It was just another day in the office. The sun was hot as it streamed in through the venetian blind, making zebra stripes on the desk. The whole city felt as if it was embalmed and I felt myself drifting off into an uneasy sleep. Suddenly I was awakened by the telephone ringing. It was a foxy dame called Lana. She wanted me to meet her on the top of the Hotel Royal. Said she had something important to tell me. Frankly the whole thing stank but doesn't everything in this line of work? I took my hat and coat and set off into those mean streets on the case of the Bali Budgie.
Microsphere, the people that brought you Skool Daze and Back To Skool has moved to the world of Raymond Chandler for its latest inspiration.
In the game Sam has to solve a case. By following clues and riddles along the way in true detective fashion he has to try and piece together the facts and solve the mystery. However, snipers and inevitable gangland heavies are out in force to get him. Unconcerned passers-by go about their day to day business as bullets whizz around from the hidden guns.
There are various ways in which Sam can fail in his mission such as running out of money or getting chucked off a very tall building by the Mafia. The Mafia may be fairly easy to avoid, but everything in this game coasts money, even walking around. The money acts as your energy level. Sam starts the game with 50 dollars in his pocket but funds can be topped up by somersaulting onto stray dollar bills which occasionally float along the sidewalks.
If Sam gets shot by a sniper, then Sam has to use a first aid kit. Eight of these are supplied at the beginning of the game and once they're gone then Sam will have to go to the hospital and the case will be over. He never actually gets fatally wounded enough to die, even when he goes flying off the top of a building on the end of a Mafiosa boot!
Buildings can be visited and actually walked around inside by Sam. The action inside the building is viewed through the windows blinds can be pulled down and lights switched on and off. If Sam is near a phone then the phone icon lights up on the table at the bottom of the main screen and he can make a call. He only has one phone number at the beginning of the game and phoning his office might provide him with some useful clues. Extra phone numbers can be collected by following up clues along the way.
If Sam gets framed during the game then the police will come along and arrest him. Like all good private detectives Sam carries a large array of disguises with him and if the police are hot on his trail then he can change into one of these at the press of a button. If the police get wise to one of these disguises then the disguise icon will light up at the bottom of the screen at which point he'd better think of something else to do. If he does get arrested the the police are usually satisfied with his claims of innocence and release him on bail.
Points are scored for the amount of time Sam manages to stay on the case. As his money icon goes down so his experience points go up. Useful clues and messages are scrolled along the table at the bottom of the screen and these will help Sam along the way if he gets stuck.
Control keys: Q up, A down, O left, P right, B pull/draw blind, D change disguise, F use, G pickup object, I information, K knock, L use key at door, L switch on/off light, R forward roll, S aerial somersault, T use telephone, H hang up phone
Joystick: Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: Responsive: unusual to begin with, but easy to get the hang of
Use of colour: easy on the eye
Graphics: lovely detail
Sound: spot effects
Skill levels: one
Screens: twenty or so in a large scrolling playing area
'Just when I thought The Great Escape was about as far as the arcade adventure could go, this comes along. More plot, better graphics, more atmosphere, more humour, in just about every department this game takes the biscuit as far as I'm concerned. The Chandleresque flavour is just about perfect, best played in a trilby with a packet of lucky strike and a glass of bourbon by your side, this is the next best thing to being Bogart. There are a heck of a lot of keys, and a keyboard overlay or an icon system might have been a big help. what I want to know is how Microsphere can follow this.'
'About once a year Microsphere bring out a game, but when they do appear, they are something to look forward to. Contact Sam Cruise is graphically in the Skool Daze style, but the atmosphere is very eerie and gangster-like. As soon as Sam Cruise's first messages appeared on the screen, I was sure that something good was coming up. The graphics are superb and the most realistic 3D effects in any of the Microsphere games - there is also lots of colour, well laid out and not too hard on the eyes. Aspiring detectives will love Sam Cruise, and I'm sure it will be a hit.'
'This game is fun to play: there's so much to it! The gameplay is very good. Contrast is excellent, keeping you occupied is an understatement. Graphics are admirable; lots of colour has been used well, and the Skool Daze type characters are neat. Loads of things like the lights and the disguises have been put together with brilliant attention to detail. I think MICROSPHERE really have got something here.'
This ain't a nice neighbourhood. Even the 'roaches go around in pairs. Sure, there's the 87th Street precinct headquarters down the street. But the cops don't like my kind any better than the two-bit gangsters living on this block. My kind is a detective, Sam Cruise is the name. You can read it any day of the week on the door of my third-floor office.
I'm working on a case right now. The case of the Bali Budgie. It all began with a phone call... the best ones always do. A classy dame, Lana, asked me to meet her at the fifth floor of the Hotel Royale on the next block. She sounded sweet, like syrup.
