Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time
|Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time|
The cover for the game from 1997 to 1999
|Publisher(s)||Brøderbund Software (1997 - 1999)
The Learning Company (1999 - present)
Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time (previously Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?) is a 1997 rebooted version of the 1989 game Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. The game was strongly influenced by the short-lived PBS Kids game show of the same name. It was published by Brøderbund, which previewed the game at the 1997 Toy Fair in New York City. After Brøderbund was sold to The Learning Company in 1999, the game was re-released with a minimal redesign (including being renamed to its current title) on June 1 of that year. The game is recommended for ages 9 and up.
The game's narrative involves master thief Carmen Sandiego, who has used a time machine called the Chronoskimmer to plant her associates at key historical events, aiming to influence history by stopping these events from occurring. The objective of the game is to track down Carmen Sandiego and her henchmen by jumping through time tunnels that link historical periods together, and correct the course of history. The player visits well-known historical events, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Lewis and Clark's expedition to the Pacific Northwest, and meets historical figures including Queen Hatshepsut, William the Conqueror, and Yuri Gagarin. In each segment, or case, the player must work out which items have been stolen and solve historical puzzles to stop Carmen's villains. By the end of case 18, they will have the tools to chase and capture Carmen in the final case.
The game received an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics. Lynne Thigpen, who reprises her role as The Chief from the PBS television series, was described as having a "winning...on-screen presence" by David Colker of the Los Angeles Times. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described "Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time" as "entertaining, challenging for their target age groups .. and lively without getting a case of the cutes". Debbie Maria Leon of the New Straits Times wrote that "the urgency of the [confident Chief's] voice [gives] enough oomph to make [the player] go scurrying to restore history". She said that "there's so much to learn in this...fun, upbeat edutainment title" and that "each case is unique and challenging and offers a wealth of knowledge".
- 1 History
- 2 Characters and cast
- 3 Gameplay
- 4 Synopsis
- 4.1 Case 1: 1490 BCE - Ancient Egypt
- 4.2 Case 2: 50 BCE - Ancient Rome
- 4.3 Case 3: 1002 - The Vikings
- 4.4 Case 4: 1015 - Japan
- 4.5 Case 5: 1086 - Feudal England
- 4.6 Case 6: 1271 - Marco Polo
- 4.7 Case 7: 1324 - Ancient Mali
- 4.8 Case 8: 1454 - First Printing Press
- 4.9 Case 9: 1460 - Inca Empire
- 4.10 Case 10: 1493 - Voyage of Columbus
- 4.11 Case 11: 1505 - Renaissance Italy
- 4.12 Case 12: 1519 - Aztec Empire
- 4.13 Case 13: 1599 - William Shakespeare
- 4.14 Case 14: 1776 - Colonial America
- 4.15 Case 15: 1805 - Lewis and Clark
- 4.16 Case 16: 1808 - Beethoven's Fifth
- 4.17 Case 17: 1879 - Thomas Edison
- 4.18 Case 18: 1961 - First Human In Space
- 4.19 Case 19: Present Day - The Carmen Chase
- 5 Critical reception
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The game was released on two CD-ROMs, though a later re-release had only one CD-ROM, and was supplied with a 36-page instruction manual.
Brøderbund Software’s marketing strategy aimed at a target demographic: "young parents who have a computer at home and want their kids to learn while playing". To do this, it created edutainment titles with "entertaining graphics and sound", beta-tested them with kids to ensure they were easy to use, and had deals with retailers like Best Buy and Babbages. Marketing’s Role within the Firm or Nonprofit Organization explains, "retailers are happy to give new Brøderbund products shelf space because they kn[e]w that Brøderbund’s promotion will help bring customers into the store". In the case of Great Chase Through Time, Brøderbund "not only placed ads in family-oriented computer magazines but also sent direct-mail flyers to its registered customers". Due to brand loyalty, Carmen Sandiego games were able to be sold for more money that other software - "cater[ing] to their needs and offers good customer value".
