Cruise for a Corpse - A Three Hour Tour

Written by Joe Pranevich

Jinkies! How will we solve this mystery?
Welcome back! In the opening moments of the game, we saw a Paris police inspector (that’s us!) unexpectedly invited onto a pleasure cruise by a wealthy businessman, Niklos Karaboudjan. The cruise had only just gotten underway when Hector, the businessman’s butler, rushes out of the owner’s cabin to grab us. Niklos has been murdered! I immediately suspect the butler (of course!), but when he takes us to see the corpse, we are both knocked unconscious by an unknown assailant. A few hours later, we wake up to discover that the body is gone! Hector runs off to inform the family of the tragedy, leaving Raoul (and us) free to investigate the crime. Let’s begin!

Right off the bat, I’m not sure how to report on this game. Mystery games aren’t always linear and viewing the same scene eight times from different angles might not make for entertaining reading. Since I know nothing about this game, I’m just going to write it as I go and if we need to adjust the format down the road then so be it.

Our first action should be to explore the murder scene and there is quite a bit to see. There are some signs of a struggle, a smashed ashtray and overturned furniture. The game cheekily tells me that the ashtray contains "not a shred of evidence", but there are some things in the room that I can explore further. The roll-top desk is locked, but there's no key nearby. That might be important later. There's also a shark-teeth plaque on the wall that I can just about remove, if I only had a way to pull out a nail. Why would I want to do that? I have no idea. There’s also an empty trunk, a painting leaning against the wall, and more books than I care to read.

These books are not suspicious in any way.
The books end up being the next item of interest. Examining a group of books in the center of the shelf, you get a zoomed-in look at an odd collection: four books arranged between a set of bookends, each with a letter on the spine. I can’t think of any English (or French?) words that I can make with the letters C, N, I, L, so my guess is that I'll need to find one or two more books to fill the missing slots. I try rearranging the volumes a few times, but nothing happens.

Just for giggles, I run these letters (and one more) through an anagram solver. It finds a few possibilities for later: CLING, CLINT, and COLIN. Will any of these be the secret word? I guess we can only wait and see.

The final clue in the room required a bit of pixel-hunting: a balled up piece of paper near the ashtray. Perhaps it came out of the wastebasket? It's a note, signed by a mysterious "F", “We must resolve this problem. Meet me tonight, 8PM at the bar. It’s a matter of life or death.” I have no idea who that can be yet, but I'll look out for any Freds, Franks, or Francises in this game. As soon as I finish reading, a clock appears and time advances. It's now 8:10 AM. With nothing left to explore here, I head out into the hallway and further adventure.

Exploring the Ship

I’m not sure if you’re into textual masochism, but I’m certain that you don’t want me describing in detail everything I clicked on in every room. Let’s just say that Raoul needs to find a lot of pixels to explore everything clickable in his search for clues. I’m going to fast-forward through describing to give you an overview of the ship and what I found there. Just keep in mind, for every object that I mention, there are many more that might be pertinent later. There are a LOT of things to click on!

I’m a map!
One of the genuinely nice features of this game is a clickable map, accessible from the inventory list. This allows you to fast-travel nearly anywhere on the ship, although at this point a number of the rooms appear to be off-limits. This view also gives you the passenger list and cabin assignments, so at least you can see who is voyaging with us. More on them in a bit. We started our adventure in Niklos's office, just north of where the little Raoul is standing on the map.

That door is not suspicious in any way.
The very first thing that you see on exiting Niklos's office is a boarded up door leading to the ship’s hold. Does that seem at all suspicious to you? I know that door leads to the ship's hold because it's labeled on the map when you mouse over it, but there's no way through. The game helpfully tells you that you might be able to use a sledge hammer or crowbar to remove the boards, but that does me no good yet. Think we will find one of those? A nearby loose board is also suspicious, but here the game tells you that you need “pincers”. My guess is that they meant pliers, what do you think?

