Video Game / Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? (1997)

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We're on the case and we're chasing her through history!
note 
1997's Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?, later re-released by The Learning Company under the name of Carmen Sandiego's Great Chase Through Time, is a point-and-click Edutainment Adventure Game in the Carmen Sandiego series. Done in a style similar to Monkey Island, it was a unique Genre Shift from the typical strategy-based games.

This time, Carmen Sandiego has snatched a time device called the Chronoskimmer and has used it to send her fellow crooks back in time to prevent major historical events from ever happening. You, starting at the rank of Time Pilot, are called by the Chief (once again played by Lynne Thigpen) to travel through the time tunnels that lead to periods visited by the Chronoskimmer. You are accompanied by one of five "Good Guides": Ann Tickwitee, Rock Solid, Ivan Idea, Polly Tix, and Renee Santz, but cannot communicate with the Chief once you are in the time period. Once you set things right, you have to find where the thief is hiding, which can be done by finding the fragments of notes Carmen left for them.

    The Cases 

There are nineteen cases in all, which take place in chronological order:

  • Case 1: One of Carmen's thieves has stolen the Book of the Dead from Ancient Egypt, preventing Queen Hatshepsut from burying her recently deceased husband Thutmose II. With the help of the head priest, your job is to figure out how to make a mummy. As the first case, this is something of a Tutorial Level for the rest of the game.
  • Case 2: It's Ancient Rome during the reign of Julius Caesar and Carmen's thief has stolen the Roman Forum. During his escape, he damaged Rome's revolutionary plumbing system, which you'll now have to repair.
  • Case 3: Leif Eriksson's ship has been stolen, leaving him marooned in Vinland. Time to go through a series of Fetch Quests to bring his crew to the shore for a "Thing" (get used to that pun).
  • Case 4: In Heian-era Japan, the first chapter of Murasaki Shikibu's as-yet-unfinished novel The Tale of Genji has been stolen, leaving her with a case of Writer's Block which can only be cured by the appearance of the moon. Cue Light and Mirrors Puzzle where you have to dress your guide in a series of seasonally-correct kimonos.
  • Case 5: Carmen's thief has stolen the Domesday Book, causing the Saxons to ahistorically rebel against William the Conqueror in 1086. Looks like this situation can only be solved with a Fetch Quest which teaches you how the feudal system works.
  • Case 6: Carmen's thief has stolen the oils which Marco Polo was going to give to Kublai Khan in Imperial China.
  • Case 7: Mansa Musa's pilgrimage to Mecca has been delayed because Carmen's thief stole his caravan's only block of salt and he needs a replacement. Since salt was worth its weight in gold back then, Musa gives you his golden staff to trade with.
  • Case 8: Johannes Gutenberg has just had his Bible stolen by Carmen's thief. Luckily, his newfangled printing press is perfect for making Wanted Posters.
  • Case 9: Carmen's thief has gone to the Inca Empire during the reign of Pachacuti and stolen the royal quipus necessary for keeping track of things. You'll have to help the head quipucamayoc restore the lost records and learn the Inca counting system while you're at it.
  • Case 10: Someone has stolen Christopher Columbus's charts, leaving him and his crew stranded in "China", i.e. the Caribbean. You arrive in the Spanish court, where Queen Isabella sends you on a mission to go across the Atlantic, find Columbus, and bring him back because that wouldn't change history at all.
  • Case 11: It's The Renaissance and Leonardo da Vinci is painting the Mona Lisa. Or at least he would be if Carmen's thief hadn't stolen his notebooks and upset his model, preventing her from providing the famous Mona Lisa Smile.
  • Case 12: Carmen's thief has stolen the headdress of Aztec emperor Montezuma, just before he needs it for the Aztec Fire Ceremony.
  • Case 13: William Shakespeare's plays have been stolen and at a most inopportune time. The Lord Chamberlain's Men are in the middle of rebuilding the Globe Theatre on the other side of the River Thames. How can they finish the Globe and relearn all their lines in time for a performance in honor of Queen Elizabeth I?
  • Case 14: It's the time of The American Revolution. Carmen's thief has made like Nicolas Cage and stolen the Declaration of Independence. After going through a Chain of Deals to get parchment, you'll have to help Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin redraft the Declaration.
  • Case 15: Carmen's thief has gone to the Dawn of the Wild West and stolen Lewis and Clark's journals. To find a new route through the Rocky Mountains for the Corps of Discovery, you'll have to learn Indian sign languages from Sacagawea.
  • Case 16: Ludwig van Beethoven's fifth and sixth symphonies have been stolen, just before they were set to debut. You'll have to rehearse the openings to those symphonies with the Vienna orchestra by arranging pieces of sheet music in the correct order.
  • Case 17: Carmen's thief has stolen Thomas Edison's light bulb. To make a replacement before dawn, Edison needs a cotton thread for the filament, but the local cotton factory is closed for the night and the guard will only listen to the sound of one man's voice.
  • Case 18: In Soviet Russia, Carmen Sandiego finds YOU! She also meddles with the history of The Space Race by grounding Yuri Gagarin's rocket.
  • Case 19: A Final-Exam Boss in which you chase Carmen Sandiego back through all the time periods you've visited.