Characters and cast
The only live-action role in the game was that of The Chief; played by Lynne Thigpen; all other roles were performed as voice-overs. Although most of the voice actors in the game only play one role, some played multiple roles in different cases. For example, Charles Martinet plays both William Shakespeare and Ludwig van Beethoven. Jarion Monroe plays a mixture of both historical and fictional characters: Ivor, Kublai Kahn, Huang the Merchant, Richard Burbage, and Yuri Gagarin. While the voice actors playing Carmen Sandiego and most of her crooks are not credited, Francine Scott is credited as playing "Villians".
The game distinguishes between historical and fictional characters with a rollover test that is displayed when the cursor is placed over a character. With a few exceptions (for example ACME agents, V.I.L.E villains, and the peasants in Case 5) characters who have both a first and last name are genuine historical figures, while characters with only a first name or a descriptive title are fictional. Likewise, some of the real historical figures like Queen Elizabeth I and Montezuma are referred to by only their first names.
When the game begins, the player signs into the ACME roster to begin the game, continue with a saved one, or create a customized game by selecting one or more cases. The game's opening credits finds Carmen breaks into ACME Headquarters in San Francisco, where she unlocks and steals a device called the ACME Chronoskimmer. Carmen later explains to her henchmen that the Chronoskimmer allows them to travel through time and steal historical treasures. Each crook must travel to a different time and place to steal an object and Carmen gives them a note to tell them where to hide before she will pick them up.
Meanwhile, the Chief greets the player and explains what was stolen, why it is important, and what will happen if Carmen and her henchmen succeeds. The Chief explains to the player that he/she can immediately stop Carmen by going through Time Tunnels, which are passages through time and space left behind the Chronoskimmer whenever it jumps through time. After the player enters the Time Tunnel, that is the only way he/she can communicate with the Chief. Once the player have entered his/her cases, he/she cannot communicate with the Chief as she has not yet been born before 1948. However, the Chief sends the player one of the five Good Guides, characters who are knowledgeable of the culture of each case's historical period, to help the player if he/she is getting stuck. Each guide has a particular area of historical expertise, such as antiquities, exploration or inventions. The five Good Guides are: Ann Tickwittee, Ivan Idea, Rock Solid, Renee Santz, and Polly Tix; each offers assistance when the player asks the questions presented at the bottom of the screen. At the end of each case, the player and the Good Guide return to the Time Tunnel, where the Chief tells the player how they have set history back on track and briefs the player for the next case. The player begins the game with the rank of Time Pilot, but is promoted by the Chief as the game progresses, advancing to Time Scout, Time Trooper, Time Detective, Time Inspector, and by the end of the game, the player achieves the rank of Time Sleuth and has a chance to capture Carmen.
The game is a point-and-click adventure with a changeable cursor, drop down menus and on-screen icons. Players must identify on-screen "hot spots" in order to find items that will help their progress. In each case, the player must investigate clues to help a historical figure solve a problem, recover a stolen treasure, and capture a thief. The Good Guides are available to help the player to complete each challenge. The player also has access to the ACME Agent handbook supplied with the game, which contains hints and suggestions for solving the puzzles. Each case involves a four-step process of identifying the theft, solving the problem, collecting the Carmen notes and arresting the thief.
Players must talk to all the characters in each time period and ask them a series of questions, and then ask further questions via rollover text if necessary. Historical characters responses guide the player towards that period's task. For example, Queen Elizabeth asks users to help complete an unfinished theater. The player must memorize lines of verse from Shakespeare's plays and match them to the banners plastered across the holes in the wall.
Items must be collected and moved round the screen or placed in the inventory box to complete cases. Characters will either offer the player objects, or the player must seek out items that can be taken. Collectible items can be kept for later use by dragging the object into the Inventory box. Players must also look for scraps of the Carmen Notes, which describe where each thief will hide. These notes have each been torn into three pieces to make the more difficult to find. The player must click on the scraps of paper to assemble them into a whole note. Once all the pieces of the Carmen note are found, the player can decode Carmen's message and deduce her location. Using the Time Cuffs on the relevant object reveals the thief, which the Good Guide then arrests. After twice capturing each crook (with one exception), the player pursues Carmen herself.
