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A puzzle-solving extravaganza
What's It All About:
Originally released way back in 2006 for PCs, Safecracker is a point-and-click adventure game but one with an extremely focused purpose, as you just solve puzzles. Now, to some that may sound a bit limiting or boring, but the presentation and challenge of the puzzles makes for an entertaining experience.

The story puts you in the shoes of a master criminal called on by the Adams family (sadly not the Addams) to find the will of their recently departed patriarch, gas executive D.W. A bit of an eccentric, D.W. was very into safes, and has hidden his last will and testament in one of the 30 unusual safes in his house. All of them are distinctly unique, requiring different problem solving skills, and they all contain hints, tools and materials needed to open the other safes.

Like most point-and-click adventures, there's not a lot of action to enjoy here, as it's more about exploring and finding things, but unlike most P&Cs, this game avoids all the choose-your-dialogue conversations the genre is known for. You are all alone as you move about the Adams' house, as you'll learn the details of the family from journal entries and letters found throughout the rooms. By not having any real explanations or assistants, the game is more real than most such mysteries (In fact, some hints aren't even in the actual game itself.) I never felt led, though there could have been far more red herrings to explore, as if you can click on something in this game, it's probably important.

As you explore, you'll find a number of unusual safes, which require you to solve puzzles in order to open them. Some of them you can just look at and figure out, like the first safe, where you have to align different colored beads. Others may require a key you find in a safe, or a hint on a note. Still others require divine assistance. OK, that may be a bit of hyperbole, but honestly, there are several puzzles that will make you hit your head against the wall, hoping it will jar a solution into it. Without any in-game hints or ability to skip a puzzle though, if you get stuck, you're stuck, unless you get help from a walkthrough.

Wandering around the house unlocking safes, you'll find new rooms. (which, though added to your in-game map, the perfect set-up for a warp system, still require you to backtrack frequently) and plenty of interesting spaces, but exploring them is mostly pointless, as there are a frustratingly small amount of actions to perform. If there's not a puzzle around to solve, you may as well not be there. But if you do enjoy brain games, few games offer more right-to-the-point puzzle-solving fun, and there's a serious sense of accomplishment when you bust open a safe, as the success is purely a result of your own personal abilities.

The three-dimensional setting of the house requires the use of the nunchuk in combination with the Wii-mote, with the analog stick controlling the camera, while the Wii-mote controls are very tradition, utilizing the pointer for the cursor, the A for actions and the B for your inventory. It's a pretty comfortable set-up, but it has some issues in-game. The biggest problem is the movement through the house, as you can only utilize the hot spots provided. That means, if you are standing on one side of a room and can see the door on the other side, you can't always go directly out, because there's usually a stop in between. It's a frustrating experience, especially since you run into just such a problem in a room that's a center point for the whole house, and thus a spot you pass through again and again.

Though the graphics are simple and mostly static, as nothing happens outside of a few opening safes and moving levers, the three-dimensional rooms are impressively detailed and designed, giving you plenty to look at, though precious little to interact with. In fact, there are entire rooms with nothing to click on, a fact made clear after spinning around a few times. There are some issues with pixilation along hard edges, but for the most part the game looks pretty fantastic (for a still image.)

The audio is fine for what there is, with solid, atmospheric music throughout the house, and good voice acting for your character's inner voice, which reads the letters and journals you find. There are some minor sound effects, mostly in the puzzles, confirming your actions or letting you know when you're wrong. The moody music does a nice job of adding drama to an otherwise momentum-less game, as it's just a series of puzzles.

And in the End...
I'm a sucker for a good puzzle, and this game offers up plenty of them, but once you figure them out, there's nothing left. Your average issue of Games offers up far more challenges for a fraction of the price, which makes this an easy recommendation as a rental, but a bit tougher as a purchase, even if the combo of the puzzles and family story are a fun mix. Your mileage will vary depending on how much you love doing battle with mind games.