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The Ultimate
Puzzle Adventure
Developer:Kheops Studio
Publisher:The Adventure Company
Release Date:2006
Article Posted:August 2006
System Requirements

He was a safe collector. He was an eccentric. He also happened to be a billionaire with a lot of time and money to spare. Duncan W. Adams was fascinated by all manners of safes. He wanted to understand their construction; he wanted to work on their design. The old man designed his entire mansion around safes. The place felt like one large, well-calculated puzzle. Moving between the rooms was not easy. A great deal of deductive reasoning and perhaps a little bit of luck would be required to explore the place without Duncan’s help.

None of that helped Mr. Adams’ relatives when Duncan passed away. They knew that Duncan’s will was hidden somewhere in his mansion. But almost all of the rooms were locked down. A series of safes needed to be cracked before the inner rooms would become accessible. Duncan’s relatives were sure that his will was under lock inside one of the inner chambers. But there was one problem. None of them could figure out how to access the inner areas of the mansion. And that is of course precisely where you come into the picture.

Acting as a representative of the entire family, Elizabeth Adams, one of Duncan’s relatives has hired you to find the will. You are renowned for your remarkable skills in opening any kind of lock. It will be up to you to find a way to open the locked safes and doors throughout the mansion, in an effort to locate Duncan’s elusive last will and testament along with the deed to his property. Thus, you arrive at the beautiful mansion. Your first challenge is just a few steps away. You carry no special equipment. You will not be unlocking the safes with the latest high-tech decoders or sophisticated lock-picking devices. Instead, you will have to rely on your wit and your observation skills.

Developed by Kheops Studio and published by The Adventure Company, Safecracker is a new puzzle adventure game inspired by the 1997 Dreamcatcher release that carried the same title. However, Kheops Studio’s Safecracker is far from a simple remake. While it carries structural similarities to the previous puzzle adventure, the new release has an original story and a different set of puzzles to keep gamers occupied. The end result may not be a perfect game, but it can still deliver a fairly entertaining and enjoyable experience.

Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure has a relatively simple storyline. The game opens with a short introduction movie explaining how Duncan W. Adams made his fortune. Unfortunately, after Duncan passed away, nobody has been able to locate his will and unlock the mysteries of his mansion. Your job, as an expert safecracker, is to go into the mansion and locate the missing will. The sizeable mansion contains a large number of rather unique safes. Starting with the first puzzle on the ground floor, you will have to determine how each chest can be opened. Clues are hidden inside the safes and throughout the mansion to help you ultimately reach the master safe. It will be a challenging task, but with some determination and close attention to details, you just might be able to unlock all of the safes.

The core premise of the game is not challenged throughout the adventure. There is a bit of a twist at the very end, but you will most likely see it coming long before you get to the final safe. There are also several documents scattered around the mansion that give you a little bit of insight into Duncan W. Adams and his family. However, Safecracker is most certainly not a game you should play for its engaging storyline and unexpected plot twists. Safecracker puts the focus almost entirely on its puzzles. The entire mansion has been designed as a series of different challenges eventually leading players to the master safe. Instead of an engaging storyline, Safecracker offers a wide variety of puzzles to test your deductive reasoning and observation skills.

The game starts in the antechamber of the mansion, just past the main door. You will quickly notice that the door in front of you and the door to your left are both locked. This leaves only one direction to explore, which takes you straight to the first puzzle. Once you tackle that puzzle, you will find a clue to help you make a little more progress. Eventually, more rooms will open up, giving you access to a greater area. When you have a few additional rooms to explore, you will also be able to attempt more than one puzzle. The developers have clearly taken care to include a puzzle or at least some kind of clue in each room. While the mansion is not extremely large, it does have a second floor and a basement. It may not be the most imaginative adventure gaming environment to be conceived, but exploring it can still be fairly entertaining. The game’s beautiful graphics and the level of detail presented in many of the rooms enhance the experience.

Safecracker is played from a first-person perspective. The game features 360 degree panoramas, allowing players to look in all directions. The game ships on a single CD and requires 700 MB of hard disk space. Once you complete the installation, you do not need to keep the CD in the disk drive to play the game. Simple mouse icons are used to depict available actions. The cursor changes when you can move in the indicated direction, use an object in the environment, or go over a hotspot where you can use an inventory item. Safecracker does not use movement animations. Transitions from one screen to the next are presented in slideshow format with a fade effect.

The inventory is accessed with a right click. When you open the inventory, available items are presented as a list of icons along the bottom portion of the screen. The inventory view also gives players access to the map and the game’s main menu. The map presents the layout of each room of the mansion. A poker chip is used to indicate your current location on the map. In addition, all the puzzles available on the current floor are indicated with X’s. If you have already solved the puzzle, the X will be colored green. Otherwise it will be colored red. The main menu allows players to load or save the game, and configure options like subtitles or sound volume.

