Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Cruise for a Corpse - Looking for Clues (In All the Wrong Places)

Written by Joe Pranevich

Pardon me, sir. Why are you sitting on my bed?

Last week, Raoul and I tried to find our sea legs as we finished exploring the ship-- or at least as much of it as we could access. We spoke to a few of the possible suspects, but most of the passengers were missing or unwilling to talk to me. You would think that more people would be willing to talk to me, or at least seem somewhat concerned that there was a murderer in their midst. At any rate, the time was now 8:50 AM and it’s time to see what else is new onboard the ship and whether I could get into any previously locked areas.

The first change that I find is that there is now a mechanic in the engine room, but like all the other crewmembers on the ship, he doesn’t seem to have anything to say. Working my way from room to room, I discover that Julio is hanging out in our room now… but sitting on MY bed. How rude! I talk to him again and new dialog options about Suzanne have opened up; he tells me that she recently spent five months in the hospital and came out looking ten years older. I wonder what happened? I race back to Suzanne, but she doesn’t want to talk about her illness to me. Very suspicious.

Tom is gone! But what did he drop?

I continue exploring and find that Tom is no longer hanging out in the smoking room. Instead, there is a piece of paper on the floor underneath his chair. He must be so clumsy! I pick it up to find a receipt in his name for a very expensive bracelet, a “diamond Kartier bracelet”, valued at $3000. Adjusting for inflation, that is more than $42,000! Could he really afford that on a lawyer’s salary? It must be a good clue because the time advances again and it is now 9:00 AM.

That’s a good lead, but I don’t actually know how to follow-up on it. Suzanne doesn’t seem to know much about the receipt (and why would she?), but Julio has some surprising details. He says that Tom is having financial troubles because of a real-estate investment gone bad, so it is surprising that he could afford such a bracelet. The plot thickens, but time does not move forward. I guess I need to explore again to see what changed.

I will interrogate this kitty right behind the ears.

The first change that I find is that there’s now a cat in the laundry room! What does this have to do with my investigation? Maybe nothing, but there are several clues that I am supposed to feed the cat: Raoul thinks this to himself whenever he hears the cat meow and a note when I try to pet him that I will need to lure him down with some food first. A quest! I have no idea what this will get me, but a “feed the cat” puzzle is a fantastic kind of puzzle. I will keep on the lookout for kitty-kibble.

All work and no play makes Tom a dull solicitor.

Back to exploring, it doesn’t take too long before I discover that one of the cabin doors is unlocked: Tom’s cabin. He shares it with Rose, but she doesn’t seem to be around at the moment. The game will not let me do any snooping around while he’s in the room, but I can interrogate him. Fortunately, we have some new questions.

Before I continue, I need to explain the dialog system a bit. It’s not that complex, but it seems to be a key part of the game. Unlike most adventure games where you have to collect objects to solve puzzles, Cruise for a Corpse seems to be much more about collecting questions. Let me explain by looking at this conversation with Tom.

What I really want to ask is… may I borrow your pen?

When we start with Tom, we have a number of categories that we can ask about: himself, Julio, Suzanne, Hector, and “Various”. These correspond to people that we have met and talked with already. Even though, for example, we know that he’s married to Rose because it’s on the crew manifest, there is no way to ask about her. Nope, all you can ask about is people you’ve already met (and a few other things under “various”).

Selecting each of the names gives you a submenu with things you can ask about that person. For example, when you start to ask about Julio, you find out that he is the partner that Niklos “chose” for his daughter, but that he’d be incompetent without his parent’s money. That opens up a new dialog option, “Julio’s Fortune”. When you ask him about that, he just says it is “considerable”, but this option will now appear in every subsequent conversation we have with all suspects. Asking the right questions to find new questions seems to be the order of the day. And this would be fantastic, except there is nothing preventing you from asking every question one by one, looking for new ones, and asking them all again. There’s not much puzzle-solving here, just brute-force searching. There is no notification when a new question gets added to one of the lists, so you have to search through them over and over to be sure you ask them all. It’s not so bad right now, but it becomes nearly impossible to manage as you get more suspects and topics.

