Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure Review

Wealthy, but eccentric, Duncan W. Adams has passed away, and his family needs assistance in searching for his last will and testament. Since Adams was an avid safe designer and collector, it is likely that he has hidden his will within his mansion, somewhere in his collection of safes. Your task is to locate and crack each of the safes in the mansion, and uncover the clues that will eventually lead to the final resting place of Adams' will.

Safecracker (subtitled The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure) should not be confused with a game with an almost identical title (Safecracker) by DayDream Software, distributed by Dreamcatcher Interactive back in 2000. While the parallels between the two games are inescapable (i.e., exploring through a large mansion, locating many "puzzle safes", following clues to break into the safes, etc.), the games are quite different in other respects.

This 2006 release of Safecracker is developed by Kheops Studio, a French developer with a respectable line of high-quality adventure puzzle games -- games such as Crystal Key 2, Return to Mysterious Island, Voyage, and The Egyptian Prophecy. Those who have read my reviews of other Kheops Studio games know that I have a high regard for their creations, and Safecracker is no exception.

Beginning with the software installation and system requirements, Safecracker is very conservative in its demands. The game should install on almost any PC less than 5 or 6 years old; and once installed, playing the game does not even require the CD-ROM, as all files are copied to the hard drive during installation.

As with virtually all of the Kheops Studio games, Safecracker is loaded with inventory puzzles. While not providing quite the flexibility -- and multiple-solution puzzles (where the player has the choice to successfully solve things in a variety of ways) -- as a game such as Return to Mysterious Island, Safecracker still depends heavily on the motif of encountering a puzzle that requires some other object to interact with, determining what that object might be, locating the object, and bringing it back to the puzzle, to use in solving it (and cracking the safe).

Kheops Studio continues its excellent history of artwork, as the scenes in the game are lushly detailed, and well-rendered. The interface is a simple, intuitive point-and-click, with a cursor that indicates directions of movement, things that can be examined more closely, objects that can be interacted with, etc. The inventory and the game menu can be accessed with a simple right-click. All scenes (except close-ups) provide complete 360-degree panning, both horizontally and vertically. Everything has been done to keep the player's interaction focused on the game, and not on the interface. Movement within the various rooms was typically limited to only 2 or 3 "positions" within the room. I would have liked to have explored more of the detailed artwork a bit more closely, but was often not able to do so.

As the player progresses through the game, bits and pieces of information are provided -- through letters, documents, photographs, etc. -- that begin to piece together some of the life, interests, and interactions of the deceased, and members of his family. However, this story is not integrated into the puzzle solving in any way (certainly not what I've come to expect from other Kheops Studio games), but merely provides a bit of continuity between otherwise diverse and unrelated puzzles.

The puzzles consist primarily of opening locked areas. Although the publisher's description indicates that there are "35 safes" in the game, that is not quite accurate. While several of the puzzles do, indeed, involve solving some kind of logic or visual puzzle to break into an actual safe, many of the puzzles are simply locked doors -- doors that provide entry to other rooms of the mansion -- that either require finding a key for the lock, or that are opened using standard electronic kepads that only necessitate finding (or, in some cases, inferring) the 4-digit code for that particular keypad.

In fact, something that is quite a contrast to other Kheops Studio games -- and to the original Safecracker game, as well -- is that there is little ability to do non-linear exploration. The game begins in the foyer of the mansion, with all doorways to other rooms locked, with the exception of one door. This door leads to a room containing a puzzle -- the solution of which provides access to another door. And the game continues in that manner. Each room seems to provide a clue, or a key, to accessing other locked rooms; and as a result, the rooms begin opening up. But it is done in a fashion that frequently "herds" the player (as it were) to solve the puzzles in a single sequence.

As the game unfolded, there was, indeed, more opportunity to explore in a non-linear fashion -- to move about within the mansion more freely. Yet the puzzles continued to "feed" each other in a way that still required me to follow a pre-determined pattern, as one puzzle couldn't be solved without solving another puzzle first, which, in turn, required a different puzzle to be solved. One drawback to this kind of game is that, if the player gets "stuck" on one particular puzzle, it is quite possible that there is nothing else to do -- nowhere else to go -- until that specific puzzle has been solved.

It is impossible for anyone who has played the original Safecracker game to avoid making contrasts. And in that game, virtually every puzzle did involve an actual safe. And almost never did two safes contain the same type of puzzle. Some were logic puzzles, others were visual puzzles, there were even music puzzles, and standard sliding-tile puzzles. But they were all different. After encountering my third or fourth electronic keypad in this new Kheops Studio Safecracker, or my third or fourth locked door that simply required finding the correct key, I was wishing for a bit more variety in the types of puzzles embedded within the game.

Safecracker is the shortest game that I have played in some time. According to a "game clock", tracked within the game itself, I completed Safecracker in 8 hours and 25 minutes -- not a very long game, by most standards. (There is one point, right at the end, that makes an attempt at providing a "multiple-ending game"; however, there is very little involved, and I was able to test out all 6 different endings in less than 5 minutes.)

Despite the linearity and brevity of the game, it still showcases many of the talents of Kheops Studio, primarily the attention give to the detailed artwork and other graphics. Although I found myself wishing for a bit more out of the game, the puzzles -- while not terribly unique or challenging -- were still enjoyable, and the game definitely deserves its ESRB rating of "E" (Everyone). Children and adults alike should enjoy exploring the mansion and viewing the various rooms, as well as solving the game's puzzles.

-- Frank Nicodem