Most helpful positive review
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
If it ain't broken, don't fix it!
on 21 November 2013
I was telling my little 8 year old relative about this game's 1980s ancestor for weeks before I finally succumbed to the lure of this new-fangled version. I looked high and low for my original but that one's clearly taken a tip from 'Mr X' himself and done a permanent runner. So, despite some rather serious misgivings, I sent for this. When all is said and done, it is a challenging and worthwhile game and an 8 year old is more than capable of playing it; but it has, what can only be politely described as, 'significant issues'.
The first thing to say is that, while the product is not entirely 'German', there is a definite Teutonic flavour to things. It's not that big a deal though, because both instruction books come in five different and exciting languages (German, Italian, Dutch, French and, bringing up the rear, an extraordinarily long-winded form of English). 'Did he say TWO instruction books?!' I hear you gasp. Oh yes. But I'll let you recover from the shock of that fact for a few moments before describing the sort of things you might find in them. I'm all heart me.
The box looks identical to the one in the product description... but that's just about the only cosmetic similarity that I can see. The game that Leann Rimes' doppelganger seems to be enjoying looks nothing whatsoever like the one I got. Which, judging by some of the other pictures, is really no bad thing. In reality, the board (a map of London so up-to-date that it's even got The Shard on it) is a lot easier to read than hers. The little 'tickets' too are a bit more user-friendly in the game I received; they have a completely different design. They're pretty tough too and I'm sure will stand up to the rigours of intense undercover police work for years to come. Personally speaking, I would have liked to have seen Leann Rimes' doppelganger modelling the cardboard visor that has been so thoughtfully provided to ensure that Mister X's travel plans aren't too obvious to those who may be trying to see which part of the board he is trying to concentrate on at any one time. They never had one of those in the old days, I tell you. That map of London looked a lot different as well. God, can anyone else hear the music from that old 'Hovis' ad? No? Oh well, that must just be me then.
My memories of this game were, like me I suppose, very simple; one player is 'Mister X', whose immediate problem in life is to try and avoid being captured by all the other players, who represent the might of the Metropolitan Police Detective Force. Every so often, he is forced to reveal himself to his antagonists, who then use that information to try to work together to prevent his escape. Apart from the regular glimpses of their prey, all they have to go on in their attempts to track him down are the methods of transport that he used with each move. The detectives themselves only have a finite number of their own bus, taxi or underground tickets and the winner is the detective who lands on Mister X or, if he is too clever for them, Mister X himself as he leaves Scotland Yard's finest looking foolish and legs it to Spain. It's a clever concept. And quite simple too. Or, at least, it used to be.
The blurb alleges that this new version of the game retains all of the 'fun' of its predecessor and, to a certain extent, it does: but that 'fun' is buried beneath so many rules, regulations and red tape that you'll need a small detective force to find that, let alone Mister X. Having played 'Scotland Yard' all those years ago I was, not unreasonably I thought, fairly confident that I would only have to use the instructions for memory-refreshing purposes. Not a bit of it. This game has been 'improved' beyond all recognition. That's fair enough, I suppose. But there are so many rules! And there are three different versions of the game you can play, depending upon how many detectives are participating. In my day, two people could play quite cheerfully, without any fuss whatsoever - one person was Mister X and the other took the role of two or perhaps even more detectives. After all, the sleuths are supposed to work together in any case, right?
Oh but now, that sort of ingenuity has all been regulated. And if you can't drum up at least four detectives from somewhere you are obliged to unleash a couple of Bobbies. My eyes are going a bit, and I originally misread that - I wonder if you did too? I definitely mistyped it here just now! These Bobbies (phew!) are basically detectives, but they play by a whole host of different rules and, in my opinion, their presence makes the game terribly confusing. They don't need tickets to get around either which does seem a bit unfair on poor old Mister X.
One of the instruction books deals with the rules for playing the 'proper' version. As a bedtime read, I'd say they could probably cure most forms of mild insomnia quite easily peasily. The rules for a 2-player game are also included here. I have read them both a number of times now and I cannot for the life of me figure out how Mister X is supposed to begin his journey. I'm sure, in the 80s game, he used to have his own transport tickets right at the start before simply inheriting each of the detective's tickets as and when they used them. Here, he doesn't seem to have his own taxi, bus and underground tickets at all. This makes the early stages of the game quite farcical, so I have been deliberately disobeying that dictat and slipping Mister X a few tickets at the start. And I don't often get my Bobbies out either. I'm a rebel, I know. I'm getting quite familiar with the 'Delete' key too!
The other instruction book is devoted to the rules for the 'Beginners Version'. I've read them and I've read them. Sometimes when I read them, I'm not entirely convinced that they're even in English. I may as well confess to you now, I haven't got the foggiest idea how to play the 'Beginners Version' and, if I spent the next twenty years reading those rules, I can comfortably say I'd expect there to be no change in that status. They are totally incomprehensible and, frankly, this version of the game is really quite pointless. Anyone bright enough to suss out what the hell this all means is arguably more than capable of playing the 'real' version.
Cosmetically, the new design of this game is a great improvement. I like the little bits of coloured cardboard that each similarly coloured detective keeps their tickets on - it makes it much easier to play as more than one detective and is a vast improvement on the tatty old bits of scrap paper that I used to utilise. The game itself has been given an overhaul but, at the end of the day, I'm really not convinced it actually needed it. Fortunately, the basic game is still in there somewhere, battling to free itself from a world of modern-day gobbledygook and it is that poor devil to whom I am awarding the four stars. Interestingly enough, Wikipedia (as of November 2013 anyway) gives a very concise account of the original game's rules that puts this 'relaunched' lot to shame. Those are the ones I'm using when I play!