What do you think is in the hold? One of the commenters last week thought this game would involve smuggling, but I'm not so sure. I suspect that a smuggler wouldn't be quite as obvious about it. 

High tech for the 1920s?
Just a screen away towards the front of the ship is the engine room. If you like games that have an infinite number of things to click on, you will love this room! The best way that I can put it is that this plays out like a “engine repair simulator”: every wire, dial, container, pipe, valve, switch, and more is individually clickable and can be interacted with. Many of the objects seem to only be manipulable if you have certain tools-- a screwdriver being the most common-- and a few say that you need special clothing to keep from getting dirty. There’s just so much in here and I’m not sure what might be useful, but one of the little hatches requires a key so that seems promising. Will we have to fix the engine at some point later in the game? Or is this all scenery porn? I’m not sure.

But if we needed a motive for killing Niklos, I think we found one: adjacent to the engine room is the butler’s cabin. The door is locked, but can you imagine sleeping next to the engine all night, every night that you were aboard the ship? It’s enough to make you kill a man. See? I told you the butler did it.

Second Deck

My sentiments exactly.

Heading up the stairs, we find someone cleaning the floors. It’s our first NPC! Let’s interrogate him! Unfortunately, all we seem to be able to find out is that he’s the “ship’s boy” and doesn’t speak English. Much of the rest of this deck appears to be service-related as I find a laundry room with a washerwoman that won’t speak to me, as well as a kitchen where a cook won’t speak to me. At least the washerwoman let's me snoop around, the cook won't even let me in the kitchen.

Does this game seem at all "classist" to you? This is a murder investigation, but Raoul doesn't treat any of the servants as suspects or witnesses. The downtrodden masses could not possibly have a motive to kill a wealthy businessman… in the 1920s.

I play this game for the articles.
The strangest thing I find is near the stairs to the next deck. The landing there is dominated by a large wooden-- and provocative-- mermaid statue. I have no idea why, but I can "speak" to the statue (that's one of the verbs that appears when I click on it) and it reveals sort of code: 1b 2a 4a 1a. I have no idea what that means, but it seems important for later. Now my question is, what exactly is Raoul doing to “speak” to it to get the code out? I suspect this is a translation error, but I have absolutely no idea what they were really trying to say.

“A medium dry martini, lemon peel. Shaken, not stirred.” - Some other guy
The final location on this deck is the bar, a nice place for guests to relax after a long day of murdering and/or not being murdered. Once again, the “help” does not aid in my investigation in any way. Who better than the bartender to ask, "Who was in the bar last night at 8 PM?" But no, it's not going to be that easy.

Another strange thing about this room is a persistent hint from the game that maybe you should steal one of the lamps off the table, but do it when there are no witnesses. Will I need to enter a dark room later and need a light? Maybe! The bartender will have to go on a lunch break or something later, right? I can also “sound” (that's the verb that appears in the list) the counter and the game replies that I need a chair. That's great, but I have no idea what Raoul is doing that needs a chair. How do you "sound" something? I look it up in the dictionary, but no dice. I suppose I’ll work it out when I find a chair to stand on, but the translation seems a bit rough in spots.

You seem awfully calm with a murderer on the loose...
Adjacent to the bar is a well-equipped smoking room, complete with a film projector and record player. A man is in there calmly reading a newspaper, apparently also oblivious to the murderer running around the ship. More importantly, he’s the first NPC that I can interrogate properly!

The dialog view.
The newspaper-reading man’s name is Tom Logan and he’s the solicitor that takes care of Niklos’s business. I also learn that he was in his room last night at 8 PM. Just talking to him moves the clock ahead to 8:20, so I must be doing something right. The strangest thing about Tom is that he really doesn’t want me to turn off the record player. I don’t know what he’s hiding, but perhaps he just enjoys his computer game background music. The only other interesting thing in the room is the film projector: it has an empty place where you can load up a film to watch. I’d wager that will come in handy later.

Third Deck

Sunlight and different camera angles!

