Mean Streets is the first game in the Tex Murphy series, written by Chris Jones and inspired by his original screenplay, The Singing Detective (1987), and the second game by Access Software.
You play Tex Murphy, a detective in San Francisco in the year 2033. A noted doctor has killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, and his daughter has hired you to investigate his death. With a handful of clues to start and your trusty hover car, your investigation begins.
Speaking of a hover car, get use to the flight-sim cleverly disguised as a method of transportation, because you’ll be seeing it a lot. A LOT. It’s not as bad as it could have been. Sometimes driving, instead of taking advantage of the autopilot, can be a fun diversion from the rest of the game; especially since you can fly with reckless abandon and never worry about splattering yourself across the face of a building, since you just clip straight through objects.
The rest of the game is a mixed bag. On one hand it’s very reminiscent of other adventure games, with a list of options like “take”, “talk”, “use”, and the like. You follow clues from scene to scene, collecting objects, which may be evidence, or may be helpful in another area. That part of it is deep and engrossing, and a lot of fun to do, especially in a few specific scenes that you have to experience to believe. However, it does have a few downsides. The clues you find aren’t copied for you, so you really want pen and paper around for the game, since you never know what may or may not be important. And there are a LOT of clues, usually around five to ten per scene. A quarter of those are red herrings, both the locations and the clues.
Conversations are also a little bit of a chore since you must follow a branching conversation before you’ll get any answers out of anyone. But once you make it though that gauntlet, you have to type in what you want to ask out of your list of “important” objects or clues.
Then there’s the combat. That’s right. Combat. Every now and again, too often for some people perhaps, you have to do a side-scrolling run-and-gun against an onslaught of enemies for no reason whatsoever. These aren’t that hard, per se, just an annoying interruption, especially because they feel slapped-on, as if Access thought they wouldn’t be able to sell a future-noir game without some shootouts.
The graphics are interesting. The flight parts are reminiscent of Access’s earlier flight game Echelon, wire-framing and all, though sparsely populated, save for the Golden Gate bridge and other landmarks. The other scenes are blurry and the character animations are a little wooden, but it’s serviceable. Conversations are not really FMV, but it is real people in several still-frame poses with some animation in-between. Voice acting only occurs in certain parts of the conversation, but it’s good enough all around and extremely funny when it wants to be.
All in all, it’s a good, engrossing game. You really get into Tex’s shoes and experience the world around him. Not to say that it doesn’t have its problems, most notably the action sequences and the mediocre graphics, but if you really like adventure and/or detective games, you can easily over-look those few niggles. I give it a 4, which on my scale pretty much means a good game.
When you're presented with the initial screen (a menu), just type '1' to play the game. On the next screen menu, choose '1' again for the best quality graphics.
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