The player can access The Chronopedia, a historical guide that provides information about each time period and its important people, places, maps and events. Each Good Guide carries a section of the Chronopedia, and gives the player the relevant chapter upon arrival in each time period. All the text within the Chronopedia was reviewed and approved by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. The information may be used to decipher Carmen's notes.
The gameplay alters dramatically once the player retrieves the Chronoskimmer at the end of Case 18, thereby returning the narrative to the present. Instead of staying within the same time period for the duration of the case, the player now follows clues at each location to work out where to go next. This is a return to the 1989 version mechanic. The player now has the ability to travel to any period in history whenever they like. Carmen may only travel to time periods that she has already visited, and therefore the game restricts the player to the time periods of the previous cases. Parts of the screen previously occupied by Carmen's notes and in-game collectible items are replaced with the Chronoskimmer slider and the travel button. Throughout this case, the player receives help from all five ACME Good Guides. Originally, players could visit a themed website to get more information about the cultures visited in the game. The site, along with the other Carmen Sandiego pages created by Broderbund Software and maintained by The Learning Company after the 1999 purchase, were shut down in 2005.
The game is divided into 19 chapters, or cases, all of which the player must complete to win the game. The ACME Authors' Notes in the ACME Agent Handbook explains that while efforts were made to convey historically accurate scenarios, they could only do so based on the available evidence. As the game was "carefully constructed to be fun and factual", in some cases the historical accuracy was sidestepped in favor of ease of gameplay. Instead of using subtitles, and for the sake of simplicity, every character speaks English, even in time periods or locations where English was unknown or was not the local language.
Case 1: 1490 BCE - Ancient Egypt
Queen Hatshepsut's husband, Thutmose II, has recently died. However, Hatshepsut cannot bury Thutmose because the Book of the Dead, necessary to guide him safely to the next world, has been stolen. The player and Ann must help the head priest to mummify Thutmose's body. After Thutmose's body is mummified, the player and Ann find Sir Vile hiding behind a piece of the wall depicting Amun Re and arrest him.
The mummy-making puzzle is a simplified version of a long and complex process. While Hatshepsut refers to herself in the game as a pharaoh, she did not gain this title until Thutmose II's mummification was completed. There is no evidence that Hatshepsut wore a false beard, she is often depicted wearing one in statues and hieroglyphs and the game's designers decided to include this "intriguing, if debatable, element". While the designers included hieroglyphs depicting the mummy-making process on the tomb wall, there is no evidence that this actually happened. The Egyptian expedition to Punt mentioned in the game, considered the world first oceanographic mission did not actually occur until Hatshepsut has been pharaoh for a while. The funerary temple of Hatshepsut at Dary al-Bahri was not built until after she died.
Case 2: 50 BCE - Ancient Rome
Julius Caesar informs the player and Ivan that a thief has stolen the entire city block that houses the Roman Forum and later damaged the city's complex sewer system while attempting to escape. The player and Ivan must help a Roman plumber to pump clean water to the public bath and fountain, while channeling the dirty, waste-filled water away from the latrine by correctly arranging the pipes. After fixing it, the player and Ivan find Dr. Belljar hiding behind a horned column and arrest him.
As opposed to what was shown in the opening scene of the case (where a building has Doric, Tuscan, Corinthian, and Ionic columns), a Roman architect would most likely not have built a building featured four different types of classical columns. The latrines and bathhouses depicted in the game as being suitable for one person to make the results of poorly placed sewer pipes more visible, these were actually communal facilities. While the bather wears a beard, most Roman elite went clean-shaven, which was considered more civilized.
Case 3: 1002 - The Vikings
Leif Eriksson tells the player and Rock that a thief has stolen his knorr ship and without it, he and his Viking crew members will be stranded in Vinland forever. Leif asks the player and Rock to summon all of his crew members to the shore for an assembly, or Thing, to decide whether they should recover their ship or settle Vinland. The player and Rock must help all of Leif's crew members to do tasks before they can recover the ship. After recovering the ship, the player and Rock find Baron Grinnit hiding on the Knorr Ship and arrest him.
