click' interface - you can pick a destination and then chose a means of transport. I could walk, which is free but takes ages, or a can, which always seems to cost twice as much and take a third as long as the bus. Visiting the hospital, I tried to make a date with the deformed nurse there, who turned out to be Ben Elton's witty sister: "I would love to go on a date with you, but I have to work 24 hours a day for the next two months because this is a NHS hospital." Titter.

It gets worse though. I next took Steve to see his girlfriend, who looks like Mr Potatohead (I'd hate to think it was based on the artist's missus). She has got a great personality though. When I chose to tell her that we ought to split up all she could offer was: "Split Up! Split Up! How dare you suggest we split up. Get out of here and only come back when you have got some sense in that tiny brain of yours." Oh dear. At least she's believably fickle - I phoned her up after the ruck and asked to see her and she says: "You know you can come around at any time you like." Chicks, eh?

There is a limited number of questions and answers on offer here, and the unbelievable and unbelievably unfunny dialogue doesn't help. Though the basic private eye mystery idea has potential for an adventure game, this version of it comes across as though it was written by a child, even fails to generate any emotion or even begin to suspend reality. To be honest, I couldn't care even less who killed David Whatever.