Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure Review

As long as you're not too hung up on variety and plot, these breaking-and-entering brainteasers will delight puzzle fans.

There are no surprises in Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure. The ode to high-stakes robbery from French developer Kheops Studio (Return to Mysterious Island, Voyage) stays true to its title with gameplay that has you breaking into safes of all different shapes and sizes. But any bonus points earned by the company for not trying to fool people with a more grandiose and less-accurate name are largely lost by the game itself, which is a set of mostly interesting brainteasers draped around a pointless plot.

You can say that again.
You can say that again.

You can't call this game an adventure. Although Safecracker has been constructed in the genre's standard modern style, with static camera views courtesy of QuickTime VR and clickable hot points, the total absence of any captivating narrative or characterization makes it feel like a collection of unrelated puzzles. For what it's worth, though, the story has you breaking into gimmicky safes in search of the last will and testament of the apparently recently deceased oil tycoon Duncan W. Adams. He was a bit of a kook and was into safe collecting, so the family assumes that the document was hidden away in one of the many elaborately locked safes scattered throughout his mansion. You're presumably some kind of kingpin burglar or locksmith (although it's hard to imagine what good a regular locksmith would be here; you'd be better off hiring somebody who's really good at Myst), so the family has turned to you in its hour of need.

Good B movies have been made based on even dumber plots, but Kheops doesn't do a lot with this premise. You aren't provided with much background on the goofy millionaire, the missing will, your motivations, or anything else. The mansion is beautifully realized (if lifeless, due to the static scenery) thanks to top-notch visuals that provide rooms with intriguing features like ornate fountains, miniature museums of African artifacts, leather furniture that looks so plush you want to skip the puzzles and sit down for a while, and music that evokes a whodunit atmosphere. But even though you're wandering through tastefully appointed settings, you're still in a big deserted house with the one-dimensional task of gathering clues and solving logic puzzles to pop open safes. One safe inevitably leads to another, so you end up following a rigid path of acquiring information (no more than a few safes are accessible at any given time) and useful items that eventually take you to the grand pooh-bah of safes, who is evidently holding the will.

Kheops livens things up by going beyond the usual hidden-behind-a-painting combination safe and into the sci-fi realm of safes secured by slider puzzles, magnetic blocks, lasers, and banks of colored lights reminiscent of Scotty's engineering panels on Star Trek. You do nothing but bang your head against one logic puzzle after another, most of which are tricky but solvable as long as you remain patient and open to taking the time to experiment with different solutions. Many are quite enjoyable, and provide a great "Hey, I did it!" sense of accomplishment. Seeing a green light come on or hearing a lock click open is always a satisfying moment.

Clues never walk you through the process of opening safes, either, so while you collect scraps of paper with numbers written on them, electronic gizmos, keys, and other useful items, in the end it's your brain that will be sorting through patterns and figuring out codes. Solutions always take more than a few minutes to suss out, and even after you realize what you're supposed to be doing, it sometimes requires more time to maneuver puzzle pieces into place.

Scotty didn't have panels with that many lights on the Enterprise.
Scotty didn't have panels with that many lights on the Enterprise.

But even fans of puzzle-heavy games might find Safecracker slow going, as the focus is always on opening safes and retrieving their contents. The puzzles themselves are different enough so that it feels like you're involved in various sorts of tasks (although there is a certain Rubik's Cube vibe to just about everything), and the challenge is reasonably high throughout. Still, since the end goal is always the same old acquisition of clues and goodies, you quickly begin to feel like you're on a treadmill, going from one room to the next and checking out one crazy safe after another. It would have helped if Kheops had tossed in the odd puzzle that was totally unrelated to safecracking, with all-new objectives. Making the safes more of a rare thing would have helped, too. Cracking even a laser-locked safe by playing a magnetic version of the kiddie board game Labyrinth can seem a bit ho hum, considering that you knock off one of these elaborately protected babies every half hour or so.

At its heart, Safecracker isn't a game so much as it is an assortment of logic puzzles as repetitive as those found in magazines, or in the paperback Sudoku collections cluttering newsstands these days. That approach will nicely do the trick for patient players who want to idle away their spare hours by solving such brainteasers, but those who want a more interesting adventure or more involved puzzles are best advised to look elsewhere.

The Good
Challenging collection of logic puzzles
Good variety of puzzles that are tough but solvable
Attractive visuals
The Bad
Could use more variety in puzzle settings and goals
Total lack of narrative gives the game an aimless feel
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Safecracker: The Ultimate Puzzle Adventure More Info

  • First Released Aug 2, 2006
    • DS
    • PC
    • Wii
    In this adventure game you are hired by the wealthy family of a recently deceased billionaire to search for the last will and testament of their late relative, Duncan Walter Adams, and crack the 35 safes he has left behind.
    Average Rating280 Rating(s)
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    Developed by:
    Firehazard Studio, Kheops Studio
    Published by:
    Dreamcatcher, Tradewest, The Adventure Company, JoWooD Entertainment AG
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
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