The time tunnels are now taking you to April 2004, where a certain wiki should have started covering tropes in television by now, but there aren't any tropes named yet. Go find out why, Time Pilot, and... don't lose track of time looking at the site.

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: The manual points out that you couldn't really have spoken to any of the people (except maybe a few in English-speaking areas; also, it is possible that the same device used to talk to people of all different languages all over the world in "Where in the World..." is also in use here, with the exception of the Shoshoni). You also really couldn't have been able to approach any of the royalty figures and have a chat with them. Queen Isabella probably wouldn't have been too keen on funding a second expedition across the Atlantic just to bail Christopher Columbus out of the first one (and even if she was, it would have taken you months to get there and back). And Yuri Gagarin probably wouldn't have been too eager to help a couple of Americans who decide to help him launch into space—you and Ivan would have been arrested in a heartbeat in addition to Carmen.
  • All There in the Manual: A lot of information is in the manual. Justified as you are supposed to read the Chronopedia.
    • The manual also reveals that the Time Cuffs were designed to detect the wavelengths of those who have traveled through time using the Chronoskimmer.
  • Alphabet Soup Cans: Has a few justifiable examples, such as where one must use the accounting systems employed by the Incas, put movable type on the right way (Mind you this was backwards) or properly balance a brick of salt with gold to make a fair trade. A few were rather contrived though—in 1776 for example, you give Thomas Jefferson some paper so he can draft the Declaration of Independence before taking it to Continental Congress. Somehow in the trip, he completely forgets which order he wrote what clauses on.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Beethoven mentions that he's frustrated all the time. At the time, it seems reasonable for him to be furious given that the drafts to his fifth and sixth symphony have been stolen, but he even looks grumpy after the concert goes well. Historians have deducted that Beethoven had bipolar disorder.
  • Anachronistic Clue:
    • In Case 10, the crook is given away because the map they're hiding behind shows places the Spanish didn't know about yet.
    • In Case 16, you spot the crook in Beethoven's orchestra because they have an instrument that hadn't been invented at the time.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Case 4 has you giving different colored kimono jackets and linings to Renee for her to wear to get the season rooms' guards approval. For colorblind players, the mouseover text shows what color each jacket and lining is.
    • Since Case 16 requires players to listen to music, there is an option for hard-of-hearing players to make it easier for them to complete the case.
  • Awful Truth: Carmen Sandiego was once an ACME agent and The Ace, one of the best agents in fact, but she got bored, and decided to switch to becoming a criminal for the thrill. The file that Carmen attempts to steal at the end details her past, and she wanted to erase it. Fortunately you and the ACME good guides stop her in time.
  • An Axe to Grind:
    • In the Vinland level, you can use an axe to help one of the Vikings carve his runes on a huge boulder. This is done by you cutting the stump on which the boulder rests. This causes the boulder to fall, and break itno half neatly when hitting the ground.
    • In the Sacajawea level, you use a tomahawk after trading for it to cut down a tree to cross a raging river.
  • Black Comedy Burst:
    • Ivan tells Julius Caesar to watch his back in one optional dialogue.
    • William mentions the Saxons hate him because he burned most of their land to the ground. "But will they let bygones be bygones? Noooooo." Polly Tix lampshades his cavalier attitude.
    • During the William the Conqueror Level you can pour boiling water on one of the soldiers invading William's castle. You don't actually see what happens, but someone screams that you ruined his best siege uniform.
  • Blatant Lies: Rock claims, "But Leif, we are worthy Norsemen, um, in spirit." Leif catches onto this and quizzes the player about the days named for the gods.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Thutmose's body, as he was prepared by traditional Egyptian means (that is organs taken out, body dried) doesn't need his insides ripped out or such.
  • Brick Joke: In Case 3, you pick up a bunch of wild grapes, and they are in your inventory until the end of the mission. After the chief thanks you, she is handed the bunch of grapes from an (offscreen) Rock Solid.
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • During the Viking Thing, the Vikings are split half in half in whether or not to reclaim their ship and sail back to Greenland, or give it up for lost and settle in the new country. One Norseman points out that Leif's father Eric the Red did such a thing, and founded Greenland. Leif and the Norseman on his side point out that they need to go back and report on what they've found.
