The release of Carmen Sandiego Returns for iPhone and iPad has me feeling nostalgic, so I dusted off the old Chronoskimmer for some time travel to an era filled with fond memories. Amazingly, the 325i still works! Please join me for a flashback…
CARMEN SANDIEGO, BADASS FEMALE CHARACTER
Working on many of the Carmen Sandiego games developed in the ’80s and ’90s, in roles spanning creation of art and animation to art directing and contributing to game design, I developed a fondness for the character of Carmen, founder and CEO of V.I.L.E. (Villians’ International League of Evil). Sure, she’s a criminal, but brilliant, stylish and not as vile as her corporate identity would indicate.
Carmen Sandiego’s Characteristics (from the 1999 Style Guide): Clever, cunning, crafty and mischievous; highly intelligent and worldly; values things money can’t buy. Even when things don’t go her way, Carmen Sandiego rarely loses her cool. Carmen Sandiego is at her best in a pinch. A paradoxically compassionate interior—may assist pursuers in distress, as she relishes an exceptionally challenging opponent! Carmen Sandiego is a jet-setter and adventurer. The world is her playground. (Actually, the universe and all of time is her playground.)
Although Carmen’s look changed with technology advances and franchise expansion—from PC games to a PBS game show, animated cartoon, board game and beyond—she always remained true to her signature style: red trench coat, fedora, and an other-worldly light source casting her face in mysterious shadow. For the 1999 style guide, new looks were created to reflect her lifestyle as a crafty criminal, powerful CEO, and action adventurer.
ART GEEK SQUAD
Our creative department was made up of artists, animators and graphic technicians driven to push visual limits. As technology advanced from CGA to EGA to VGA, we adopted state-of-the-art tools to help us achieve a more immersive, photo-realistic location imagery.
For the Deluxe version (on the right), we acquired stock photography that was delivered as a slide negative. Using a negative scanner equipped with processing software (an early version of Photoshop), we developed a proprietary process for color correcting the images and sampling them down to a limited palette.
I’ve briefly checked out the latest iPhone game, which looks great and has gameplay similar to the original (with new twists). If you’re feeling nostalgic (like me) you can play the original games with a desktop browser-based MS-DOS emulator. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego Deluxe is iframed below. Check out more Brøderbund classics at the Archive.org software library.
Cheers to the talented Brøderbund team for creating an enduring character and brand that has entertained and educated generations!