When I got there, the bird had flown, but I wasn't alone. The body on the floor was crumpled in a way that only means one thing. The envelope in the corner contained the $100 Lana had promised me, but even the phone ringing on the desk didn't drown out the noise of the cops in the lobby of the hotel. It was a set-up, and I was the bait.
The voice growled its message and then hung up. It was probably meant for the poor sap on the floor, but to me it was the only clue I had in this case, and the only piece of hard evidence I had to work on if I was to prove my innocence. A private investigator's licence ain't easy to get in this town. The only way out of a jam like this is to put on a disguise, fuse the lights and get back to the office...
Such is the daily routine of a private investigator, Sam Cruise... the athletic hero from Microsphere's Contact Sam Cruise. I say athletic, because despite the sort of 'cool' we've come to expect from these 'Bogey-type' investigators, Cruise spends most of his time on the mean and moody streets performing aerial somersaults and forward rolls. Dodging sniper's bullets is one reason for these acts of physical fitness, but he's also trying to trap the passing banknotes from a recent bank job to supplement his income.
But it's not only the gangsters you have to watch, it's the cops too. Entering the buildings illegally - that is, without a key - is quickly picked up by the police and the only way out is to don a quick disguise. Of the eight disguises Sam can choose from, only those in blue can fool the police - but you have to watch out as his disguise can slip anytime, especially when there are cops around.
Sam can pick up various clues to help his investigation. Phoning up his office gets Daisy, his secretary, keeping him up to date with his messages. Clues are liberally spread all over the neighbourhood, and Sam picks these up simply by walking over them. There's also a whole lot of cash up for grabs - it's just a case of finding it...
Cruise has ten lives -displayed as the ten first aid kits required to patch him up when he gets shot up by a passing mobster.
Icons, so trendy these days, are an essential part of the game. Doors, fuses, light switches and phones all flash up on-screen when Cruise passes them, and then it's just a matter of finding the appropriate key to use them.
Contact Sam Cruise is a strange game... unless, of course, you've experience of the Skool series of games. When you start off, keeping Cruise alive is the biggest problem but that soon passes once you've got enough dollars in your pocket to get yourself out of jail on bail and pay off the petty thieves that hang out on your block. All you've got to do then is try and make some sense out the weird and wonderful clues that come your way... it may not be the Maltese Falcon you're looking for, but the Bali Budgie's just as difficult to find.
The graphics do get a bit difficult to sort out sometimes - especially when you've got dollar bills, passers-by and cops all vying for the same spot on-screen - but if you're looking for a bit of private eyeing, take my advice kid, and contact Sam Cruise.
This is a viewed side-on arcade adventure with a humourous feel. You play, obviously, Sam Cruise, and at the start of play receive a telephone call asking you to meet a woman in a hotel. You move Sam around using up, down, left, right controls, which enable him to walk the street, enter doors, climb stairs etc. Your view is always that of outside the street - when Sam enters a building he disappears from view, and you can only see him as he passes windows. Icons at the bottom of the screen will tell you what objects are in your immediate vicinity, and you can inter-react by pressing various keys on the keybaord.
This is quite an absorbing, atmospheric little game which is nice to look at - and pretty hard too.
Rerelease/Original score 9
Sam is da strangest detective. He speaks like Bugs Bunny, does somersaults to earn his dough and regularly gets hurled off the tops of buildings by agents of the Fat Man.
It's all part of the action in The Case of The Bali Budgie part of Contact Sam Cruise, Microsphere's long-awaited Skool Daze follow-up.
Budgies sing, so Sam's not surprised when he gets a message from a dame willing to spill her guts about the case on the top floor of the Hotel Royale.
He checks his antiquated detective's kit and prepares to leave the office, located on the second floor of a super-seedy tenement block. OK, so it's the 1930's and not so antique, but there are no laser scanners or fingerprint kits in this game.
Before he leaves Sam has to don one of his eight disguises because there's a contract out on him. There's a chef's costume, a postman, bar-room flossy and an old man. Some of them, the ones displayed in red, are known to the police, whereas the blue ones are unknown to villains and cops alike.
Sam needs the disguise because as soon as he steps outside his door, as himself, he'll be gunned down.
As he moves from one window to another, down and across the building, you'll detect that the playing area is one vast scrolling view of city streets and buildings. You may not be able to see Sam going downstairs but he is. believe me.
When Sam hits the street, turning left on his way to the hotel, he finds gun men hiding in doorways and alleys, policemen on the beat and money drifting along da pavements.
Sam catches da dough by doing handstands and snatching it up in his teeth (seems reasonable enough). It's vital that he perfect his technique as his money dwindles during the case and if he goes broke that's the end! Somersaults are also useful when dodging the hit men. The bullets may hit our hero but, because he's looping the loop in the air, their effects are minimal.
The technicolour 'tec - yes there is some colour clash - goes into the lobby of the Hotel Royale and slowly, very slowly, up to the top floor. He passes janitors and guests and janitors, all going about their everyday business - but any one of them could be a murderer!
