Nippon Safes Inc logo

Strangely named and even stranger to play. Take a trip into the mysterious metropolis of Tyoko in this highly original adventure.

Remember the days when games were simple? When the graphics and sound were basic and the titles were straightforward, like Asteroids or Frogger? They more often than not told you something about the game. For instance, a game like Frogger obviously features a frog, but these days game creators just seem to call their games anything they want to, a prime example being Nippon Safes Inc.

What on earth is that all about? Well, from the title you'd think it'd be about a load of Japanese safes running around the world causing havoc and mayhem!
No, despite the title Nippons Safes Inc is an interactive adventure game, and it has to be said that it's certainly a little bit strange. Not surreal and far out, but definitely weird.

It uniquely features three different central characters to choose from each with their own adventure and puzzles to solve. Each character's story proceeds alongside the others - they're irrevocably linked.

The game is set in and around the fictitious city of Tyoko in Japan where in the more disreputable parts of the metropolis a shady character has been wandering around looking suspicious. The object is to discover who he or she is and what they could be up to.

Nippon Safes takes a lot of its ideas from traditional Japanese culture, incorporating tea making geisha girls, sumo and so on - although it is set in the '90s. It's certainly like no other adventure game I've played before and looks a lot different to everything else on the market at the moment. The graphics aren't quite as impressive as Monkey Island 2, but they do have a unique look to them. The presentation makes a nice change and the whole thing has a very cartoon-like appeal and feel to it. All the characters are quite well animated.

Your perspective changes as you play the game. It's hard to explain, but look at the screenshots on the page and you'll see the different views.

From the far away view on the highway to the full-screen close-up outside the Hot Sushi to the view from the Metro which uses only a small part of the screen, the different angles make it all that little bit more interesting.

Control is a point-and-click affair using the mouse, but there also is an icon system. This can be called up using the right mouse button and allows you to select either a command or an object to use. There are four commandos in all. You can pick things up, examine objects, open and close objects, and most importantly talk to people.

When you talk to another character, a picture of you and his or her head appears. You then get two or three choices on what to say and the conversation will continue like this until you've said all you need to.

You can use objects with other objects, which can be done by holding the left mouse button down while clicking the right. All in all, the system is incredibly easy to use.

Some of the puzzles are very strange and not quite as straightforward as in something like Monkey Island or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. You'll solve most of them by stumbling around different parts of Tyoko.

Unless you check everything you're likely to miss an object which will become very important later on in the game. It's always best to pick up everything you find because it can be a real hassle having to go back for stuff.

The centre of Tyoko is quite large, but several other parts of the city can be accessed using the very reliable Metro tube trains. Once bought the ticket can be used as many times as you like and will never run out. British Rail take note!

There is a certain amount of humour. For example, the programmers put in an appearance, but most of their jokes only apply to themselves. Nippon Safes is nowhere near as funny as Monkey Island, but is far funnier than Jimmy Torbuck. Its best point is that it's so different from everything else.

The presentation is spot on and all the graphics are brilliant, especially the backgrounds. There isn't much to listen to on the sound front, but there are several spot effects like birds tweeting in the park to test your ears out on. At least there isn't a bloody annoying tune that plays all the way through like some other adventures I could mention, but won't.

The control system is well designed and you'll be able to master it after only a couple of minutes' play. The biggest bonus has to be the fact that you've literally got three games in one. All three adventures, despite having similar objectives, are completely different.

One thing I have to mention is the fact that the game comes on five disks, so a hard drive is a definite must. If you do play on disks then you'll be swapping until the cows come home - fine if you can put up with it if you're gasping for an adventure having completed everything else around, Nippon Safes Inc. could be well worth your time and money.

One thing I can't work out is just why the creators called it Nippon Safes Inc. I suppose it's just going to have to be one of life's little mysteries.


Three's company

Donna Fatale
Nippon Safes Inc
Donna is a variety actress who abandoned a promising career as a ballet dancer to enter the glittering world of show business. She arrived in Tyoko dazzled by the promises of a self-styled impressario who, after having squandered all her possessions, left her to a life on the border line of legality. Will do anything (ahem) to get ahead in show business.

