Have You Played… Cruise For A Corpse?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Not too long ago, I was lamenting Telltale’s latest set of license agreements. Sure, Borderlands has started well, but will Game of Thrones be another Walking Dead of sorts? A super-serious basket of grief – Something For The BleakEnd. What I’d really like to see is a season of Agatha Christie. I’m not fussy about the particulars: Marple, Poirot…even Tommy and Tuppence. But give me a quaint old-fashioned and very British whodunit series, with politeness, poisoning and tea with the vicar.

Until that day comes, at least we have Cruise For A Corpse.

It was, back in 1991, one of the most strikingly beautiful games I’d ever played. I suspect, looking at videos and screenshots now, that it was the animations rather than the backdrops that primarily impressed themselves onto my memory.

Whodunnits seem such a natural fit for the adventure game genre that it’s odd that we don’t see more of them. Traces can be detected far and wide, and there’s something of the investigator in the likes of George and Nico, but it’s rare to see a game about solving murders for the sake of it. There’s usually some grand globespanning conspiracy behind the murder, as if a little drop of poison between friends weren’t enough to spin a story around.

Cruise For A Corpse doesn’t fill the gap. It’s hard to find (though supported by ScummVM on modern machines should you have the game files handy) and some of the puzzles require painful pixel-hunting. But it doesn’t have a modern heir and its method of advancing time whenever the player discovers something of importance is a fine lesson in making good use of a limited setting.

A fine oddity, but the greatest mystery of all is how player character Raoul Dusentier manages to transition between portly middle age and strapping youth whenever the game switches from rendered scenes to illustrated conversations.

10 Comments

  1. twaitsfan says:

    This game has gotten a strange amount of attention lately from the internets. And while it was a beautiful game, it was one of those games where you had to be places at certain times or you couldn’t win. To me, that might be the worst type of gameplay 3d, facing-the-user, jumping puzzles.

    • HermitUK says:

      Not strictly true. The game wasn’t real time. Certain events, conversations and puzzles moved the game time on by 10 minutes, which then slighlty changed the state of the game world (where passengers were, for instance). You could miss some optional conversations that made fingering the suspect easier, but I don’t remember it being possible to get completely stuck due to the ingame timer.

      Also, Raoul’s moustache looked like it could cut glass.

      • twaitsfan says:

        Ah! If that’s so, maybe I need to make a trip to abandonware land. Or maybe Gog will find and pick up the rights to Delphine games. I wouldn’t mind playing Future Wars again regardless, but I’ll pass on A Stealth Affair.

        Thanks for the tip!

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        RaveTurned says:

        My main memory of this game from my childhood is getting what felt like impossibly stuck at a particular time. I remember traipsing around every corner of the ship scouring the pixels for clues I’d missed. If it’s not possible to get stuck by doing things in an incorrect order, I must have missed something pretty important (which given I would have been about eight wouldn’t be all that surprising).

  2. Lacero says:

    Technically this is called “Cruel” on the IF cruelty scale.

    link to ifwiki.org

    It is harsh, but it’s an excellent game. Save early save often.

    • li says:

      I’m pretty sure I beat that game back then, and I’m pretty sure too that I couldn’t have done that by myself.

      Since we didn’t use to have internet, the only possibility is that I used the Minitel to find the ‘soluce’ (walkthrough). I don’t really remember, but that’s the only way out.

  3. Luminolza says:

    The setting, story and characters were great, even if you did have to ask characters the same question several times hoping something somewhere had changed to allow them to reveal more.

    Although the ending was a bit out there, sometimes a more logical Poirot ending is more satisfying.

  4. zapatapon says:

    I am always surprised to see this game often cited as deserving a mention in the history of video games.

    In my personal opinion (and I say this as someone with a deep love of games of the period 1987-1993): the graphics were nothing special even at the time, the characters were dumb whodunnit cookie-cutter stereotypes, the gameplay was absolutely awful (inspecting every drawer of very furniture piece of every room again and again and again because of randomized clue drops occurring as the game unfolds), and most awful of all, the plot made absolutely no sense and ended in a completely unforeseeable twist, completely lacking the sense of any logical progression and discovery which should be at the heart of a good sleuth mystery. In fact if I remember correctly one did collect some information about the hidden relations and history of the characters to the victim, however in the end none of this mattered at all to solve the murder, giving the impression that it was merely put in as a general filler without any particular purpose.

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      Risingson says:

      And I think that is because you played the game. The only way to say this game is good is not have played it, because it is as dumb, badly written and badly designed – not to say boring – as you say.

      There are so many good whodunnits adventure games that I cannot understand how this piece of mediocre gaming, the worse adventure from Delphine, is remembered.

  5. jarowdowsky says:

    I remember the use of 3d models being memorable with Cruise and the setting was interesting.

    But it’s the worst adventure game I ever played. As other people have mentioned the endless trawl through locations and conversations to see something slightly different was terrible. Finally finding some rag or hearing one line of dialogue and the clock ticking forward was exhausting and draining. Then it’d be followed by exactly the same thing again.

    I can only think that being able to play the game with a walkthrough is why it’s praised now but laying out how what to do when just highlights the terrible plot.

    A terrible failure by Delphine, one of the worst examples of graphics over gameplay I’ve ever had the displeasure of playing.

    Go play the Sherlock Holmes point and clicks, even The Colonel’s Bequest from Sierra did the time period more justice. God knows what they were thinking.