Sam discovers a body on da top floor. The phone rings and a greasy voice slips into Sam's ear. The Fat Man's left the key to Number 19 at Number 31. As well as receiving strange calls in the middle of murder scenes, Sam can also make them. To kick off with the only number he knows is his own, but he'll collect others as the case continues.
He won't be making any now, however, as the police have arrived to arrest him for murder. A slow trip down-town to the police station, an interminable wait for bail.
Now try to get Sam into house Number 31 where the key to mysterious Number 19 is. He knocks on the door. If it opens he knows he's got the key. If it doesn't he could break- in and risk getting arrested yet again - da police don't like Sam.
Once inside Number 31 Sam's on his guard. The villains are there and, if they grab the arm of his trenchcoat, they'll drag him on to the roof where it's a three-storey free fall to the technicolour spread on the pavement. If he's lucky he'll end up with a hangover and an empty wallet, while fun lovin' Daisy - his long-suffering secretary - goes off with the James' Gang.
Most of The Case of The Bali Budgie comprises getting arrested, being released, doing somersaults, being thrown off tall tenements and changing into ridiculous disguises. It's supposed to be a satirical look at the stereotype of an early '30s gumshoe, right down to the cliched language and situations. Some of it is funny. Some of it isn't.
The city plan is large, but by no means massive, and because the whole screen scrolls, the action is slow.
That's not to say that Sam Cruise is a bad game. It takes ingenuity to play and has the hallmarks of an excellent strategy/adventure.
It is not, though a fast arcade bash. There's little action but lots of thought.
Author: David Reidy
Reviewer: John Gilbert
It was raining. The neon light outside IDEAS Central flickered fitfully. Big Red was snoring soundly in the office next to mine. I walked to the window and pulled down the blind, shutting out the windswept world outside.
I sat back at my desk and pulled out the Sam Cruise file. Poor old Sam. Once a top IDEAS man - now reduced to scratching a living as a private-eye in some sleazy downtown area. I'd been thinking about Sam because his name had featured in headlines about the infamous case of the Blue Budgie.
That woman he tangled with. Lana, her name was. What a nasty piece of work she turned out to be. And after he solved the case, Sam vanished into thin air. Some say he's writing his memoirs with the help of a case of the best bourbon. Others reckon he's been kidnapped by the Spectrum gang and put to work inside the computer network.
Something else made me think about Sam. It was the tape that arrived a few hours earlier. A computer tape that seemed to tell Sam's story up to the end of the Blue Budgie case. Perhaps this held some clues.
The first thing I picked up was that Sam seemed to have developed some strange personal habits. Like doing somersaults onto dollar bills that were blowing along the city streets! I was surprised that the cops on the beat didn't pick him up for this odd behaviour.
It must have just been Sam's way of picking up cash he really needed without making it to obvious what he was doing! Never very subtle was our Sam.
Hit-men were after him. They hid down alleys and in stair wells to get in a shot at him. Most of the time he was quick enough to jump out of the way. But sometimes even Sam wasn't fast enough to dodge a stream of lead from a Chicago piano! Luckily he always carried first aid kits with him.
He often seemed to get on the wrong side of gangsters and the cops. Ending up in the slammer if the boys in blue got their hot little hands on his collar. Which was a lot better than being thrown from the top storey of a tenement block by some heavy hood!
Luckily he never got hurt badly - but his friends got fed up paying to get him out of jail. Cost a lot of dough to do that. Dough that Sam just didn't have. Maybe he's still behind bars somewhere. Hadn't thought of that...
The tape shows that Sam was a master of disguise - he chopped and changed, sometimes even getting himself up as a nun!
His disguise often fooled people. But then again it often let him down at crucial moments. He forgot the cops had sussed some of them!
He spent a lot of time answering the phone and switching lights on and off in the buildings he explored on his quest for clues to the Blue Budgie case.
People on the other end of phones often gave him useful info. Turning lights off covered his getaway from places where he wasn't wanted. Blowing fuses was another of his favourite tricks.
The tape shows that Sam had some ideas about the case - but he really started having to think on his feet after he discovered the body in the hotel where Lana had asked him to meet her. Some crooked dame that one.
He was also having real money problems and Daisy his long suffering assistant was threatening to run off with the violin case maker if she didn't see any cash soon. Even the rats were getting bored with Sam's attempts to teach them to ice-skate.
Something very crooked was going on in the district where Sam had his office. Odd people on the streets, mysterious shadows behind blinds in to floor windows, suspicious cops patrolling the streets.
Sam was onto something. That's probably why he disappeared. Someone wanted him out the way. But why?
One thing was for sure this would make a brilliant computer game. Maybe I should talk to the guys down at Microsphere about it...
All information in this page is provided by ZXSR instead of ZXDB