Google Earth has long been established as a site for people to explore the far flung corners of the world or to see what their childhood home looks like today. While it is a fun novelty, it usually gets boring seeing how Google as a company has digitized all that we see and hear. The company has recently added a mini game to the site to entice old school gamers and some young Netflix watchers to hang out for a minute.
The application has added a familiar red hatted “heroine” on the bottom of the page for people to click on and launch “Where In Google Earth Is Carmen Sandiego”. The app has all the graphical trappings of the now ancient computer game series, where you play an ACME detective on the hunt for the globe trotting thief. You use the earth app to investigate clues and fly from city to city in order to track her down. The game only lasts several rounds and can be played in a single sitting, but it does make for a creative use of the existing tech.
The animation itself is pulled straight from the recent Netflix series that is hoping to reach younger kids who don’t remember how ubiquitous Carmen was in the early 90’s. At her height, the game series had a continuous stream of titles where you had to find her across time, space and even North Dakota. There was a point in time where she had no less than 3 different television shows about the franchise. Only Sonic The Hedgehog can lay claim to having multiple shows on airing roughly at the same time which speaks to how massive Carmen was for a hot minute. However, after 2000, the character kinda just disappeared with some sporadic game releases but never reaching the same heights as the 90s.
It makes sense that you don’t see those original games rereleased a la Crash Bandicoot or Spyro. Since they were largely educational games, they were usually games you played at the school library or were given to you by grandma when she got duped at the Software ETC. store. While the series was everywhere, I doubt you would find people claiming Carmen Sandiego was anyone’s favorite game. Retro gaming researcher and writer Kate Willært noted on twitter that this Google Earth game is kinda the only legitimate way to play anything that comes close to the original games.
Some of these titles are actually thought to be lost entirely such as a Facebook only version of the game. On Google Earth’s part, they have hinted on Twitter that further updates will be coming that will expand on what is already there. Hopefully it will provide a way for kids to engage with geography and learn about the world just like millenials did in the days of yore.