The acting isn't Oscar-quality, and it's got a few rough spots around the edges, but if nothing else, The Dame Was Loaded proves that a game can be built around full-motion video and still be fully interactive.
And that's because the game's design is rooted firmly in the graphic-adventure tradition. As the smart cursor moves around the screen (a static digitized photo), it changes to various icons that let you Look, Take, and Use objects, as well as Talk to the tough thugs, sultry sirens, and other stereotypical characters you'd expect in a 1940's detective story. Thankfully, it's a long way from the visit a witness, record a video gameplay of ICOM's Sherlock Holmes games, or the mind-numbing videotape work in Voyeur.
You play as a second-rate private dick named Scott Anger, who's just come off a month-long bender sparked by the drive-by shooting death of his fiancee. Your first assignment back at the office seems simple enough: a missing-persons case notable mostly for how much you're attracted to your client, the curvy Carol Klein. But after a couple of days of sleuthing (and perhaps even petty larceny and breaking and entering), you learn that a whole series of major crimes--bank robbery, arson, and murder--are somehow linked to your case. And when some unsavory characters suspect you know the location of some stolen diamonds, your life--and the life of your girlfriend--hangs in the balance.
Because the puzzles can be complex and the clues sometimes vague, you'll want to save often, which brings us to the game's biggest weakness: There are only five save-game slots, a pitifully small number for a game this long and complex. To make matters worse, there's no way to call up the Save/Load menu--you've got to journey back to Anger's office every time. It sounds trivial, but after you've done it several times you'll realize just how much this slows down the action (even if you hit ESC to bypass the video clip of Anger tossing his hat on the coat rack).
Even so, murder mystery fans will find enough here to enjoy that they'll probably be able to look past the flaws, and veteran gamers won't feel cheated by blowing through the game in a few hours. If you're looking for a truly interactive video-based adventure, this could well be the ticket.