‘Contact Sam Cruise’ was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum game released at the tail end of 1986 by “Microsphere”, just in time for Christmas 1986. It brought something very new to the table… as a “film-noir” style adventure game it was not your typical ZX Spectrum game at the time (far from it!).
The developers (Keith Warrinton and David S Reidy) has collaborated previously on the fantastic title “Skool Daze” (a personal favourite) and then the equally fun “Back To Skool” (also released by Microsphere) and wanted to try something new on this release. They do so by tackling a relatively unknown genre at the time and even within the limitations of the system (a 3.5MHZ CPU with just 128KB of memory), were able to deliver a solid title which is still enjoyable to this date!
As ‘Sam Cruise’ you patrolled the street conducting ‘typical’ detective style activities such as operating light switches, opening and closing blinds, using telephones, sabotaging fuse-boxes and unlocking or forcing open doors. In addition to these relatively pedestrian tasks (maybe aside from forcing open a door) Sam was a pretty athletic guy, able to perform dynamic rolls and expressive somersaults (well, ass expressive as can be in 8-bit). These evasive manoeuvres were especially useful when avoiding SNIPER FIRE!
In terms of inventory, Sam was suited with ten first aid kits (aka ‘lives’), a variety of disguises and $50.00 cash (which equates to roughly around $110 in 2017!). There was a catch though – that $50.00 in cash was on a meter, which gradually fell and fell as you played. Luckily, being an excellent 8-bit private detective, you could earn money solving cases for shady clients. Or if you were really lucky, you could pick up cash from the street – left behind after a hasty getaway from a recent bank robbery (obviously).
Even if you can keep the cash topped up – surviving as a private detective in the big city isn’t easy. Should Sam find himself shot 10 times, or booted off the top of a skyscraper by the Mafia – it was Game Over for him, and you! It was this brand of 8-bit film-noir that really set Contact Sam Cruise apart from any other game at the time. Meanwhile gameplay that allowed you to interact with your environment on such a level – be it open a door, disable an alarm, change into disguise – is more akin to Grand Theft Auto than other games from that era.