In the game, players, who are ACME agents, travel to 51 locations around the United States (50 cities and the District of Columbia) in order to find Carmen Sandiego's V.I.L.E. henchmen. At the first rank, gumshoe, the player has 6 days (144 hours) to track down, identify, issue a warrant for, and capture the criminal. Every third or fourth crime a player solves, he goes up in rank. This means that the player will have to travel through another city in the same amount of time. There are ten different ranks, and the player will run into Carmen Sandiego at the rank of Master Detective after he has solved 38 crimes.
The first one was produced as a sequel to the ever-popular Where in the World, and was released in 1985-1986.
The goal of the game is to track Carmen's henchmen across the U.S.A., arrest them, and ultimately arrest Carmen Sandiego.