Doug Nuts
Nippon Safes Inc
An electronics genius who uses his knowledge for unlawful purposes although so far only with meagre results. His career as an electronic engineer at Oxford ended when he was caught fiddling the results of the exams stored in the faculty computer. Students, eh?
He then moved to Japan, the homeland of electronics. He gets picked up by the cops every time one of his gadgets fails when trying to break into his local bank. A dirty little tea-leaf and no mistake.

Dino Fagioli
Nippon Safes Inc
A former boxer with Italian origins. Basically a good and honest soul, but often falls into traps set by people taking advantage of the fact that he isn't very well endowed in the brain department.
After a series of defeats in the boxing world, he boarded a ship bound for Japan working as a deck hand. Folling his umpteenth scrape, he was thrown off the ship in Tyoko, where he is desperately trying to make ends meet.



Nippon Safes Inc logo

The banks of Tokyo wait in terror. Three safe-breakers are on the loose, they've got grenades and they're not afraid to use them. Well that's one way, perhaps, to be big in Japan...

The world is, as they say, getting smaller every day - and computer games seem to do much to drive that home. Nippon Safes Inc., a game based in the seedy side of downtown Tokyo, is hardly a lesson in Japanese culture, but a safe-breaking adventure featuring a punch drunk Italian boxer, Dino Fagioli, a rather mad electronics genius, Doug Nuts, and a voluptuous bimbette by the name of Donna Fatale.

It's a graphic adventure, similar in style to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. For those of you who haven't come across a game of this type, you have to manoeuvre your character through the adventure by manipulating various icons on the screen. It's all completely mouse controlled, so there's no need to use the keyboard.

For instance, if you wanted to throw a hand grenade at someone, you would press the right mouse button to select the various icons (which include talk, open, examine and take, plus the objects you can pick up), and select the hand grenade icon. The mouse pointer will then change to a grenade shape, which you aim at a given target. Once you've fixed the target, a message appears on screen, saying 'throw hand grenade'. Clicking with the left mouse button carries out the action.

It's a little awkward to use at times, but it's generally easier than typing in 'pull the pin and throw the hand grenade at the door'.

The adventure is divided into three parts, each detailing the exploits of one of the three characters. All three parts share many of the same locations, but the aims and puzzles for each are different.

Mind your language
The manual is a little short, with only six pages in English. These give you the basics on both the characters and the program, as well a crash course introduction to Japanese society - very educational, but not strictly necessary.

Unfortunately, the translation (the original is in Italian) is a little lacking in parts, giving phrases such as, 'He hoarded a ship bound for Japan as a dackhand. After getting into the umpteenth scrope he was thrown off'. Hmm.

To find out which of the three characters you are to play, you answer a series of multiple choice questions. Your responses are logged as coded symbols, and after the final answer, the symbols disappear to reveal which role you will be playing.

The intention of this, presumably, is to match your own personality as closely as possible to one of the three players. A slightly bizarre approach, but it's original, at least.

Once into the game, the graphics are well drawn and the sound effects are excellent. Most of the characters seem to be doing an impression of a Michael Jackson moonwalk, because the animations are (annoyingly) out of sync with the speed of movement. Mouse-control can be tricky with the smaller objects, but you get used to it after a while.

The game comes on five disks, and if you're playing from a floppy there's a great deal of disk swapping. Fortunately, it's also installable on hard disk, which speeds up the gameplay immensely.

The storylines of the adventures are good, and you don't have to solve the puzzles in any particular order. If you get really stuck, just select one of the objects you're carrying,m and move it around the screen. Eventually you'll come across a text message which might give you a clue as to how best to progress.

This is a well-designed game with a good storyline and some interesting puzzles. However, it's rather let down by some errors in both the programming and the presentation. It's no Monkey Island, but it's definitely worth a click or two.



Nippon Safes Inc logo

Soft aus dem sonnigen Italien tröpfelt ja eher spärlich, und wenn doch mal was bei uns eintrudelt, dann ist's meist ein bestelfalls mäßiges Hüpfical. Mit Dynabytes Grafikadventure soll nun alles besser werden.

Und tatsächlich, auf den ersten Blick macht diese im fernen Japan handelnde Räuberpistole gar keinen schlechten Eindruck. Allein das (ähnlich wie bei "Indy IV") richtig spielbare Intro ist schon eine Schau: schräg, witzig, krank!

Okay, die Idee mit den drei Hauptpersonen, die sich immer wieder über den Weg laufen, kennen PC-Abenteurer schon aus "Leather Goddesses of Phobos II", am Amiga kann sie hingegen durchaus ein paar Originalitäts-Punkte verbuchen.

