This game, for me, is a rare and one-of-a-kind adventure as far as story, plot, and theme go. Rather than stick to the same old character and story clichés, you play the role of Blackstar, a Native American who seems to be an underworld Jack-of-all-trades: part detective, part thug, part drug dealer and even handyman; but he still sports a good heart underneath the rough exterior. This adventure is set in a modern Native American community, and being the man you are, almost all you are going to see of it is its seedy night-life from a streetsmart, but still somewhat traditional, Native American perspective.
Your day starts out in your apartment just like any other. There have been rumors going around that hookers are vanishing left and right. This doesn't concern you too much, but when your cop buddy Cam leaves a little something for you, this strange mystery comes a little too close to home. What's so cool about this game’s story and character interaction is that it's so real and in-your-face. Rather than the same text boxes everywhere, you will really feel like you're having a face-to-face conversation with the characters. All the dialogues in the game take place from a unique interview-style perspective with an interesting set of subjects to choose from; this feature has become a little tedious by now, but in this game they set the tone and flow of the story perfectly. Every character you meet will not only intrigue you, but also make you even more curious about Blackstar himself. You can get a good idea of his personality, but since the characters only hint and joke about his dealings, you never know exactly what he's been into before your little journey is over. This game has quite a bit of language in it, too (and nudity); by the second episode, this game goes from PG-13 mystery to R-rated thriller, so be prepared for some surprises throughout.
OH DEAR LORD! Although very interesting solutions arise from these, they can be very tedious and downright painful at times. I'm only talking about the things that were meant to be puzzles; just figuring out where to go or be next in the game can be a puzzle in itself, since you have full access to most parts of the city throughout the game. The majority of the stuff you can easily solve on your own with a little thinking, but don't be afraid to get a little liberal with the walkthrough if you feel a bit in over your head. The answering machine and phonebook will be your main tools, but they add a lot of confusion, too. Some of the messages you receive won't come into play until much later, which is kind of a pain, and you can't rewind them either, so pay attention or keep some backup saves.
The art in this game is just wonderful for the time it was produced; the environments have such a cartoony yet artistic look to them. Every area you go to has its own well-drawn look to it that really creates a great sense of atmosphere. The entire town is like one big graffiti pop-art mural. Although the areas are great to look at, a lot of the stand-alone items in the game are a little rough-looking and the faces (especially the women's) are just dreadful at times. Even though the faces are poor, a good sense of character design throughout the game still manages to make it through. It's a shame this series didn't progress; it would have been wonderful to see these characters fully realized with more modern graphics.
Edgy MIDI score, or awesome PC-speaker jingles - take your pick! The game has nice mood setting music for either option. The MIDI music adds a really dark and gritty ambience throughout the game, which is really reminiscent of cheesy late 80's crime drama films. The starting music from Blackstar's apartment building is some of the best music I've heard. The rest is good and expect a remix or two of the main tracks during unique situations like towards the end of the game. Even though I like the MIDI stuff, the PC-speaker jingles are what grew on me. Unlike the other music, the speaker stuff sets a still freaky, but lighter vibe with the short, but sweet jingles you will hear when you enter each area. Like most games, though, neither music option offers a unique song for each area; the stuff is spread out a little thin, but doesn't become too annoying and there are still plenty of places in the game that do have their own tunes. I just would have liked to hear more.
This game's interface is just great and adds a ton to the gameplay, story, and atmosphere with a really cool "thinking" feature. To use it, you click on Blackstar's portrait and he will close his eyes and share his thoughts with you; sometimes these will be clues, and other times they will just be interesting comments about the area you are in. As I've said earlier, the way you interact with NPCs is just wonderful and the inventory system couldn't be any easier to use. One other really nice feature that more adventures of the past and present could learn from is the mouse-over feature. Rather than clicking on each individual thing you can simply move Blackstar's hand over it and he will comment on it. Although touching many things will give you a somewhat annoying "leave it alone" response, there are some hilarious jokes and comments that arise from it, so don't be afraid to touch things that don't seem very important.
If you’re the type of person that isn't really amused by mature language and themes and would rather play something more tame, then by all means you should, because this game certainly isn't for everyone. However, if you really want to play an original adventure title that takes place from a very rarely seen perspective in this genre (and gaming in general), then this is definitely worth a try and may just be the thing you've been looking for. The game does have its flaws just like any other, but to say this was made mostly by one man and manages to accomplish what it does, makes it a downright urban masterpiece in my book.
You have to run the FM.com file in the Blackstar directory before you start the game to make the soundcard music play. Also, if you run this game outside of DOSBox in a regular DOS window, you have to run the FM.com and Blackstar.com in the same MS-DOS prompt session. So basically, don't just click on the FM.com file and then run Blackstar, because it won't do anything; load both files from the same MS-DOS prompt session. This applies to many crack.com files as well.
Please note that the game archive contains both parts of the series!