    • Edison wants to get a spool of cotton thread to recreate the lightbulb that he just invented. Considering how important lightbulbs become, and your mission involves setting history back on course, you need to go to the cotton factory and get that thread. The guard won't give you thread because the store is closed, "it's the middle of the night," as the boss Joe points out, and you don't have money to pay for it anyway.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: William the Conqueror calmly talks about how he burned a lot of Saxon land to the ground, and accuses them of not wanting to let it go.
  • Cardboard Prison: So you captured all of the villains, right? Carmen comes in and breaks them out of prison.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: A few cases you have to pick up something and give it to them - naturally they will remind you of this, but not everyone does this. 1776 is quite arrant about this - three out of the four screens will have someone remind you what you need to give them right as you leave.
  • Creator Provincialism: A notable aversion, where the entire Space Race is represented by a mission which you help launch Yuri Gagarin's rocket into space. In fact, it's the only mission set in the twentieth century.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The ACME good guides versus any of the VILE henchmen. This makes their final victory against Carmen more meaningful; they have to all gang up on her because she keeps evading them.
  • Cuteness Proximity: In one optional dialogue, Ann coos at a guinea pig during the Inca lesson. Pachacuti then reveals that a guinea pig is called "Dinner" and is delicious with corn; Ann says "Ew! Sorry I asked."
  • Dancing Bear: In-universe, William the Conqueror has one, which looks miserable and unwilling to dance. When Polly unearths the crook at his hiding place, the bear grabs him and shakes him around before tossing him to Polly with a satisfied grin.
  • Developers' Foresight: You can try all sorts of things with items. You can try taking items you aren't supposed to (which results in an on-screen character saying "Hey! You can't take that!"), or handing an item to people or your good guide to have them either tell stuff about it or react to it. Or, most humorously, try and arrest the thief at objects you can click on... which includes people and yes, even the good guide.
    • The reactions can be rather humorous. Try using the battle axe on Rock Solid, and he'll say "OUCH! Don't cut me down to size!" and make a surprised face. Try arresting the good guide and they'll say a comment like "I don't think there's a crook in the crook of my elbow." or "Uh gee, I don't think there's a thief in my pocket, do you?"
    • Also in-universe for Yuri Gagarian the space flight simulator considers all the possibilities when you put the punch cards in the wrong order.
  • Disc One Final Case: Johannes Gutenberg's Printing Press case. You appear to have caught every crook... yet you're still in the 15th century, and there's another disc. Not to mention, Dee Cryption is still out—Oh wait.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: The priest of Anubis is a helpful guy who even cracks a few jokes while on the job.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: During the last case, you may catch the Chief having a donut break if you visit her office before catching Carmen. Her reaction is hilarious as she shoos you away while guarding her snack.
  • Dummied Out:
    • One case was apparently deleted very early in development that would have been set between the Egypt and Rome cases. It's speculated this case would have featured Dee Cryption since she's the only thief who's involved in one theft in the entire game (and is busted out of jail without having been sent there in the first place), whereas everyone else (including Carmen, since she has a significant presence in the USSR case and is the target of the final case) is involved in two cases.
    • Additionally, there's some unused dialogue in the game... lots and lots of unused dialogue. Hope you have a lot of time on your hands...
  • Epic Fail: Ivan Idea sees Carmen in the USSR space hanger, and makes a clumsy tackle. She dodges him without even lifting a finger and gives a quick monologue before vanishing into a time tunnel.
  • Failed a Spot Check: You have to arrest criminals in rather... obvious places. (See Idiot Ball.) At least some spots make a bit of sense. (Such as how one time, Buggs Zapper is hiding underneath a table that has a cloth over it, or where Jane Reaction is hiding inside a bag attached to a llama.)
  • Faux Affably Evil:
    • Carmen Sandiego speaks cordially to you, but she is determined to keep stealing.
    • Jacqueline Hyde manages this halfway. Her nice side mentions it's nice to see you again after you've arrested her, but her mean side gloats about Carmen succeeding.
  • Fetch Quest: Many, notably in Cases 3 and 5.
