My recent TV line-up includes Bored to Death and Pushing Daisies. And I just read Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon. The detectives in all call to mind a list of favorite video game sleuths:
1. Nancy Drew, amateur sleuth from the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories
Who doesn’t find appealing a self-reliant girl solving mysteries in style? Her Interactive recently announced its first storybook app, Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch. Megan Gaiser, President and CEO of the company, said “we wanted this series to truly embrace the foundation of the Nancy Drew stories that first inspired us and add the freedom and playfulness of fun game mechanics.” Shadow Ranch follows the plotline of the 1963 book of the same title—Nancy travels to Arizona and discovers that her lodging hides a sinister past. You help Nancy to piece together mysterious events by choosing a path to explore, solving puzzles, navigating mazes, and tracking progress. Nostalgic visual touches help parents who remember Nancy enjoy the game as much as kids first meeting her.
2. Hercule Poirot, detective created by Agatha Christie
I first saw Poirot in the 1974 film Murder on the Orient Express. The preview warns you “Ladies and gentleman, you’re in distinguished company; however, you’re in dangerous company.” Poirot boards the Orient Express and before long the train gets stuck in a snow storm. Poirot soon discovers that a fellow passenger has been stabbed 12 times. In 2006, The Adventure Company for Microsoft Windows released Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express as a point-and-click adventure game. The game follows the original plot; however, you pose as amateur sleuth Antoinette. Poirot offers to help you, but you can try to outsmart him and solve the mystery first. Some gamers praise the graphics and convincing voice and acting effects, but others regret they can’t play as Poirot. Rumor has it that developers didn’t want player error to threaten the detective’s reputation.
3. Eddie Valiant, private-detective from Gary K. Wolf’s novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Though the novel and the film have different plots, the character of Valiant remains the same—he’s a hard-boiled private eye hired to work with Roger Rabbit, a Toontown star, and Jessica, his salutary wife. In 1988, the film grossed $329.8 million world-wide, and a year later, LJN Toys Ltd. released the action-adventured game Who Framed Roger Rabbit? You act as Valiant, investigating Hollywood for clues to figure out who framed Roger Rabbit for the murder of Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown. Throughout the game, you’re prompted to telephone a number to retrieve game clues. If you play the game today, resist the urge to dial these digits, as you will reach a risqué hotline.
4. Sherlock Holmes, consulting detective fashioned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This detective’s theory “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” led him to solve various crimes. Thanks to French independent publisher Focus Home Interactive, you wear Holmes’s hat and carry his magnifying glass as you play game titles such as The Awakened and The Mystery of the Mummy. In the series’ newest game Holmes trails Jack the Ripper through the infamous Whitechapel. You decide whether you want to catch every detail of the scene in third person or fully embrace Holmes’s life in first person. Either way, you provide a hypothesis to Doctor Watson, draw conclusions, and identify the serial killer.
5. Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs, undercover detectives from Miami Vice
Sonny and Rico revamped the fashion scene with Ray Bans, pastel shirts, and Armani blazers, drove a Testarossa, and won rock-star approval from guests like Frank Zappa and Depeche Mode. As an 80s pop-culture devotee, I don’t just want to watch reruns; I want to experience this rad lifestyle. I can’t do that in Ocean Software’s 1986 game, Miami Vice. Its graphics make you feel like you’re watching the Lawrence Welk Show, not chasing coke dealers. Though Sonny would agree that the game’s soundtrack, produced by Martin Galway, is worth more than a New York-minute. Vivendi Games and Sierra Entertainment’s Miami Vice, a third-person shooter released in 2006, more adequately reflects the film from that same year. But if you really want to experience life with Sonny and Rico, check out Rockstar Games’ Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It features driving games and third person shooters.
Given the number of fictional detectives, it’s clear that we 9-5ers find their lifestyles appealing. However, I’m content to stick with my desk job, because these games let me play live-action detective from the comfort of my sofa.