The next deck switches up the claustrophobia of ship interiors to more open outdoor spaces, including new camera angles. It’s actually quite nice to have some brighter colors and less boxy room designs. There are the usual array of things to interact with outside, including a locked storage bin, a padlocked hatch that leads down into the kitchen, a container of tangled fishing nets, two lifeboats, and more. Just like below, you can click on and interact with every rope, every light, and everything else so there’s quite a lot to see.

This deck is primarily the passenger cabins and we find Raoul’s first, but there’s not much of interest inside. He shares it with someone names Julio Esperanza, but he must be hanging out elsewhere. Julio must be a fine dresser because he’s brought several different colored hats to wear on the cruise. The next room is the the bathroom and there is a bar of soap on the sink that we can pick up-- our first inventory item! I wonder what devious adventure game puzzle will require a bar of soap. (On second thought, we did pick up a note in Niklos's office. So this is really my second inventory item.)

Because she’s dead. Or naked. Not sure which.
Every other passenger cabin is locked, but when I arrive at Daphne Karaboudjan’s cabin-- presumably a wife or daughter of the deceased-- I am blocked by Julio. He explains that he is Daphne’s “amigo” and that he cannot let me talk to her right now. Isn't this a bit suspicious? What is Julio trying to hide? Is it just that she is torn up over her relative's death? How do I know that she’s not dead and he’s just keeping me from discovering her body? On the bright side, I can interrogate Julio and he informs me that he was at the bar at 10 PM last night, but that whomever was there at 8 was long gone. Time moves forward and it’s now 8:30 AM.

Top Deck

No land in sight. Where are we going, anyway?

My tour of the ship ends on the scenic top deck where Suzanne, a friend of the family, stares off into the sea and apparently is not at all concerned about a murderer running. She tells me that Julio is a playboy with a wealthy family and many fancy cars, that Daphne was “cold-blooded” when she learned of her father’s death, and that Tom is not a “straightforward person”. She also doesn’t have an alibi during the mysterious bar meeting as she was asleep at the time. (At 8 PM? That seems early.) I don’t learn much, but I must be going in the right direction because the time is now 8:50 AM.

That completes a full circuit of the ship, but there is still plenty to go:
  • I have spoken to Tom (the solicitor), Julio (Daphne’s special friend), and Suzanne (a friend of the family). The map tells me that I have yet to find Rebecca, Daphne, Father Fabiani, Dick, Rose, or Captain Simon. I also do not know where the suspicious butler has gotten off to.
  • Just about half the rooms on the ship are still unavailable to me; I hope I find a key or something soon.
This game’s approach to time appears so far to be closer to The Colonel’s Bequest than Witness. Time advances when you perform certain plot-related activities like discovering new people to interrogate and they even briefly show a clock, just as Bequest did. While Sierra was kind enough to put a digital readout when the time advanced, this game assumes that you can tell time yourself. I regret to confess that as a child of the 80s, I am awful at reading analog clocks. I even had to screen capture it to be able to figure out the time before the graphic faded away. Another connection to Bequest may be the timeframe: both games are set in the mid-1920s. My guess is that this is to mimic the style of Agatha Christie's early works rather than imagine that they ripped any elements off of Sierra directly.

The graphics in this game are okay, but there is a bit of a disconnect between the hand-painted backgrounds and the rotoscoped human characters. Delphine pretty much mastered the rotoscope in computer games when they made Another World, so it’s nice to see that aspect reproduced here, but I’m not sure it integrates as well. (Or more likely, I have rose-tinted memories of that game.) The translation is dodgy with many examples in every room of words that just seem to be “off”, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

All in all, I’m enjoying it so far, but I am eager to explore the rest of the ship and start solving some of the mysteries. Next week, I hope someone starts acting like there's a murderer on the loose. I'll also take a closer look at the dialog system as that seems to be the most important new mechanic in this game.

Time played: 3 hr 15 min
Total time: 3 hr 15 min

Inventory: Piece of paper, Soap

Deaths / Reloads:
2 restarts due to game crashes
0 deaths

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

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