  • Frickin' Laser Beams: The ACME prison's second iteration has lasers instead of metal bars. This is presumably part of the same system that keeps Carmen from bailing out her cronies with the Chronoskimmer again.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: It's possible to trigger a glitch that will make the mission unwinnable. Before you can arrest the thief, you have to assemble a "Carmen Note" which tells you where the thief is hiding. In the Aztec Empire level, you have to assemble a headdress for Montezuma, and when you complete it and add it to your inventory, a Carmen note appears. However, if you give the headdress to Ann Tikwitee when taken from your inventory, another one will spawn on the wall, meaning you have to take it again to get the Carmen note. You give it to Montezuma... but you still have it in your inventory and you're not allowed to leave the room, making the game unwinnable. Oops.
  • Genre Shift: As mentioned above, the original Where in Time from the 1980s played very much like Where in the World, only with picking the correct time period in addition to the location; this one plays more like an adventure-lite game in the vein of Monkey Island.
  • Going Through the Motions:
    • Characters will use a single animation for the duration of their speech, which is ridiculous if they have more than a couple of sentences. Averted with Sacajawea—she actually will make several motions as she speaks to you, and you are in fact supposed to gauge that when she describes something, the corresponding motion is what the Shoshoni will recognize, since they don't speak your language.
    • In Mission 4, Murasaki looks sad in her animation, even after bringing the moon to her as she wanted. However, in the previous case, Leif Erikson's animation changes after bringing his crew to the shore. He starts off looking worried, but smiles for the rest of the case.
  • Guide Dang It: Only in one case—you have to find a Carmen note in Japan by talking to one of the guards who saw the thief run by and drop a piece of litter on the ground. There is nothing indicating that it's the guard of the winter room. But to be fair, for one, the manual actually outright tells you this and two, an adventure-gamer would assume that they can brute-force their way through until they find a guard who has seen the thief walk past.
    • However, 1776 has another Guide Dang It moment - you have to fish tea out of the Boston Harbor. You are supposed to deduce that a minuteman fishing means you should click on a box of Jetsam (that specific box that doesn't look too different than the other pieces of jetsam floating around) floating in the harbor. Fortunately, Polly Tix will point out that you fished out a box of tea, as someone who's not familiar with the Boston Tea Party may not realize a crate is actually full of tea.
  • Heroic Build: Rock Solid is the largest and burliest man in the Acme Team.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Where Thomas Jefferson is concerned, you go to his house in Monticello but you don't see any slaves nearby, though you do see a dumbwaiter.
  • Horny Vikings: Lampshaded. If you click on a helmet in one part of the Viking level, your guide will mention this trope, and a nearby Viking will scoff at the idea of horned helmets.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Oh so often. You often have to check locations that are out of place or hinted by Carmen to arrest the criminals. Several times it's actually kinda blatant, or where the criminal was hiding in plain sight. (Wouldn't Isabella have found something odd about a chart in her room? Shouldn't the person holding the camel Buggs Zapper was behind have noticed it was a cardboard cutout? Why in the heck did Beethoven not see a friggin' SOUSAPHONE in the orchestra?!? And how come Thomas Edison didn't see Dee Cryption hiding right behind a box in plain view of him? And Julius Caesar must have never looked behind the Ionic Pillar that had a crook behind it). The Beethoven one particularly deserves plenty of mention... for one, the crook was technically hiding in plain sight, Jacqueline Hyde had a sousaphone in an orchestra. Shouldn't Renee Santz have spotted something was up immediately? (Beethoven pointed out that it sounded odd.)
    • Carmen leaving behind the Chronoskimmer in Yuri Gagarian's time. This means that, as the chief points out, she can only use the tunnels she previously created rather than use new ones.
  • Japanese Ranguage: On the Japanese level, one of the guards pronounces "life" as "rife".
  • Manipulative Editing: In-universe example—In 1871, you have to obtain a spool of thread from a factory, but it is closed. What you have to do is record the factory's owner with a phonograph, then play only parts of it back to the guard in the darkness.
  • Nominal Hero: Lampshaded in the English mission (which involves helping out William the Conqueror).
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome:
    • The Baron stealing Leif's ship, which seems to require several people to operate.
    • Any offscreen Curb-Stomp Battle between the Good Guides and the VILE agents. One notable one is Rock knocking out the Baron while they're both in the water.