In the process of our conversation, I learn that Suzanne is friends with Father Fabiani (that unlocks “Suzanne/Fabiani Friendship”) and that Suzanne’s mystery illness is a fondness for the bottle (unlocking “Suzanne’s alcoholism”). Even if I approach him with the receipt, he claims it is none of my business.

Once I ask him everything I can, I head over to Julio to try out all of my new questions on him. He admits that he is rich, suspects that Suzanne and Fabiani may have had an inappropriate relationship, that the priest insisted to Niklos that she be invited, and that Niklos and Suzanne did not actually like each other. Something there must have been important because it’s now 9:10 AM. I then hit up Suzanne: she agrees that Julio is rich, refuses to talk about Father Fabiani or her possible problem with alcohol. That means that I have asked all questions to all people and I need to explore the ship again.

I search the ship and find nothing obviously new, so I go back and pixel hunt in every room looking for something, anything, that I missed.

This seems like it will be important later.

The breakthrough comes because I figure out that I can do something with the bartender after all: although you cannot speak to him to get the option, if you click on the note while in the bar you get a new verb, “show”. You can show him the note and he tells you that it was Father Fabiani and Niklos speaking in the bar that night, just before Niklos was killed, but that they only spoke for ten minutes. During their conversation, the bartender was asked to leave, so he doesn’t know what they talked about. Father Fabiani must have been distracted-- thinking about murdering someone?-- when he left because he left his mass book behind. The bartender hands it over so I can return it to him, but I can’t keep from looking inside and finding a letter. A clue? Or an invasion of privacy? You decide.

Although the letter does not give specifics, it’s a threat: someone named Bishop Maretti has discovered some “offensive information” about the priest and that “our entire brotherhood could be disgraced”. What could that mean? Could the church have found out about his relationship with Suzanne? Something else? Reading the letter moves the clock to 9:20 AM.

For no clear reason, we can now get into Father Fabiani’s room. He shares it with a gentleman called Dick Schmock, but neither of them are home and I can do maximum snooping. It doesn’t take long to find two suspicious things: Dick still sleeps with a teddy bear and Father Fabiani is carrying around an entire gambling operation with him. Finding this moves the clock ahead to 9:30 AM, but I am left to wonder: was the gambling the scandal in the letter? Or a relationship with Suzanne? Does it matter?

Gambling on a cruise ship will never catch on.

I carefully put the room back the way I found it, just in case anyone might suspect I was snooping around. Since time has changed, I have to re-explore the ship again to find the thing that’s different, but I don’t have to go that far: the dining room is unlocked. Even better, Father Fabiani is there having breakfast. What luck!

Because I always go to the bar before breakfast.

I quickly return his prayer book and the priest and I can settle down for a bit of a chat. He confirms some of the things that I suspected: Tom is cheating on his wife and Suzanne still struggles with her alcoholism. More importantly, he reveals that Suzanne and Niklos had a big blow-up yesterday evening. Could she have killed him? I will need to gather more clues to find out. The priest refuses to talk to me at all about the bishop’s letter, so we’ll have to figure that little scandal out some other way. All of that interrogating moved the clock forward to 9:40 AM and gave me a handful of new conversation items that I can ask other passengers about.

I go back and talk with Julio, Tom, and Suzanne about my new information. Julio and Suzanne don’t have anything to add, but Tom reveals that he knows that Fabiani is a gambler. This seems completely obvious, but gives me something else to ask and the clock moves to 9:50 AM. Taking that back to Suzanne causes her to suggest that perhaps the poor priest is being blackmailed. She is certainly unaware of any of his so-called problems. Of course, if they are having an affair, what else would she say?

From here, I find myself at an impasse. I have asked every person every question. I have explored every room. All that remains is to search the ship carefully and find anything that I might have missed. There must be a clue somewhere, right? I double down and click on nearly everything, slowly moving the cursor in every room. It takes several hours, but I search everywhere and still time does not move forward. I do find and jot down tons of new interesting things that might bear fruit later.

Raoul may not be the right man for this job.

