CRUISE FOR A CORPSE / Delphine / PC
Cruise for a Corpse is very easily summed up: lovely and boring.
Oh, all right, details. It's by Delphine, the French developer better known for rotoscoped action games Out Of This World (Another World in Europe) and Flashback. They apparently had two other point-and-click adventures like this prior to this one, but I'd never heard of either one of them. And they do a hell of a job with fluid, detailed, inventive graphics, but the actual adventure game design portion seems amateurish and poorly thought out.
The game takes its main inspiration from Agatha Christie novels. There was another adventure game prior to this one that did this - Sierra's Colonel's Bequest - and Cruise also cops the Colonel's format of having the game take place over the course of a single day and having time only advance when you've encountered some key event that is crucial to the plot. Aside from that gameplay mechanic, however, Cruise is completely different, which is actually a bad thing in this case. While Colonel was an (in my opinion) under-rated minor masterpiece with a unique and inventive structure, Cruise is about as plodding and tedious as it gets.
The game places you in the shoes of a French detective clearly meant to be a clone of Poirot. Unfortunately, the designers settled for simply cloning the archetype of Poirot and gave him zero personality whatsoever, which is the first bit that ends up making the game tedious and uninteresting. You're invited by your wealthy bud Niklos Karaboudjan to go on a cruise on his mega-yacht with a bunch of other folks, unfortunately shortly after you arrive, Niklos gets rudely stabbed by someone and you get knocked out from behind as you examine the body. Awakening the next day, you decide to put them l33t French detective skills into action and solve the murder mystery. Unfortunately, the yacht is headed back to port, so you only have from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to figure out whodunit.
The time limit turns out to be immaterial, however, because time only passes when you stumble upon a plot-developing event. Unlike the Colonel's Bequest, you aren't expected to explore outside the plot-related events to actually fully solve the mystery. You basically just tediously comb the ship over and over until you stumble upon the conversation option or the cut-scene that advances time.
Exacerbating the boringness of this is the fact that you frequently have to repeat conversations, or search an area that previously had nothing in it. Quite often there's no real logical impetus to do this. Thus the game is the very definition of a pixel-hunt that sees you repetitively combing the same terrain (the ship only has about 20 screens or so and a bunch of largely pointless hallways) searching for triggers that are often completely random.
The game may have been better in the original French, but the English translation is definitely inexpert and lacking. For a game that is largely made up of conversations, this is a pretty big problem. There's also no real tension, as Poirot (or whatever his name was) seemingly is in no danger at all until like the last five minutes of the game. I'm not sure if it's even possible to die in this one. You just blunder about, talk to the same people over and over again, and sometimes find a key item, solve a simple "bring item A to location B" puzzle, or see a short cut-scene that develops the plot.
The one real selling point of the game is the graphics. Delphine's expert use of filled vectors for the graphics instead of sprites not only makes the characters look amazingly fluid, it actually reduces the size and processor strain of the game! I really don't know why more developers didn't go this route back in the day. Maybe it was too hard to pull off from a programming standpoint, I dunno. Anyway, the animation is fantastic for a early 1990s PC game and the backgrounds are usually detailed and full of little motions and life. Wish I could say the music is up to par, but ... well, it kind of sucks, and sound effects are almost nonexistent.
* Gameplay Video