CLUE Classic

Books, movies, television shows, DVD/VCR challenges, the odd children’s novel or interactive CD… Since debuting in 1949, British board game sensation Clue (or Cluedo, as it’s known to fans overseas) has been entertaining families across the world. Small wonder then the title’s received several PC conversions, the latest being CLUE Classic. While a faithful translation of the tabletop favorite which accurately captures the multiplayer whodunnit’s excitement and atmosphere though, the outing also suffers from some of the same drawbacks as the family game night staple it’s modeled on. Bummer.

Don’t be disheartened, however: Without doubt, this is one of the best living-room-to-desktop conversions seen in 2008. And upon loading the game, you’ll immediately be struck by its singular cartoon film noir aesthetic and gripping soundtrack, a moody and evocative example of audiovisual design. Whether enjoying brief, animated sequences that see you climbing secret passages, watching lively characters harrumph in indignity at false accusations, seeing suspects shuffle their feet as they come under scrutiny or just enjoying dark, orchestral pieces that instantly call to mind foggy evenings and mysterious manors, expect to be highly amused.

As for actual play – meant for 3-6 participants, although with no true multiplayer option, you’re limited to reasonably intelligent (although no excuse for real human) opponents – everything’s as you’d anticipate to boot. Arriving at mysterious Tudor Mansion, you quickly discover a dinner party’s host, Mr. Boddy, has been the victim of foul play.

Of the six guests on-site (including Professor Plum, Col. Mustard, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Mrs. White and Mrs. Peacock), it’s up to you to determine who the murderer is, where the crime was committed and with what weapon.  These three variables are selected as random cards from suspect, weapon and room decks before the game begins, and placed in a confidential envelope whose contents are only revealed when you attempt to solve the case.

Doing so simply requires rolling dice and moving about a floor plan divided into several rooms – study, lounge, kitchen, conservatory, etc. – in hopes of positing questions of other players at each locale. You see, this is essentially a guessing game, where, every time you enter a room, you can select from several combinations of theories (i.e. it was Mr. Green in the billiards room with the candlestick, or Col. Mustard in the library with the revolver) to put in front of the competition. The catch being that any cards (dealt to each player at the game’s beginning and held in their hand for the scenario’s entirety) that debunk the theory must be shown to you.

Once a card has been shown, A. you know it can’t be in the envelope, and can tick it off your list and B. the turn ends. Rivals therefore find themselves in a race against time to outfox adversaries, using wit and deception to purposefully ask leading questions or, unknown to opponents, reference cards already in their hand to muddy the waters while simultaneously honing in on the exact information they’re lacking. Once in possession of the presumed data needed to solve the mystery, you can attempt to make an accusation, but beware – false accusations cause you to lose a turn, and may give competitors the inside edge needed to catch up.

All told, the action proves engaging as ever, especially thanks to little caveats like a notebook you can jot info in; virtual playing cards that can be called up with a click; and detailed case histories (comparable with foes at the end of the match, no less) so you don’t have to write every little detail down. Collectible achievements are also offered, so you can collect badges for playing as certain characters, completing X amount of cases or solving the riddle in less than 10 turns. Heck, there’s even an option to hold down the space bar and speed up other players’ turns, eliminating much of the tedium associated with the title’s real-world counterpart.

Nonetheless, replay value is limited; too many canned animations (which at first prove catchy, but soon grow tiresome) bog the title down; sessions quickly become repetitive, being basic variants on the same shtick; and despite clever end-game crime reenactments, there’s little to keep you coming back and matching wits against your computer. Even so, CLUE Classic comes highly recommended – offering much the same upsides and limitations as the real thing, chances are you know exactly what you’re getting into. And frankly, who are we to take odds with a title that’s been successfully entertaining millions around the globe for over five decades?