Who is Vera Cruz? You may well ask. In fact, it's a case of who was Vera Cruz. As soon as you load up part one of this two-part adventure you'll get a screenful of Vera lying sprawled across the floor, a pool of blood oozing from her and making a right old mess of the Axminster.
And you, mon brave, are naturally the intrepid detective who has to investigate the death of Vera Cruz and decide whether it really is a case of suicide, as the note found beside the body suggests. The death takes place in St-Etienne in the Loire region of France, where a case of wine is infinitely preferable to a case of murder. But as a newly appointed detective sergeant in the Crime Squad, you can't neglect your duties and off you go to investigate. Its 8th August 1986, and the discovery of the body has just been reported by the caretaker of the Forest apartment block, where Vera Cruz was a resident.
Part one consists of just the single screen showing the scene of the death, and to avoid touching evidence you must make use of a camera to photograph anything that catches your eye. This is done using the cursor keys to move the viewfinder about the screen, and pressing Space to take a snap. You then get a close-up of anything interesting you happen to find. Some things are obvious, like the suicide note and the gun, and others are slightly hidden. For example, you'll need to pay attention to at least one of Vera's extremities - no, not those, you fool. And don't neglect the shadowy areas either. Once you're sure you've covered everything, press ENTER to conclude your investigation and load part two.
This is where the story really starts. Now you have to piece together clues and try to find out what you can do about the life and death of Vera Cruz, using the sophisticated Diamond Computer Network of the French State Police Force. The terminal is shown on the screen, and pressing 'M' allows you to key in any messages you want to send.
Pressing 'P' will give you hard copy on your own printer, 'C' allows you to compare evidence and 'E' to carry out various examinations, such as fingerprinting or calling for an autopsy report. 'A' awaits for when you're ready to make an arrest.
Whether the game has the complexity of The Fourth Protocol remains to be seen, but after finding out a little about Vera, the gun that killed her and the cartridge found near her body, I'm intrigued to know more about the strangely elusive names, addresses and phone numbers discovered in her diary. Who is Nadine Lafeville, and what goes on at Eva's transport cafe? Screen presentation might prove to be a little boring after a while, as everything takes place at the computer terminal. But for those of you who fancy yourselves as Maigret rather than Inspector Clousseau, you should enjoy investigating the seedier side of French life.
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