While most historians support the notion that he landed at Vinland in modern Newfoundland, the issue of Leif Eriksson's landing spot is disputed. According to historical evidence, 30-35 men accompanied Leif on his voyage, and a crew of 20-40 was required to sail a knorr ship. In the game, Leif's crew consists of 3 members because otherwise the debate would have become crowded. Only 5 people are required to sail the ship: the three crew members, Leif, and Rock. Some sources claim that Leif named the region Vinland as wild grapes growing on vines were abundant there, but others say the fruit was actually blackberries. A "Thing" is a Norse tradition, but it is very unlikely Leif would have held a democratic debate in Vinland. This was included to provide enjoyable gameplay.
Case 4: 1015 - Japan
In Heian era Japan, the first chapter of Murasaki Shikibu's novel The Tale of Genji has been stolen and Murasaki can no longer see the moon and her inspiration in her mirror. The player must gain access to the nearby season-themed rooms by dressing Renee in the correct seasonal kimonos. Once inside all of the four rooms, the player and Renee must adjust mirrors so that the moonlight reflects all the way back to Murasaki's room. Once Murasaki can write again, the player and Renee find Medeva hiding in a drawer and arrest her.
While the poems Murasaki reads convey real factual information about the symbolism of the seasons in Japanese culture, they are not authentic and were written for the game. While it is unlikely that seasonal rooms containing mirrors existed in Heian-era Japan, there is a real legend that the reflection of the moon in Murasaki's mirror inspired her to write.
Case 5: 1086 - Feudal England
King William the Conqueror's Domesday Book has been stolen. Believing it to be a sign of weakness, the Saxons have begun to attack William's castle. The player and Polly must go through a secret passageway and retrieve bread, swords, and arrows for William's soldiers. Afterwards, the player and Polly find General Mayhem hiding in the Bayeux Tapestry and arrest him after he was attacked by William's dancing bear.
Contrary to the final scene of this case, the Bayeux Tapestry was hung in Bayeux Cathedral, not one of William's castles. While the Baron duPont and Lord Maynard are fictional characters, their roles were parts of the feudal political system, a simplified version of which was presented in the game. The siege that takes place throughout the case is not historically accurate. The premise is that a weakness was seen in William's leadership due to the Domesday Book theft and a rebellion began to overthrow him. In actuality, by 1086, William had subdued all Saxon rebellions against his rule.
Case 6: 1271 - Marco Polo
Marco Polo, his father, and uncle have fallen victim to a thief on the Silk Road. The thief has stolen the oils they were going to trade with, and they are returning to Italy empty-handed. The player and Rock must travel through Mongol China, buy and sell on the Silk Road, and cross the desert to find a caravan and the thief. After finding them, the player and Rock find Jacqueline Hyde hiding in a coal mine near a Siberian tiger and arrest her.
The age of Marco Polo is depicted inaccurately in the case. While he was 17 when he left Italy with his father, he would have been about 21 when he met Kublai Kahn. While the intended meeting place in the game is outside Kublai's winter home at Khanbalik, in reality they met in Kublai's summer home, Shang-tu.
Case 7: 1324 - Ancient Mali
A thief has taken Mansa Musa's supply of salt, and Musa cannot cross the Sahara Desert on his Hajj to Mecca without it. Salt is necessary for survival in the desert; it replaces that lost in sweat. In Timbuktu, the player and Ann must trade slabs of gold for a block of salt for Musa. Once that was done, the player and Ann find Buggs Zapper hiding under the lead camel and arrest him.
Scales, such as those depicted in the case, did not exist in 1324. It is unknown whether scales were used in the Mali Empire, but in 14th century West Africa, salt was literally worth its weight in gold.
Case 8: 1454 - First Printing Press
In Germany, a thief has stolen Johannes Gutenberg's bible, which was the first printed book in Europe. The player and Ivan must help Gutenberg make a new batch of ink and later compose a sign to warn the townspeople of the thief. After composing it, the player and Ivan find Jane Reaction hiding in a lead cup and arrest her.
While the game depicts Gutenburg making posters, in reality he mainly used his printing press was print copies of his bible. The type for Gutenburg's printing press, built in Mainz, Germany, would have been in Latin rather than English.