The puzzles vary significantly in terms of their difficulty and style. A solid number of the puzzles are self-contained. They do not require the use of additional items and you do not need to find clues in order to crack them. Sometimes the biggest challenge in these types of puzzles is to understand how they actually work. Once you see all the things you can do to manipulate the puzzle and discern its underlying logical structure, finding the answer becomes much easier. Examples of the self-contained puzzles include a circuit puzzle where you need to direct electricity from a single source to multiple bulbs. Another puzzle involves using four electromagnets to direct a metallic ball from its starting point to the exit.

Each time you solve a puzzle, you will be awarded with a clue or an item that will help you overcome a different challenge. You may also gain access to a new area of the mansion. The puzzles are not limited to the safes distributed throughout the estate. You also need to overcome various challenges to unlock many of the doors. The items you obtain by solving the puzzles are stored in your inventory. Sometimes all you find is a simple clue that either directly states the solution to a different puzzle or gives you hints you can use to piece together the answer. At other times, you will find items you need to use on certain safes before you can even attempt its associated puzzle. Taken out of context, these hints or inventory items may not make too much sense. However, once you encounter where you need to use the clue or the item, the answer should become fairly clear. You may also need to find and combine multiple clues before you can find the answer.

While they are usually on the easier side, the puzzles do vary in terms of difficulty. Some of the puzzles only require a few moves before you get to the correct answer. Others have very straightforward clues that can quite literally spell out the answer. Yet there are also more challenging puzzles that can easily take a significant amount of time to solve. For instance, there is puzzle where you need to rearrange tiles in a fashion comparable to classic slider puzzles to reconstruct a picture. Unfortunately, the game does not allow players to see what the completed solution would look like before attempting the puzzle. The only visual hint you get is provided at a rather unusual spot and it is can be very easy to miss. As such, figuring out the solution, especially the pieces that go around the edges of the puzzle can be rather difficult. For the most part however, especially for veteran adventure gamers, as long as you are paying attention to your surroundings, the puzzles should not be overly challenging.

While Safecracker is a fairly pleasant game, it does have its share of problems. The biggest issue is with the selection of puzzles. Far too many of the challenges featured in the game will look extremely familiar to experienced adventure gamers. Seasoned players will have undoubtedly seen puzzles structurally identical to many of the ones featured in Safecracker. While the specific solution required in this game might be different than what you may have seen in a different adventure, you may still pretty much know exactly what to do as soon as you see the puzzle. In an adventure game with a strong storyline and interesting characters, having a couple of borrowed challenges would not have been much of a problem. However, since the entire selling point of Safecracker is its puzzles, a little more original content would have been greatly appreciated.

The length of Safecracker might also be a problem for some gamers. Even if you do not consult a walkthrough on any of the puzzles, it is quite possible to get through Safecracker in a single session. The game’s case boasts over thirty different safes waiting to be unlocked. And there are additional puzzles on top of the safes that have to be solved before you can explore the entire mansion and reach the end of the game. However, many of the puzzles can be solved very quickly when you have the right clue or the right item. There is practically no guesswork involved with which inventory item is the correct one to use in a given situation. And once you understand how they work, even the hardest puzzles can be solved fairly easily with some amount of trial and error. Unless you miss an important clue or get stuck at one of the more challenging puzzles, the game can be a breeze. There is no plot development or cutscenes to add to the time you will spend with the game either. Safecracker may not be the shortest game out there, but it can still be finished quite rapidly and may leave you a little dissatisfied in the end. It is also worth noting that unless you particularly like some of the puzzles, once you complete the game for the first time, there is not much point in going through the game again since the solutions are identical each time you play the game.

Overall, Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure makes for a fairly enjoyable experience. Depicted through the game’s beautiful graphics, the mansion can make an interesting place to explore. While it may not be a terribly large environment, it does feature a number of different rooms with obvious attention to detail in certain areas. Even though it can get a little repetitive, the soundtrack fits the overall relaxed tone of the game. You will not hear much of it, but the voice acting is successfully handled. There are a good number of puzzles and they are nicely varied in terms of their structure. For the most part, they should not be overly challenging, but a few of them should hopefully keep even the more experienced players busy for a while. The game is a little on the short side and it does feature a number of puzzles many adventurers will have encountered in other games. But despite its shortcomings, Safecracker still manages to remain entertaining. If you like puzzle adventures, especially considering its reasonable retail price, Safecracker is certainly worth a try. If you play adventure games for a strong storyline with lots of character development and a number of plot twists, Safecracker is not for you. But if you are in the mood for some serious puzzle-solving, Safecracker can give you a pleasant Sunday afternoon.

PC System Requirements:
Windows® 98 / 2000 / ME / XP
Pentium® III 800 MHz
DirectX® 9.0c compatible 64 MB video card
DirectX® 9.0c compatible sound card
16X CD/DVD-ROM drive
700 MB Hard disk space