Die grundsätzliche Aufgabe lautet dabei zwar stets, einen fiesen Dunkelmann der Unterwelt ans Licht zu zerren, aber der Weg dorthin ist halt in hohem MaÜe davon abhängig, ob man in der als Code abfrage gestalteten Auswahlsequenz den ehrbaren Meisterdieb Doug Nuts, die Vamplady Donna Fatale oder den tumben, wenn auch herzensguten Haudrauf Dino Fagioli zum digitalen Alter ego erkürt.

So bekommt etwa Mr. Nuts erst mal 'nen ordentlichen Kunsträuberauftrag, während Dino sein Leben als Museumsgehilfe fristet. Wo er doch viel lieber den groÜen Wettbewerb im Sumo-Ringen gewinnen würde...

Könnte also ein spaÜiges Knobeln werden, und immerhin wirkt zumindest der Part von Doug Nuts anfänglich ebenso durchdacht wie juxig. Doch bald schon stellen sich Längen ein, und das geographische Vorstellungsvermögen der Programmierer scheint manchmal ziemlich fragwürdig zu sein - wovon leidende Besucher des labyrinthischen Stadtparks ein trauriges Liedchen trällern können.

Mit Donna und Dino haben in puncto Spiellaune und Rätsellogik dann erst recht nicht mehr viel am Kasten, und so wird es für uns Zeit, ein paar Zeilen zur Technik aufs Papier zu bringen: Man schickt seine Helden via Point und Klick durch die dreidimensionalen Bilder des Abenteuers, ein aufrufbares Iconfeld mit integrierten Inventory ist fur die komplizierteren Tätigkeiten zuständig, und mit Passanten wird per Multiple choice gequatscht (wobei die Screentexte mit erfreulich guten Deutschkenntnissen glänzen).

Auch der Sound muÜ am Haben-Konto verbucht werden, können die Musikstücke und gelegentlichen FX doch wenigstens kurzfristig die heraufdämmerdende Langeweile zurückdrängen.

Für die Grafik der Nippon-Safes gilt das Lob hingegen nur begrenzt, denn zwar lehnt sich die Optik ein wenig an Sierras "Larry" an, erreicht jedoch bei weitem micht die Edelklasse des amerikanischen Gentleman-Loosers.

Das gilt einerseits für die oft etwas detailarmen Zeichnungen, andererseits für die wohl flotten, aber nicht besonders realistischen Animationen der Sprites.

Für ein richtiges groÜes Adventure reicht es somit vorne und hinten nicht, und das Prädikat "Geheimtipp" wurde auch verpaÜt - dafür hätte das Game den anfänglich gezeigten Charme halt schon ein paar Takte länger durchhalten müssen... (jn)



Nippon Safes Inc logo

It's time you got yourself a job, son. A nice safe job? What a cracking idea.

The sun was melting on the skyline, like butter on warm bread. The sea looks beautiful at this hour, when day and night make their brief encounter. The fishing boats were clacking in the mild breeze, but apart from that the only noise Tom could hear were the weary sights of the fishermen as they prepared to make their way home for the night. "If only Katrina would return, I could make this my home," he sobbed, gazing forlornly at the dark brooding clouds as they moved menacingly in towards the harbour.

I'm sorry about that, it's just really hard to start a review about an adventure game, so I thought I'd go for stock intro number seven - the Harbour. Anyway: Nippon Safes Inc. The first thing you notice is the international flavour of the game. A look at the list of authors should indicate the Italian background, but it's set in Japan, so it all gets quite confusing. Amusing, too, when the manual hurls us superb pidgin English like "hold down the right button of the noise" and "after getting into the umpteenth scope he was thrown off the ship". I love it.

The first point of reference with Nippon Safes Inc is your Monkey Island, Curse Of Enchantia-type games. You know, the new(ish) breed of adventures which are the latest word in user-friendly control (you'll have to forgive phrases like 'user-friendly control' - they just come out sometimes).

You control your character by pointing with the mouse (or is that noise?) to where you want to go, and the character faithfully follows. The right mouse button brings up a menu which provides you with your basic options - open or close, take, examine and talk.

