I recently introduced my 6-year old to Clue, one of my all time favorite comedies. So much of the film flew over his head but he was here for the cadence of the dialogue, the slapstick, and the overall mystery vibe. Watching it reminded me of a white whale from my youth, 1985’s “Clue VHS Mystery Game”. I yearned for it, but never convinced my parents to make the purchase.
Regarded as the first videotape board game, Clue takes place after the events of the initial boardgame. I think? It’s not super clear – the core characters all know each other already, but there are a few newcomers; Miss Peach, M. Brunette, Madam Rose, and Sergeant Grey.
The gameplay’s pretty interesting, with a tutorial given at the top of the video by the Butler Didit (cough). As with the original game there’s a murderer, a weapon and a location. Players are given characters to play and must watch their characters in each scene to know their actions. They are asked questions by the other players in between scenes that help each player suss out who is who. All players watch a scene and then clues are given at the end of each round related to the events of the previous scene.
The first player to assemble the clues using their good memory and info from the other players makes a guess and either wins the game or drops out, but still participates in questioning after each round.
To put it delicately, it’s clear that this effort was neither written nor directed by Jonathan Lynn. It’s got a real cable feel, from before when that could have been a compliment. And, to be fair, it’s not meant to. This was a party game, meant to be enjoyed by families or adults over a few drinks. The scenes play out like they’re on a stage, with minimal production effort put into the video-ness of it all. The actors take turn yelling their lines, the characters tiptoe around with murder weapons in cartoonish fashion, and it all ends up in a mess. Our beloved characters are painted as a bunch of psychos, which would be a cool angle if it were explored but is really just the outcome of the characters needing to be dialed up to 11 at all times to make the scenes interesting.
Still, it’s a really fun idea and an impressive execution for being the first of its type. Others did it more elegantly, and with higher production value, but this is really impressive groundbreaking stuff for the era.