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In the game, the player uses a variety of clues linking a time and a place along with hints regarding the criminal's physical characteristics or preferences from people in each time period in order to narrow down on a single suspect and catch them before you run out of useable hours on a time machine called the Chronoskimmer.
Konami ported a version of the game over to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1991. A special copy of the New American Desk Encyclopedia including Konami game advertisements was included with the game to help players make sense of the various clues, time periods, and locations throughout the game.
The game was later ported to the SNES and the Sega Genesis by Hi Tech Expressions and Electronic Arts respectively.
A television game show loosely based on the game also titled Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? aired from 1996 to 1998 on PBS.
When released, the NES version was awarded the following scores from Electronic Gaming Monthly: 5,7,5,6 saying, "a very interesting and sometimes educational quest".