Reviewed: October 20, 2004
Released: August 31, 2004
Since the mid 80ís Carmen Sandiego has been on the run. I remember playing the original Where in the World game and found it great as it was so educational and I was able to learn a lot about the world. Imagine a game reviewer in the making even back then!
Like all thing many evolutions of this series on platforms ranging from the PC to the PS2 have been developed and they all have provided an educational tool for younger people. Carmen Sandiego The Secret of the Stolen Drums is yet another game based on the hunt for finding Carmen Sandiego and it too has an educational portion that follows previous games, albeit loosely.
The company that has brought this quest to us all is BAM Entertainment. BAM is responsible for other youth games since 1999 such as The Power Puff Girls, Samurai Jack and Dexterís Laboratory. Thus far BAM is doing a great job in filling the youth market for games.
The Secret of the Stolen Drums is a member of the action mystery genre that it has followed for many years. In the past these games were very educational however this game only gives very limited educational value by telling us about the country your agent-in-training, Cole Gannon is searching for Carmen in. In each country a drum reveals a section of the path to a secret temple holding a lost treasure that Carmen wants desperately.
As mentioned previously your character in this game is a 17-year-old agent in training for ACME named Cole Gannon. Cole is considered a computer genius and a martial arts master; this combination makes him a bit daring in his quest to find Carmen. Jules Argent helps Cole as she provides information to his PDA during his chase of Carmen. Shadow Hawkins also provides information to Colesí PDA about the locations he is visiting and thus provides us the only educational part of this game.
Cole has a PDA that provide options such as providing geographical information about the area you are in, map screen which provides an overhead view of the area you are in. The PDA also keeps track of your GPS position and as you collect amulets the GPS can then try to calculate Carmenís possible location.
The overall control of Cole during gameplay was decent for this game. However be prepared to use the right analog stick to tweak the camera as the automatic camera will more often than not have you facing he wrong angle for jumps and during combat.
Fighting the numerous enemies was easier than average and surprisingly non-violent (read kid-friendly for concerned parents). Be sure to utilize your weapons well, especially when confronting the air spirits. Another aspect of game play that should be mentioned is the teleporter. If you have forgotten anything during the level use the transport level to go back to previous areas. Access to the teleporter is vial Coleís PDA.
Graphical quality for this game was a little above average at times and below average at times. It looked and felt that the 3D cartoonish quality of this game was anime based. Resolution and quality were fair yet sluggish and there were times when the graphics didnít keep up with your controls, and proved frustrating.
This game includes a cut scene movie of good quality once you complete the puzzle pieces in every level. Communications via the video mail are text based without having live video; this would have been better if it had been animated.
Once again a game where sound quality could and should have been better. It seems as if they spent more time on the graphics, which doesnít say too much. Sound effects didnít get too repetitive and that was a good thing. Music was good and fit the action, however it did get repetitive and the overall sound presentation just had something missing.
I can only compare this game to other childrenís games and even other Carmen Sandiego titles. It is sad that more could have been done and if the quality were better the gameplay would have been significantly improved.
I believe this game is aimed at a male gamers between the ages of 9 and 12. If someone younger than that plays it will not be for as long and older gamers will likely bore from the easy gameplay. I myself was able to play for about a half hour at a time before taking breaks due to the camera action being so wonky. I would approximate that the average game length will take a few days of extensive multi-hour playing to complete the nine levels that make up this title.
There is very little replay value unless you desire to be Cole over and over. This game seems to be the type to buy, solve and then give to a friend. Better yet I would advise you to rent it for a week at your local video store so you wonít have to find a friend to give it to when you are finished. However the game manual did mention something about a special Hollywood ending if you replay this game again. Another drawback for this game is lack of multi-player, if they decide to come out with another Carmen Sandiego game I hope they make multi-player an option.
Carmen Sandiego The Secret of the Stolen Drums is simply an average game, both in quality and the skill level needed to complete it. I was very disappointed that the educational aspect that the series was founded on was truncated to include a small area before each level. I feel that this game was rushed out to the store shelves and if a bit more time was given to it the graphical errors and sound scheme could have been much improved.
I would definitely only recommend this game for the younger crowd, however at the same time I can see a child getting frustrated with the controls needed to play it. As mentioned earlier be sure to rent before you buy this game.