    • Carmen getting past every person she meets in the final level when retracing her steps, including several that confront her for wearing red.
  • Oh My Gods!: Mansa Musa says, "sand blast it!" Pachacuti says, "by Viracocha!"
  • Politically Correct History:
    • Zig-zagged mostly by omission, as this is a kid's game—but they actually do leave a few things in, such as how women in 11th-century Japan weren't allowed to read or write in Chinese or how female roles were performed by men in the 16th century.
    • There is one point where this trope and Historical Hero Upgrade gets subverted and lampshaded. William the Conquerer casually mentions one time when he burned a Saxon village to the ground. Polly Tix will then chime in to remind you that just because you're interacting with people from history, it doesn't mean they were all angels. Your job as a time traveler isn't to pick sides, but to get history as we know it back on track.
  • Plot Hole: You don't arrest Dee Cryption in Disc 1, yet you see her in jail. How'd she get in there?
  • Purple Prose: Murasaki's dialogue sounds like it was taken from one of her poems. This (along with her penchant for metaphor) often confuses first-time players.
    Murasaki: Only the face of the full moon answers my questions. Could you bring it here to my room? Translation 
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Lampshaded. The player can give Anne Tikwitee a bird whistle that corresponds to a bald eagle. What plays isn't the high pitched screech many people expect—it's actually a realistic sounding eagle chirp. Anne then says "whoa! For a big bird that's one small call!"
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: The Beethoven level is the only level which has no background music. Not for added realism, but because the level has a musical puzzle which depends on you being able to hear the Source Music clearly. When you revisit Beethoven during the final chase, background music (specially, "Für Elise") is added.
  • Red Herring: You can take a soot-covered chicken from on top the chimney on the alchemist's shop in 1454, but despite the soot, Gutenberg will not accept it to help make his ink. In fact, the chicken has absolutely no purpose in gameplay beyond using up a spot in your inventory and triggering some unique dialogue.
  • Sore Loser: None of the VILE henchmen are happy about being caught. Jacqueline Hyde is the only one who lampshades that you're just doing your job before she switches to her Hyde mode.
  • Supernormal Bindings: The Time Cuffs, which must be activated first, are otherwise normal handcuffs that have the ability to detect time-travelers.
  • Take Your Time: Quite literally. No matter how much of a "hurry" a character is in, the player does not have to rush anything. The worst offender has to go to the final normal case, where Carmen has locked the Chronoskimmer inside Yuri Gagarin's rocket, which you find out just as it's about to take off. No matter how long you spend in the rocket, it will never blast off until you actually find it.
  • Time Police: Who are apparently sanctioned by the US government.
  • Time Travel: You don't say!
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: William the Conqueror is remarkably cavalier about his besieged castle.
    William: Oh, the Saxons are revolting. Again.
  • Wham Line:
    • Ivan's Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap! moment after reading a note from Carmen when he realizes that Carmen hid the chronoskimmer in Yuri Gargarin's rocket. Which means you have to find it before liftoff.
    • Delivered by the Chief: "Carmen Sandiego was once an ACME agent!"
  • Wham Shot:
    • Carmen busting out the crooks at the start of Disc Two using the Chronoskimmer.
    • The beginning of the Russia case: you and Ivan emerge from the Time Tunnel... and Carmen's standing right there.
    • When Carmen appears at ACME headquarters . . . and steals a file with her name on it. Later on the Chief reveals that it was because Carmen was once an ACME agent!
  • When She Smiles:
    • Leif Erickson has a cheerful look when all the crew is at the beach.
    • Beethoven gets one notable moment where he smiles after performing his symphonies.
  • Writer's Block: After the first chapter of her book is stolen, Murasaki is understandably discouraged from continuing.
  • You Fool!: Carmen calls her henchmen this when busting them out of jail.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle:
    • At the start of Disc Two, you've caught every criminal, so that they're bickering in jail. Carmen then arrives and uses the Chronoskimmer to help them escape. The Chief is distraught at not only the need for recapture, but how Carmen used ACME technology against ACME. "It's embarrassing."
    • Dee Crypton after you find her hiding place runs into the next room, and sets up a force field to protect her from Ivan's attack. You have to disable the forcefield using Edison's lightbulb.

Alternative Title(s): Carmen Sandiegos Great Chase Through Time

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