Computer games answer numerous what if? questions that flit through the mind from time to time. For example, "What if I were to drive a Formula One car around Silverstone? How would I get on?" F1 Grand Prix helps you find out. Or, "What if I were able to jump several times my own height, manipulate myself into lots of pliable shapes and call upon the help of a devil cat from Hell?" Putty Squad would answer with flying colours.
The Clue takes a similar theoretical concept and explores how capable of committing various thieving crimes in post-war London you would be. To help realise these plans, you're put in charge of Matt Stuvysunt.
As with all criminals, you start with small crimes before graduating to the big time. To add extra intrigue to things, your story is narrated in retrospect by an older, wiser Matt. This is quite handy in that it keeps the proceedings in perspective. If you want to try the same job from an different angle, it also lets you analyse where you could have planned proceedings better.
Initially, Matt's faced with a minimal amount of choices over his actions. But as he proceeds, meets people, visits more locations, turns over various buildings, gathers more possessions and gains an overall feel for the environment he's working in, the options he can use increase. The player feels more in control of Matt's destiny, has more freedom of manoeuvre and can act accordingly.
The crux of the game lies in your ability to plan, vet and coordinate people while holding numerous variables in your head such as times of police patrols, reliability, abilities of accomplices and expected financial reward. Become accomplished at planning and the game world becomes your oyster.
The gameplay is an old fashioned adventure style point and click interface. In a way, it complements the period setting. But the graphics don't. They're flat, make minimal use of colour and due to the lack of any animation, verge on being boring.
Several other mechanisms don't quite work either. For example, it's possible to loiter at a location for as long as you want - occasionally Matt interrupts to say that he's going to 'root to the spot' or something. But it doesn't make any difference to what's going on.
Frankly my dear...
And there's a character called Frank Maleya who hangs around outside the Fat Man's Pub. If you decide to wait for 48 hours, he stays there and smokes the same cigarette. It's hardly conductive to the atmosphere.
The same thing happens with the hotel you live in. After you've paid for the first three days, no more is said about your failure to pay the cumulative bill. Strange fare indeed.
Gripes aside, The Clue piques your curiosity and engages your theoretical criminal abilities. This fast becomes addictive and you'll find yourself thinking more and more like a burglar. Whether that's a good thing or not remains to be seen.