We’ve never sat down and thought about it till now, but Cluedo must be a hard game to translate to a console and controller. It’s a game that demands to be played with friends rather than randos or CPUs, but you run into the obstacle of hidden information. Players mustn’t see what the other players have got in their hands, which isn’t easy when there’s a single TV in front of you all.
But it’s more than that. The nature of Cluedo means that there’s not a whole lot you can do between turns (unless you’re an eager beaver who likes to read into other players’ turn choices), which introduces a hell of a lot of downtime. And – at least to me – Cluedo is fine in one or two game bursts, and then the box accumulates dust for the next three months or so. Is it something that works as a long-term video game?
Cluedo has a decent stab at answering these questions. It’s certainly one of the more lavish, bigger budget punts that we have encountered. But mostly it just proves that Cluedo is a nigh-on impossible game to make work on console.
In an attempt to tick off a few of the questions we’ve raised, Cluedo packs in three different game modes. There’s the Classic Mode that we all know and love, while an ‘Ultimate Detective’ mode attempts to introduce some more thought and plotting to mixed results. Then there’s Clue Cards mode, which makes the simple addition of event cards, as the 1 on the dice lets you draw from the pack. These wake up the other players by revealing cards for everyone to see.
What Cluedo doesn’t have is a Local Play mode on launch. A sash on the menu screen helpfully tells us that it’s Coming Soon. We suspect that this will be a future Jackbox-like experience incorporating smartphones. But it’s not included here, not yet, which is something of a shame, as people on the internet and CPU players don’t quite cut it. Still, you can play Single Player, Online Multiplayer and Online With Friends straight out of the box.
It’s telling that so much of the review is spent talking about what is not included, as Cluedo has opted for a business model where you can buy a base version of the game with what we’ve just listed OR you can spend a little more and get The Black Adder Resort (sadly no Baldrick). This gives you a different set of outfits for the traditional characters, but mixes up the weapons, rooms and layout.
It doesn’t wash with us. The base game is a significant £16.99, and as pretty as the game looks (including some gorgeously realised characters) it’s as thin as the board game itself. More skins, characters, weapons and locations might have justified the cost, but they’re locked behind various day-one DLC. You can choose to include the Black Adder Resort in your purchase for £22.49, or stretch that little bit further to include them all with a Case Files Revisited later (including the Gray and Hyacinth characters), for £30.99.
If it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, your opening game of Cluedo should act a bit like Listerine. Because, as we’ve mentioned, the presentation comes from the topmost of drawers. Marmalade Game Studio have made some creative decisions on the main characters – Mrs White is now the other side of fifty, and the cast are far more inclusive – that are all positive. Each character has implied personality, and they all get to pose as murderers when the accusations come flying in.
The superb presentation isn’t limited to the characters. The board and the rooms themselves look great, while we’re huge fans of the scorecard. It updates automatically as players respond to accusations, and is a fantastic resource for solving games. It has its teething issues – manually changing it is fiddly and constantly interrupted by the actions of other players – but it’s mostly a big improvement over the physical game. And you can turn it off if you would rather go au naturel.
But try as it might, Cluedo still has its age-old issues, and this version can’t find solutions. Cluedo is still interminably boring when it’s not your turn. There really should have been a speed-up or skip option for CPU matches, but none are included, which is a huge miss. And there are too many stops and starts where obvious information is communicated. It’s Colonel Mustard’s turn, the game says, which is flipping obvious considering the turn order and the giant picture of Colonel Mustard. Did we really need a full-blown intro each time?
We have more issues with the base game of Cluedo. It’s only fun when you actually get in a room, so sitting in a corridor is about the worst thing that can happen in a turn. It pushes players to camp in the corner rooms, where the secret passages lie. And a game is over whenever someone is stupid enough to prematurely guess, and guess wrong, which ruins it for everyone. But these are problems with every version of Cluedo, so it feels churlish to criticise this video game for them.
The Ultimate Detective and Clue Cards are meant to be an improvement, a chance to revisit these rules, but we’re confident that one of them is a step back while the other is a step forward. Ultimate Detective is bonkers, and we can’t fathom how anyone thought it was a good idea. When a player makes an accusation, every last player reveals whether they can help with the accusation. Let’s break down what that means: if a player makes an accusation and three people pipe up to say they can respond, that means only one thing – all three cards must be out there. You can cross them off your scorecard.
It’s too much information. We were able to confidently guess the murder weapon, suspect and room having only played a single turn, all through the power of elimination. The thing is, Ultimate Detective seems to be in denial that it’s giving too much information. The scorecard doesn’t update automatically with these assumptions: you have to manually enter them. And the CPU players don’t seem to make similar assumptions either. You can steamroll them in every match, even on the highest difficulty, because they fail to make these simplest of deductions.
Clue Cards mode, though, is a vast improvement on the main game. We play it every time as a replacement to the main game. We have a minor quibble that the effects on the cards are too similar (most just reveal cards, but in different ways), and the CPU AI doesn’t know how to abuse the system like a human player does (when asked to reveal a card, surely you would reveal the same one every time?), but it could be worse. What the mode does is make other players’ turns at least moderately interesting. It’s not such a yawning gap in time before you actually get to do something useful.
But is it enough? For £16.99, you get the base game of Cluedo with two additional modes – one ambitious and unbalanced, the other a minor step up. The presentation is glossy, but two DLC packs containing new characters, locations and weapons are locked behind larger amounts (£22.49 for Black Adder Hotel, and £30.99 for the Hotel plus Case Files Revisited which adds two characters). And no matter the edition you purchase, you get all of the customary issues with Cluedo, namely the boring gap between turns.
Cluedo has never been a fantastic fit for console, and this version only underlines that fact. It does the very best with what it’s been given, but ultimately this is slow, expensive and desperately in need of a local co-op mode that uses smartphones. Fanatics won’t regret a purchase, but we’d advise anyone else that they Cluedon’t.