At least, I hope you know who!
Previously, On Allison’s Written Words…
Favorite video games have been the order of the month, as we’ve witnessed the all-stars of a console duke it out, a character go from adorable placeholder to adorable star of his own franchise, and another member of the all-stars, the son of an iconic video game character, gets his spin-off franchise.
This week, we wrap up this month of fun and memorable gaming with a shift away from Nintendo to the personal computer, and an educational game that was enjoyed by many a nineties kid…when we weren’t trying to survive The Oregon Trail. This series of games was a different kind of adventure, one that had us traipsing all over the world, Europe, the United States, time, and space, in search of an elusive character. Her thievery was so famous, her henchmen and women so daring, there was even a game show to cash in on the popularity.
There was also this theme song that we had permanently burned into our brains during the 90s.
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I’m not even going to pretend to be sorry about this.
Now, while I could cover the television show, I’m going to actually focus on the games alone. I knew about the show long before I even knew the games existed back then. The show holds more nostalgia for me, but the games…well, I like the games better.
I said it.
Tell Me, Where In The World Is…
The Carmen Sandiego series of games kicked off in 1985, packaged with The World Almanac and Book of Facts, which helped young players find their way around the world in search of whodunit, and whatstoleit.
No, that’s not what the stolen property is called, but I’m being creative. Future releases were all packed with a reference guide to help players proceed through the games, and even up their rank. I’m just finding this part out now, since I play the games on an emulator website, and have to rely on a different source of information. It begins with a “G,” and rhymes with “Doodle.” And if I hadn’t steered a college classmate in the right direction, it would have been spelled “Goggle.”
I almost allowed that to happen.
Anyway, the games put you on the trail of the thieves and the coveted item they stole, following the path and gathering clues to make an arrest warrant. You get six days to find the thief and the stolen item, and each successful case ups your rank. Up your rank, get more difficult cases, eventually leading you to find the most important villain herself.
Oh, and make sure you have a warrant – enter those clues into the crime computer. Don’t want to catch up to the criminal and not have a means to arrest them by.
Yes, that has happened to me. Twice.
I’m not kidding.
The games were originally released through Broderbund between 1985 and 1998, with all post-1998 games released through The Learning Company. The franchise was not only made for computers, but also the major home video game consoles of the 1990s. There was a television game show, and animated series, and Carmen herself even made it to streaming. The franchise is still going strong, 35 years later. Deluxe and enhanced versions of the World and United States games were released a few years after their original counterparts.
Allison’s Adventures With Carmen Sandiego
I grew up watching the PBS game show Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego, and didn’t know it was also a video game until I was in sixth grade. We didn’t have a home computer until fifth grade, and the Computer Science class at school didn’t have the game on the computers. However, the computer in my sixth grade classroom had the 1990 Deluxe version, which had a telephone on it. My class loved that game, and no one liked taking turns. We had Pull-Out time in sixth grade, where anyone who didn’t go the Enrichment program stayed in their classrooms did activities and had computer time. I loved Pull-Out Time for that very reason – unstructured time AND computer games!
Naturally, I lost track of the game after elementary school, since this game wasn’t for the middle school set. Even though the name has popped up plenty of times over the years, I never really thought about actively seeking out any of the games. When I found Classic Reload in 2018, and saw how many Carmen Sandiego games there were, I knew these were prime for gameplay. And when I was coming up with games to talk about this month, I knew this one needed to be featured. Because when you push The Oregon Trail out of contention, you know it is a classic.
I even have a Carmen Funko Pop (got it for half off at GameStop a few years ago during a sale), so you know I love this series.
Taken on my desk in my old home office. Wow, that is an impressive angle!
She’s still sitting on my desk in the new home office (please ignore the lint from a tissue I had sitting there!)
I previously played the 1985 version of Where In The World is Carmen Sandiego? for my blog and YouTube channel, but no article about gameplay, and certainly no article that wraps up an entire month’s worth of video game-themed articles, would be complete without a little gameplay.
I recorded this yesterday, going for three rounds on the 1990 Enhanced version, and yes, my face is in the corner. On the first round, I wore my headphones, so the music doesn’t show up in the video. I took my headphones off for the second and third rounds, and well, you hear the great 8-bit music.
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Where You’ll Actually Find Carmen Sandiego…
In addition to the emulator games on Classic Reload, Amazon has CD-Roms for the more recent releases (recent being in the last 15 years or so), “Choose Your Own Adventure” style books, a board game, a handheld electronic game, t-shirts, and the 1995 cartoon streaming on Prime.
It’s nice to know that this is a franchise that hasn’t gone away, and that manages to be relevant in any decade. It even looks like re-invention is not such a bad thing, but of course, the best part of it is when we had to rely on reference books (yes, books!) to guide us along.
Educational? Yes, very. But fun? Absolutely!
Remember having to look up what type of currency “rupees” was?
And Now, You!
Did you ever play this game of chase, espionage, and research? Did you ever get to the highest of ranks and have to hunt down the Head Honcho of Villains herself? I’d love to hear your Carmen Sandiego stories!
As we wrap up this month’s theme, I haven’t come up with another one for next month. Might not be such a bad thing. However, I do have some ideas that don’t fall into any one theme, so I think next month is going to be a free-for-all. Sounds fun, don’t you think?
Have a great day, and if you do decide to venture into the world of trying to find Carmen and her henchmen/women, happy hunting!