Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is an educational video game released by Broderbund in 1985. It is the first product in the Carmen Sandiego franchise. The game was distributed with The World Almanac and Book of Facts, published by Pharos Books. An enhanced version of the game was released in 1989, which did not have the almanac copy protection but disk based copy protection. A deluxe version was released in 1992, and featured additional animation and a reworked interface from the original version. Some of the bonus features include: 'digitized photos from National Geographic, over 3200 clues, music from the Smithsonian/Folkways Recordings, 20 villains, 60 countries, and 16 maps'. CD-ROM versions for MS-DOS and Macintosh were released in 1992, and a Windows version was released in 1994.
In the game, the player takes the role of a rookie in the ACME Detective Agency, tasked to track down crooks from the V.I.L.E. organization that have stolen famous works from around the world. They do this by using their knowledge of geography (aided by the Almanac) to question witnesses or investigate clues to track down where the crook has gone. Successfully solving these crimes increases the player's rank in ACME, leading to more difficult cases and later tasked to find the leader of V.I.L.E. and namesake, Carmen Sandiego.
The game was initially developed as a menu-driven interface to replace the text-driven interface of adventure games like Colossal Cave Adventure for graphic-enabled computers like the Apple II. Along the way, the idea of introducing geography as part of the game and distributing the Almanac with the game shifted its approach. While it was not intended as an education game at release, the game proved very successful as an education tool for schools. By 1995, over 4 million copies of the game had been sold, and established the Carmen Sandiego franchise. The game was later adapted into a PBS game show that ran from 1991 to 1995. This game is not to be confused with the 1996 rebooted version sometimes mistakenly called the 'Deluxe' version.
The goal of the game is to track down Carmen Sandiego's villains around the world, arrest them and later capture Carmen herself. The player begins the game by first going to the country where the crime took place and then obtaining hints from various sources on where the thief went next, leading to a chase around the world to find the thief before time runs out. Each case begins with the user being alerted that a spectacular theft has been committed. Starting by first traveling to the scene of the crime, the player is given several opportunities to collect clues about the suspect's next location, which come in the form of pun-filled word play about the target place. There are thirty countries that can be visited in the game and each is identified by the name of a prominent city, though this city is not always consistent with the image of the country shown in the game.
If the player travels to an incorrect location, they receive nonsensical clues and will have to backtrack to the previous location to try again. If the player travels to the correct location, a simple animation of an obvious, but otherwise harmless V.I.L.E. henchman lurking across the screen is played. The gameplay continues to repeat in this manner as the player travels from location to location several times before catching up to the criminal. The user has only a limited amount of in-game time to travel, collect clues, and apprehend the criminal; every action taken uses up a portion of this time, and the criminal escapes if it runs out.
Occasionally, a witness will give a partial description of the criminal, allowing the user to eliminate one or more V.I.L.E. members as suspects. When only one viable suspect remains, Interpol issues an 'arrest warrant' (the in-game equivalent of an Interpol 'Red Notice') against that individual. If the user enters a combination of attributes that eliminates all possible members of the database, the game will inform the user to that effect and refuse to issue any warrant. Once the user reaches the final destination (indicated by witnesses warning the user to be careful) and chooses the correct location, the police chase the criminal across the screen, leading to an off-screen fight. If the user has obtained a warrant for the correct suspect, the police place the criminal under arrest and the case is closed. Otherwise, the police are left empty-handed and the criminal escapes.
The user becomes eligible for promotion after solving enough cases. Before the new rank is granted, though, the user must correctly answer a geography question with the help of a reference book included with the program (used as a form of protection against disk copying). Each rank gives harder assignments with more potential locations to visit. The culprit in the final case is Carmen Sandiego herself; apprehending her earns the user a spot in the game's Hall of Fame.
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This version of Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? was designed for personal computers with operating system MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System),
which was operating system developed by Microsoft in 1981. It was the most widely-used operating system in the first half of the 1990s. MS-DOS was supplied
with most of the IBM computers that purchased a license from Microsoft. After 1995, it was pushed out by a graphically more advanced system - Windows and
its development was ceased in 2000. At the
time of its greatest fame, several thousand games designed specifically for computers with this system were created. Today, its development is no longer continue
and for emulation the free DOSBox emulator is most often used. More information about MS-DOS operating system can be found
5 different online emulators are available for Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. These emulators differ not only in the technology they use to emulate old games, but also in support of various game controllers, multiplayer mode, mobile phone touchscreen, emulation speed, absence or presence of embedded ads and in many other parameters. For
maximum gaming enjoyment, it's important to choose the right emulator, because on each PC and in different Internet browsers, the individual emulators behave differently. The basic
features of each emulator available for this game Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? are summarized in the following table: