Out of all of the classic board games stored away in the spare room, Cluedo (or simply Clue to some) gets dusted off more than most in my household. It's a game that relies on skill and reasoning more than blind luck (of which I have none) and it certainly tickles your inner Poirot or Miss Marple. In 1994, Hasbro Interactive decided to bring the game to Panasonic's ill-fated CD-i system, and in doing so, set the wheels in motion for something drastically different with the license.
There were two games on the CD-i, each with three different stories (of which there are four variants), but it's the 1996 Windows port that I remember playing. While the video technology couldn't compete with a system designed around this premise, what we got was nevertheless a far superior game in my opinion. The original slavishly followed the formula of the board came, complete with a digital representation of the board while the Windows version went a completely different route with a style of game-play that feels more like an adventure game than anything else. In fact, the only thing that wasn't improved upon or altered is perhaps the video themselves. While the CD-i was capable of high-quality, full-screen FMV that took up less CD space, the PC port relies on low quality Quicktime movies that take up a quarter of the screen.
Of the six original tales, three were given the PC treatment, one from the first game and two from the second. The variations for each difficulty remain so in total there are 12 mysteries to solve. I expect the plan was to develop a sequel that would include the remaining stories but I guess the fates transpired against them. What we do have is a trio of fun mysteries with good, deliberately hokey acting and one of the few such games where I actually want to hunt out and witness all of the videos.
Each mystery begins with an introduction from the butler played by Terence Harvey (apparently the go-to TV butler of the 80s and 90s) who'll guide us on our investigation. Like the board game, it's Mr Boddy, the mansion's patriarch, who'll be the victim but you won't know who did it until you tally up all of your clues, including some that are not found in the original. The stories play out like an episode of Murder She Wrote with an impressive cast of actors. You may still recognise Mrs. White (Joan Sims) from the Carry On films but the rest are relatively unknown unless you're a connoisseur of British TV in the 90s. David Healey's presence as Professor Plum was something of a selling point in his final role, but it appears his most significant performances were on the stage.
After the introduction, we're transported into the large house, ready to explore. You view this in the first-person 7th Guest style which makes for a welcome change to the bland original which stuck to the board game look. It may be just me, but this mansion creeps me the hell out. As first I was unsure why but then I realised - there's no front door! The entrance can't be it as this is a centralised room, surrounded by corridors. You're trapped wondering the impossible hallways like some kind of purgatory witnessing the same man get murdered over and over again. I shiver just thinking about it.
There are no dice rolls in this game. In fact, a person's turn ends once they've reached a room. Not only does this make the game faster, but it also means that single player can be just as fun. The rooms are given a graphical overhaul too. Originally they were static photographs which scrolled left and right but here they're an impressive CGI creation that can spin around as you search each room for clues. In fact, interactive spots will actually glow as you do so, which is perhaps a blessing considering these segments are rather pixellated - a necessity evil for the limited 1996 tech. Each room will have an exit which glows green, a red bell and a blue grandfather clock. The clock will play a short scene taking place in the room which can reveal some interesting twists. If you're ready to accuse someone, click on the bell and select your triangle of evidence. You can also talk to any person present or hunt for more clues, which will glow a feint white.
You have to keep an eye on what you find, as these will be imperative to solving the riddle (and escape purgatory?) but there's little incentive to play through them again. Once you've completed a story, the outcome is always the same. Kudos should be given for changing things up for each difficulty setting, but it's not random like the board game.
I should also mention how difficult it was to get this running on modern systems. The Windows 3.1 emulation on DOSBox isn't strong enough to play the game as intended, but it's still entirely playable. If you ignore the error that comes up, the only problems you'll encounter is in the frame-rate in the mansion's corridors. The videos, menus and rooms are all fine, but you will get slowdown if you upscale it to a higher resolution than the recommended 640x480. It took a lot of tinkering to get it to run as it is, but it's better than nothing.
Even with the technical issues, I had a lot of fun with Cluedo, and would perhaps call it one of the better FMV games out there. Get your sleuthing on and give it a go yourself.
To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses the DOSBox Daum build of DOSBox 0.74 running Windows '95. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 1.53 Gb. Install Size: 2.08 Gb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting DOSBox. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Press Ctrl-F9 when it is safe to do so.
17.09.2016 - Version 2 - Changed emulated operating system from Windows 3.1 to Windows '95
This minimises crashes and bugs that may occur
26.04.2017 - Version 3 - Now uses IDE emulation to mount ISOs
Clue / Cluedo is © Hasbro Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me