Right out of the box, murder mysteries have an advantage over other computer games. The ground rules are so simple and consistent: Somebody has been killed, the killer is loose and, for whatever reason, only you can solve the mystery.
None of that has changed in Intracorp's Murder On The Atlantic. As the title might suggest, the murder has taken place on a huge ocean liner. The bigger the ship, the more suspects there are, and the more investigating you must do in order to unearth clues.
What's unusual about this game, though not unique, is the Intracorp contest for people who solve the mystery. Don't expect a real trip on an ocean liner if you win (that would be my first choice). Instead, you could receive one of 2,500 gift certificates for Intracorp products. Some of the prizes are reported to be worth nearly $200.
Another slightly unusual aspect of Murder on the Atlantic is that some clues are physical and come packaged with the game. These include buttons, paper clips, wire and string, as well as cryptic encoded messages, notes from one passenger to another, phone numbers, lock combinations, telegrams, radio logs, passenger lists and purser's logs.
It will take much longer to read all this information than to cover the six-page rulebook. Only six pages are needed because no matter what version you're playing--ST, Commodore 64, Amiga, Apple or IBM--the game plays the same and looks pretty much the same too. The ST and Amiga versions offer no major improvements over the others, despite the better graphics and sound available on these computers.
The murder cruise on the S.S. Bourgogne takes place in 1938. There are 600 cabins and 40 suspects. (Talk about underbooking!). The entire game is operated from the keyboard. To move from place to place, use the arrow keys. To look around an area, press [E] for "examine." If you can find the message decoder on board, you can make some sense out of the messages you receive. Pressing [T] invokes the decoder.
To interrogate someone, press [I]. But that person will just deliver a speech and you'll have no chance to ask questions. That's one real weakness of the game--you feel more like the reader of a mystery novel than an actual participant.
The ship has 14 decks, so you'll need to find the elevators near each end of the ship to move between decks. If you get stuck on the elevator press [P] to call for a technician to fix it. Other than creating a nuisance, I can't find a good reason for this feature.
Sadly, this game's dryness of plot perfectly matches the style of graphics. The storyline is quite good and the puzzles are difficult, though not impossible. However, Murder on the Atlantic is likely to take real murderer mystery fans to stick with it all the way. Just don't wait too long to decide whether or not this game is for you--the contest deadline is December 29, 1988. You won't solve this mystery in a week, although it's easy to save games in progress. Then each time you boot, you can proceed from where you left off.
Developed by Intracorp Inc., 14160 S.W. 139 Court, Miami, FL 33186. (305) 252-9040. Review by Rick Teverbaugh in Antic Magazine.