Having drawn the comparison, I must point out straight away that one of the really nice things about this game is its freshness and originality. Yes we've seen adventures games with similar interfaces, but the look, feel and approach of this one really make it something quite new.

Plot-wise, you're not given a lot of clues to start with. There are three characters involved: the intelligent (but nerdy) criminal Doug Nuts, the strong but extremely stupid Dino Fagioli and the starstruck variety actress Donna Fatale.

Great characters, these, and straight away you feel you're in for a treat of a story. The game begins with all three of them ending up in jail for various reasons, not all of them valid, and you can take control just as they are set free. Various shifty individuals and mysterious strangest lurk through the narrative and motivate the gradually-intensifying mystery that drives the plot.

But here comes the difference - you don't control the characters as a party, you take the role of each one individually. The game authors save dubbed this the 'parallaction' system, as game authors are wont to do when they feel they've introduced something special. The idea is that the three characters' stories run alongside each other, and are indissolubly linked (at the start of the game they've never even met each other).

Thus you can play the part of any one of the characters at any time. If you want, you can play one character all the way and finished the game, then go back and play it from one of the other character's points of view. Or you could take the part of Donna until you got stuck, then switch to Doug Nuts and take him as far as you can go, and so on.


Straight away you feel you're in for a treat

Whatever character you're playing you cover similar territory to the others, but also find parts of the game that you wouldn't come across, and you bump into the other characters at various points too. Even choosing your character is fun, involving one of those Cosmopolitan-style quizzes to decide who you most relate to.

The system is a great idea, and I must say it hangs together extremely well in practice. It's also a very effective way of getting away from the inevitable linear quality of most graphic adventures. Hurrah for that, then. Of course the idea wouldn't be worth much if there wasn't a good game to hang it on, and happily this is most certainly the case with Nippon Safes Inc. There's a cartoon-like feel to it, with vibrant characters and intriguing situations aplenty.

There's also a good deal of humour, which is important in an adventure of this sort. Monkey Island is packed with chuckles and guffaws. Curse Of Enchantia didn't have quite enough laughs, but this one, while not ever having you rolling on the floor, has an overall ambiance of light humour which makes it always fun to play.

There's even a joke at the expense of itself and Monkey Island, when two dodgy characters in the Hot Sushi bar announce they're writing a video game called the "Mystery of Ape Island", to which Doug Nuts replies, "But that's already been done, hasn't it?" (Ho ho. - Nobody at all)

A common problem with games of this kind is the level of difficulty. It's very hard to pitch the puzzles right in adventure games, and create the fine balance between intriguing brainstormers and irritating toughness. Again, I think Nippon Safes has got the balance just right here.

There are parts which will have you baffled for a long while, no doubt, but nothing so unfathomable that it makes you want to give up. Also, you've always got the option of going to one of the other characters, remember, and sometimes their exploits can give pointers on how to make more progress with the others.

As you might have noticed, there's not a lot to complain about with this game. Its only problem is a common adventure game gripe - too much disk swapping. It comes on five disks, and is hard disk installable, but if you haven't got a HD there are times when it's going to wind you up, especially if you've only got one drive.

The only thing I haven't mentioned is its size, and yes it's big. Very big. It's certainly going to take you a while to finish, and although I'm ethically opposed to games being priced over £25, you do get your money's worth here. Yep, it's cool on all counts. There's nothing left to say then but, er, go out and buy it.


PEOPLE TO MEET, PZIZAS TO GO

Nippon Safes Inc
Dino Fagioli, an honest guy who unwittingly attracts trouble.

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Donna Fatale, a sleazy variety actress intent on achieving success.

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Doug Nuts, nerdy electronics genius and incompetent criminal.

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Geisha girl. She sells tea in her own shop, and may prove useful.

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Max. Hangs around the Hot Sushi bar. A source of information.

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Kos is Max's friend. He's in the middle of writing a video game.

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Mysterious stranger who is obviously essential to the plot.

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The coppers are always round the corner, so keep an eye out.

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Dead hard punk and anarchist, whose significance eludes me.

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A suicidal TV script writer who Dino Fagioli tries to rescue.

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A taxi driver and Sumo wrestling enthusiast. Really, it's true.

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Honest Chan, from whom you purchase essential items.



Nippon Safes Inc logo CU Amiga Screen Star

The Land of the Rising Sun gets a visit from our very own multiple personality, Tony Dillon.