Case 9: 1460 - Inca Empire
Carmen returns to ACME Headquarters and uses the Chronoskimmer to release all of her eight captured minions from their jail cell, which cause the player to go after them once again. This time, the cell is reinforced with "laser bars" to prevent another jailbreak. In the Inca Empire, Patchacuti Yupanqui informs the player and Ann that all of the quipus, a way of storing records, have been stolen. The player and Ann must help the head quipucamayoc record the number of supplies in the storerooms. After recording it, the player and Ann find Jane Reaction hiding in a sack of silver placed on a llama and arrest her.
At the time of the Incan Empire, the term "Inca" referred the head of the society, not the civilization itself. The counting frames depicted in the game are actually based on a drawing made by one of the original Spanish explorers in Inca lands. The picture lacks detail, and had the dots in groups of 1, 2, 3, and 5 which is counterintuitive. It is not know how the quipus were used, but the game's designers created a way it might work for the sake of gameplay.
Case 10: 1493 - Voyage of Columbus
Christoper Columbus is on his first voyage between Spain and the New World. Queen Isabella I worries that Columbus has been swallowed by the sea and informs the player and Rock to search for him. The player and Rock must navigate their way across the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and the Americas. After locating Columbus, he informs the player and Rock that a thief has stolen the charts he accidentally made on his voyage. Without the charts, Columbus' crew refuse to return to Europe. After giving Columbus another chart, the player, Rock, and Columbus must navigate their way back to Europe. Upon their return, the player and Rock find Dr. Belljar hiding behind a map of the world and arrest him.
As opposed to the game, where Columbus meets Queen Isabella, in real life he met with both Isabella and King Ferdinand in Santa Fe, which is inland, not a coastal city. The designers used a coastal location to encourage conversation about sailing and notions of a flat" world. It is very unlikely that the Queen would have been involved in mapmaking, and would instead have hired experts to do that for her. Columbus returned to Spain only with the Niña, as the Santa María had run aground and the Pinta was stolen. While in the game Dr. Belljar steals the ship, in reality it was an officer named Pinzon. One of the pieces of the Carmen note was placed in a bottle floating in the ocean because of a real event during the return trip to Europe; Columbus and his crew encountered fierce storms that threatened to sink the Nina. At one point, Columbus thought disaster was imminent, so he quickly wrote down a record of his 'China' discovery, placed it in a bottle and threw it overboard.
Case 11: 1505 - Renaissance Italy
Leonardo da Vinci informs the player and Renee that his notebooks have been stolen and because of his failure to stop the thief, Mona Lisa is angered and refuses to smile. The player and Renee must fix a broken jesting machine so that Mona will smile again, after which the player and Renee find Sir Vile hiding in a floor tile and arrest him.
Because of an error in the graphics made in this level, Mona is being painted backwards: she faces slightly to the right instead of slightly to the left. While in the case it is suggested that the Mona was painted using a female model, the true origins of the painting are unknown. The Jester machine was created for the game. There are some historical accounts that suggest Da Vinci used jesters to amuse his models, but there are no records of him building a mechanical jester.
Case 12: 1519 - Aztec Empire
Montezuma's royal headdress has been stolen. If Montezuma does not wear it and perform a ritual at the Fire Ceremony that evening, the sun will burn out. The player and Ann must make Montezuma a new headdress. Before the ceremony starts, the player and Ann find Buggs Zapper hiding underneath the table that an eagle is perched on and arrest him.
Case 13: 1599 - William Shakespeare
In Elizabethan England, Queen Elizabeth I commands the player and Renee to speed things up at the Globe Theater, where re-construction is moving too slowly for Her Majesty. Shakespeare tells the player and Renee that a thief has stolen his original scripts. Therefore, Shakespeare must rewrite the plays and help the actors re-learn their lines before their presentation will begin. The player and Renee must help Richard Burbage repair all five holes in the Globe's walls. After repairing it, the player and Renee find Medeva hiding in a cannon backstage and arrest her.
While it is true that the Globe Theater was disassembled and rebuilt on the other side of the River Thames, it is unlikely that they were marked with matching lines from Shakespeare's plays. Actors of the time stuck sections of a play backstage to help with memorization, which the game's designers extrapolated to create the wall puzzle.