My new clues:
  • There is loose board in the floor of Niklos’s office. Raoul says that we can’t get under it without tools.
  • There is a rope on the deck that I can “inspect” and “cut”, but when I try it cryptically tells me that I can’t do that yet.
  • There is a missing life preserver near the lifeboat. Raoul remarks on it when he examines empty brackets. Did someone try to flee the ship already?
  • There’s something caught in the drain of the sink in one of the bathrooms. When I try to fish it out, it says “no, not now”.
  • One of the lamps next to Cabin 4 can be taken apart if I can find a screwdriver. I do not get that option with any other lamps.
  • I can reconnect a chain that has come loose, but Raoul refuses because he might get dirty.
The most interesting thing that I can’t quite figure out yet is the mermaid statue. The strange code that it gives out changes with the time. I haven’t been very good at remembering to write down the code each time, so I may have to restore to crack this one. Thus far, I have found:
  • 8:10 AM - 1b 2a 4a 1a
  • 9:10 AM - 1b 1a
  • 9:40 AM - 1d 2c 1a
  • 9:50 AM - 2c 1a

Nothing. NOTHING. Nothing is new. 

I’m embarrassed to say that after hours of searching everywhere, I still hadn’t found anything. And then, I solved my problem by mistake: I re-asked every question to every person. I had been keeping notes of who I asked what, but clearly not well enough. When I ask Father Fabiani every question again, suddenly the time changes again and it’s 10:00 AM.

But honestly, I think that’s enough for me this week. Having to explore the ship over and over and over again is tremendously boring. You need to check every door to see if a new one unlocks, knock on every door in case someone inside answers, and just keep your eyes peeled for stuff that changed. I’m getting efficient with making a circuit, but to do the same rooms each time the time changes is just harsh. I’ve started mixing it up, sometimes starting from the top of the ship and working down, sometimes from the bottom and working up. I hope something happens soon because right now this is just grinding conversation options and it’s not very interesting or fun.

Time played: 6 hr 5 min
Total time: 9 hr 20 min

Inventory: Piece of paper, Soap

Deaths / Reloads:

4 restarts due to game crashes (6 total)
0 deaths

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help... or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. If I recall correctly, the statue codes were used to express the game state, so that you could call the French hint line and get some help :)

    1. Oh man. I have been trying to solve that for so long. Do they SAY that anywhere?

    2. Not in the manual, it seems. I guess I read it in a French magazine. Or I tried to call the hint line and they asked me for the siren code. Can't remember, it's been a long time :)

    3. I suspect each letter-number combo refers to a single specific time-advancing clue. I also suspect the siren now tells you exactly one such combo - which means there is literally one exact thing on the ship you need to now do, and nothing else will progress until you do exactly that one thing.

    4. That is a fantastic theory! But I don't have an easy way to test it, or to reverse engineer the code... Hmm.

  2. Not in the manual, it seems. I guess I read it in a French magazine. Or I tried to call the hint line and they asked me for the siren code. Can't remember, it's been a long time :)

  3. I recommend you keep a save at 10:00 a.m. and not overwrite it. On my first playthrough I managed to miss a time-advancing clue between 10 and 11 that I couldn't thereafter reaccess (even though by all rights I should have been able to). I don't know if I was really in a dead man walking situation than, but I doubt it's worth trying to find out.

    1. Good advice! I kept saves from each and every time change.

  4. Dick Schmock? That's...a name.

    1. AAAAH! I looked up "Schmock" in the OED and it says it is an alternate spelling for a Yiddish-derived word meaning "a taboo-word for penis".

      So... his name is Dick Dick. Beautiful. I wonder if that was deliberate or introduced in the translation...

    2. In the original version, he was Désiré Grosjean.
      No pun or sexual innuendo there.

    3. Are the remainder of the name different? Or just him?

    4. Wait, Desire is also a male name? Or do the French like to switch name and surname around?

    5. Désiré is male name in French. Feminine version is Désirée. (And yes, you pronounce them exactly same).

    6. I love French. Someday, I might even understand it.

    7. I wonder if Désiré's name was changed for the translation, because English-speaking people would have interpreted the name as feminine?