As so many Japanese games filter their way into the European market via the console sector, it's interesting to find a game that provides a Westerner's view of the Orient, complete with overcrowded tube trams and more gadgets and squalor in a square mile than you'd find in one London borough! Of course, this isn't truly representative of our views, but playing up to stereotypes is always good for a laugh.

MAKING IT UP
The game is set in the fictional city of Tyoko, and centres around three ex convicts recently released from prison. The first, Donna Fatale, is a saucy night-club dancer who is repeatedly arrested due to one of her more risqué dances. Doug Nuts is a scientific genius with no looks and no personality - he's arrested for blowing open a vault only to find it full of police.

Finally, there's Dino Fagioli, a mountain of a man with all the strength and brains of your average JCB digger. Gullible in the extreme, his only crime was to help a man open a car door - which didn't belong to him! When the police arrived at the scene, the man was nowhere to be seen and poor Dino was left holding the baby!

You can choose to play any of these characters, or all three if you so desire. Each has a part to play in the overall story, but that doesn't mean you need to control them all. If you like, you can just play one of the characters, meeting the others at the appropriate moments, but that takes all the ingenuity out of it.

The most interesting thing about this system, called Parallaction, is that all three stones follow different paths, crossing rarely but always relevant to each other. Dino, for example, starts his freedom with a job in the Museum, whereas Donna will go back to the club where she was arrested and look for her old friends. Before too long, though, all three get caught up in the same plot and the game proper begins.

SIMPLICITY ITSELF
Looking at the screenshots, you've probably guessed that this is a graphic adventure, although a lot simpler than most. There are no icon clutter up the screen to make a character over it, and no information panels permanently displayed. All commands are issued by the mouse, either by clicking on an area of the screen to make a character walk over to it, or by clicking the right mouse button to bring up the control panel.

The first time I saw the control panel, I had a few doubts. There are only four control icons - open/close, examine, take and talk. Alongside them are any items you migt carrying, but that's it. Obviously you'll think something along the lines of 'Oh, there aren't many actions you can do, the game must be really easy'. Not at all. The nice thing about this game is the large sequence of actions required to solve a puzzle, rather than one particular action from a list of dozens.

You'll note that there are only real object manipulation icons - open and take. That's because the rest of the game is fairly intelligent. If you highlight a goldfish and then drag it over a fishtank, it knows that you aren't trying to unlock the fishtank the same way, the game won't let you perform actions that have nothing to do with the game. It might be funny feed the goldfish to a cat, but try it and the game won't register anything. Why waste time?

PUZZLING
The backbone of any adventure game, though, is the puzzle element. It the puzzles are too easy, it spoils the game. If they are too illogical, the game becomes frustrating. With so few manipulation icons, the bulk of the puzzles in Nippon Safes are based around picking objects up and using them in different locations. Once an object is collected, you can't put it down until it's served its logical function, so it's best to collect everything you can.

As each character works through their story, they will occasionally bump into the other two. This lets you connect the three games together. For instance, at one stage Donna has to learn to make tea. She goes to a tea shop to ask for instructions, and while outside notices a poster offering a huge cash prize in a wrestling tournament. She bumps into Dino and persuades him to go in for it.

It you play as Dino, you are walking through the market square when you bump into Donna and she convinces you to enter the tournament. The fun part of playing all three is seeing each scene from the various viewpoints.

The game is very funny, right from the start. Most of the humour comes from the conversations the characters have with other people and themselves. Dino's naive insights into life, the universe and everything are amazing, and the smart Alec answers you'll receive from Doug Nuts every time you try something stupid have to be seen!

Nippon Safes isn't the most original graphic adventure, nor is it the most challenging. It is a playable and entertaining game however, and if you're looking for something to while away a week or two, you could certainly do a lot worse.


BIONIC BABIES

This game paints a very strange picture of Japan, based purely of age-old stereo- types, but who's to say that the real thing isn't far stranger? For example, leading Japanese computer magazine Log-In - the managing director of which is a man called Zool - carries all sorts of informative features such as how to make your Apple Macintosh look like cartoon cat Garfield! Weirdest of all are the results of a recent survey carried out among Japanese schoolchildren, which showed that almost a third would like to lose their limbs and have them replaced with bionic equivalents! Still, as imported technology gets cheaper by the day, we can be sure it won't cost six million dollars!