Case 14: 1776 - Colonial America
Thomas Jefferson's final draft of the Declaration of Independence has been stolen. The player and Polly must retrieve a parchment from a young minuteman in Boston, so Jefferson can redraft the declaration. The player later head to Philadelphia to help Benjamin Franklin to put each of the paragraphs in the correct category. After the declaration was signed, the player and Polly find General Mayhem hiding in Jefferson's dumbwaiter and arrest him.
The case takes place on July 4, 1776, whereas the Boston Tea Party took place 3 years earlier in December 16, 1773, making it unlikely that the Minuteman would pull up a tea crate that had not sunk or been salvaged. Throughout the case, Jefferson wears a wig typically worn by members of the American Continental Congress. However, there is some evidence that Jefferson resisted wearing a wig. Benjamin Franklin had very little to do with the Declaration of Independence, which was mostly created by John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin was included by the game's designers in recognition of his other important contributions to early colonial America.
Case 15: 1805 - Lewis and Clark
Before Lewis and Clark begin their transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Northwest, they soon find out that their journals have been stolen and they cannot continue the expedition because their journals contain vital information about the unexplored land. The player and Rock must trade with Native Americans and find a safe passage to the Pacific Northwest, where they find Baron Grinnit hiding in a dugout canoe and arrest him.
While the sign language of the Plains and Rocky mountain regions used in the case is based on genuine signs, some were simplified to make them easier to identify. While in the case, Sacajawea gives the player helpful advice about the dangers of the expedition, her actual role was that of a translator, rather than a navigator. As a Shoshone woman, her pretense was a powerful symbol of the group's peaceful intentions when encountering potentially dangerous situations with the natives. The player encounters a fierce ram, but in actuality, mountain rams are fairly wary creatures that tend to avoid human beings. The Nez Perce tribe are seen rowing near the Pacific Ocean in the final scene of the case, but The Journals of Lewis and Clark state that the tribe actually lived in the Rocky Mountains.
Case 16: 1808 - Beethoven's Fifth
In Vienna, a thief has snatched Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth symphonies, just hours before their debut at the Vienna Symphony Hall that evening. The player and Renee must rehearse the openings with the orchestra while Beethoven quickly rewrites his symphonies. After their debut, the player and Renee find Jacqueline Hyde hiding in a sousaphone and arrest her.
The sousaphone was not invented until 1850, but it was only brought by Jacqueline Hyde as a disguise. The puzzle which involves Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies simplifies the works by using a short excerpt from the beginning of each piece. The Fifth lasts for around 30 minutes, and the Sixth lasts for 40.
Case 17: 1879 - Thomas Edison
In Menlo Park, New Jersey, Edison's first working light bulb has been stolen by a thief and Edison has no more cotton for the filament. The player and Ivan must use a phonograph to trick a grouchy cotton factory guard into giving Edison a spool of cotton thread. The player and Ivan find Dee Cryption hiding in a battery, but she ends up escaping into the backroom and places herself in a forcefield generator. The player and Ivan must replace the new light bulb and connect the wires, which turns the invention on and enabling them to arrest Dee.
Joe's Cotton Cornucopia is fictional. In the case, Edison is seen throwing away each glass light bulb after use. In reality, these bulbs were hand-blown and very expensive, so he would have replaced the filaments. Force fields do not exist. Edison was generally known by his middle name, Alva. The player must use the phonograph machine to record sounds through a glass window and from the guard, who is standing behind a door; in reality these sounds would have been difficult to record well.
Case 18: 1961 - First Human In Space
Carmen was last seen tampering with the Soviet Union's Vostok 1, which delays the launch. The player and Ivan must run a computer simulation in the correct order to restart the countdown and help Yuri Gagarin become the first human in space. After retrieving the Chronoskimmer from Gagarin's space capsule, the player possesses the ability to travel directly through time and capture Carmen.
The "Rocket Flight Simulator" machine is fictitious. In the 1960s, computer technology was primitive by current standards. The parts mentioned in the case were genuine parts of the Vostok rocket; for the sake of gameplay the designers focused on the most essential components. While Gagarin's cabin is depicted as spacious, in truth it was hardly big enough to fit a person inside.
