Safecracker Review (PC)

Does everybody remember back in the early 90's when the word 'multimedia' was all the rage? Compact discs were a novelty, full-motion video was beginning to boom, and people were looking at a new wave of interactive entertainment that was high on the promise of Hollywood-quality action and 'fully immersive' graphical worlds. Of course most of the initial wave of CD-based interactive efforts were generally awful, but then along came Myst and the 7th Guest, and the medium was at once validated and accepted. Funny how the times and the storage format may change, but the promises are still the same isn't it?

Who would live... in a house like this?
Join us! As we go through... the keyhole

SafeCracker is basically a 2007 extension of the above 'interactive media' genre. The entirety of the game is essentially a collection of puzzles, wrapped up in a semi-interactive mansion environment tied around a loose and largely pointless storyline. The plot manifests itself in the form of some basic adventure elements, along with the same frustratingly fiendish difficulty spikes that characterised so many of the early classics. There is definitely no hand-holding here, and to be honest that's probably one throwback we could have done without. Whilst it doesn't have any of the trappings of a modern videogame design, SafeCracker just might provide a decent afternoons entertainment for those with a masochistic or retro nature, and as a budget purchase may well be worth a look.

The rather superfluous adventure premise casts you as a master safe cracker (did you see that one coming?), hired by the family of a recently deceased and extremely rich oil tycoon. Being wealthy and somewhat eccentric, the tycoon managed to hide what the family presumes to be a last will and testament somewhere in the house, and no prizes for guessing where that particular location will be. There are a series of clues and bits of information strewn around each floor, mostly leading to the activation of any number of safe-based puzzles, or another fresh trail to follow. Whilst the adventure elements are suitably light, they can be enjoyable due to the extremely hammy and predictable nature of the plot, along with some surprisingly good voice acting from the main character.

One of the many puzzle-bearing safes in the game
Its all very Myst

The puzzles however, are certainly not predictable. They range in scope and complexity from a basic block-sliding setup through to all sorts of laser and magnetic-based arrangements, challenging even the most logical of thinkers. Every puzzle opens up another avenue for investigation, and comes complete with the rather satisfying sound of a safe being opened and a green light being switched on when the final piece is slid into place. Defeating a particularly hard challenge without tearing all of your hair out in frustration is still as satisfying as it's ever been in a digital form, and offers a nice change of pace from the usual types of games most of us play. It's a 'Sunday-morning' game, if you will.

But beware; whilst most of the puzzles can be conquered with a lot of forethought and some investigation, others will remain almost insurmountable for people without a lifetime pass to Mensa, and as the core of the experience that's going to affect the majority of people playing. Although the challenges generally ramp up in difficulty fairly well, there are definitely some very harsh spikes along the way and particularly in some of the early rooms, which can be a tad disheartening when looking at the map and the vast reams of objects to overcome. As with all challenging games, finally defeating something that's stumped you is almost worth the price of admission alone, as long as the thing that stopped your progress isn't really simple... in which case you'll definitely want the last hour of your life back please. This game owes me a lot of time.

Exactly like my office... in my head
There is a minimal amount of sleuthing on offer

So that's basically it. If you enjoy your puzzle games and like to work your brain on challenges ranging from simple to break-the-desk frustrating, then Safecracker might just be for you. Whilst it doesn't have the depth or the plot characteristics of a Myst of 7th Guest, there is just about enough content within the adventure elements to keep it vaguely interesting; but lets face it, that was never intended to be the focal point.

Top game moment:
Finally cracking the bastard-hard sliding puzzle that's been plaguing you for the last hour.