Case 19: Present Day - The Carmen Chase
The player and all the five Good Guides must travel to all 18 time periods and ask some of the historical characters whether Carmen has been there. If Carmen has made an appearance, the character will give the player and each of the Good Guide a clue about her next destination. The game ends when Carmen, the player, and the Good Guides return to ACME Headquarters in the present day, where the player and the Good Guides successfully capture Carmen and later put her behind laser-bars. The Chief then informs the player that Carmen was previously an ACME detective, but she soon discovered that catching thieves was too easy for her, got bored, and turned evil. Carmen's ultimate plan was to steal her permanent record and erase her ACME history. In the final scene of the game, Carmen accuses the player of preventing her from erasing her ACME history and the player would not hold on to Carmen for long.
The Learning Village said the game allows children to use their initiative and encourages them to investigate and think. The player must carefully listen to the story, thereby exposing themselves to a variety of interesting historical events and periods. It found that some players focus on the sleuthing aspects of the game, while others become fascinated by the historical content. It said the investigative aspects of the game were "extremely well constructed, weaving together very cleverly the story telling, solving the challenge and uncovering the clues to find the thief", that the historical content was accurate and clearly written, and that the game "can be just as engaging for the parent to experience as for the child".
Robin Ray of The Boston Herald wrote that the 1999 version of the game "corrects the faults of the earlier version and adds a lot of great new features". He said that the game "manages to bring the educational features inside the game itself", prompting children to learn in order to solve the puzzles and complete the game, and that "the educational part is never heavy-handed or off-putting [and is] just part of the fun." The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel described "Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time" as "entertaining, challenging for their target age groups .. and lively without getting a case of the cutes".
A review by Lisa Karen Savignano of allgame.com said that "[t]he graphics here are really nice, if a bit goofy, and the voices don't always match up to the mouth movements, but both of those are truly forgettable when it comes to the overall game." Savignano wrote that the game is challenging but not particularly difficult, and that "some hints [and solutions to puzzles] are included with the manual [and] at the website", and gave the game an overall score of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Mitch Gitman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewed "Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time", together with "Math Detective and "Word Detective", and said "Time" was the "smartest creative move [out] of the three new products", and that "the production value, with cinematic music and quality animation" makes Time all the more deep, and describes it "[much more] ingenious and innovative" than either Word or Math.
Debbie Maria Leon of the New Straits Times wrote that "the urgency of the [confident Chief's] voice [gives] enough oomph to make [the player] go scurrying to restore history". She said that "there's so much to learn in this...fun, upbeat edutainment title" and that "each case is unique and challenging and offers a wealth of knowledge". She added that "the high level of interactivity makes [the game] very engaging" and advises players not to "rush through the game [as] the thrill is in exploring for clues and making sense of them". She concludes by saying "a myriad of clickable items are lurking in every scene, waiting to unleash just some more interesting and intriguing information".
ICT and Literacy said that "genuine historical clues are hidden in each screen and satisfaction comes from detective work, mixed with chases and talking to historical and fictional figures. It said that interaction is essential to playing the game, and skills such as problem-solving, deduction, research, decision-making, memorization, and hand-eye coordination must be used by the player. The in-game encyclopedia called the Chronopedia can "familiarize children with techniques necessary to use non-fiction CD-ROMs". Each of the 18 cases are designed to be a "discrete historical source for an area of learning". Finding the "baddie" and preventing the "historical disaster" is the reward for the player's efforts. ICT and Literacy explains that the series "mak[es] history accessible to a wide audience ICT and Literacy also said the game "fuses ﬁction with non-ﬁction in a sophisticated design." . The game was given an editor rating of 3 out of 5 stars at software.informer.
Great Chase Through Time was cited by Mary E. Hocks in her journal article Feminist interventions in electronic environments as an example of a Carmen Sandiego game which "included educational information in a gender-neutral way and portrayed strong, intelligent women characters".
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- Leon, Debbie Maria (April 26, 1999). "In hot pursuit of Carmen through time". New Straits Times. p. 56. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
- Colker, David (January 1, 1998). "2 'Carmen Sandiego' games are winners". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. p. 25. Retrieved October 28, 2012.
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