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Game: Mean Streets (1989)
?Mean Streets? is the first of the games featuring Tex Murphy, a private investigator working in a dystopian San Francisco in 2033. The main success of ?Main Streets? is in developing a seedy future with an interesting mystery story full of corruption and ambiguity. Tex?s first case is to investigate the death of professor Carl Linksy, deemed a definite suicide. In the style of the best detective stories, information is slowly revealed regarding the case by interacting with various characters and visiting different locations. In short, Tex uses a combination of questioning, bribing and threatening to get information from a wide range of characters. Sometimes Tex explores rooms to look for clues when not interacting with characters, and these sections feature an interesting and effective interface that allows players to largely use a mouse rather than a parser commands.
The game is solid from a technical standpoint. It features VGA graphics which are impressive for their time. Access used live actors as the basis for their character portraits and characters in cut scenes, and the result is impressively realistic looking characters. The soundtrack of ?Mean Streets? features one decent song that is repeated for full impact, but the major achievement in sound in the game is the inclusion of digitized speech. The amount of spoken dialogue is understandably little, but it is a welcome addition to the game, particularly the taped dialogue of Carl Linsky.
Unfortunately, the gameplay of ?Mean Streets? is tedious in many respects. The gameplay consists of traveling to various locations to gather information about the case. The first problem arises in the travel between locations. Tex Murphy uses a flying ?speeder? to move between locations, which is a nice concept, but unfortunately the amount of time spent in getting to different locations is excessive and increasingly boring. At a number of locations players will also have to pass simplistic side scroller action sequences being able to access the location. These are a dull and unwelcome addition to the game. In the beginning, visiting the different characters of the game is interesting, but visiting the characters becomes tedious as Tex visits an increasing number of unmemorable minor characters to get information allowing him to visit other minor characters.
Some locations involve investigating rooms for clues rather than interacting with characters. While the game has some decent puzzles in these rooms, most of the actions required consist of moving or opening objects and using inventory objects in obvious places. In short, ?Mean Streets? is severely lacking where conventional adventure game puzzles are concerned, which for me makes the game less interesting than it could be. Searching these rooms becomes especially boring during the long ?passcard hunt? toward the end of the game.
?Mean Streets? has an interesting futuristic detective story and impressive graphics and sound, but mundane gameplay which makes it a chore to finish. Access seems to have realized the failings of this game and vast improvements were made to the gameplay of subsequent Tex Murphy games, including the elimination of traveling time between locations and action sequences, introducing more interesting puzzles and including less trivial minor characters.
The last Tex Murphy game, ?Tex Murphy: Overseer?, is a heavily enhanced and expanded remake of this game and is definitely more worth playing. It is also notable that ?Overseer? and ?Mean Streets? have the same basic story, though the story of ?Overseer? is more intricate. Therefore, it may be worth skipping ?Mean Streets? to avoid revealing plot details in common with ?Overseer?. I only recommend this one to those willing to muddle through arduous gameplay for the sake of seeing the original Tex Murphy storyline.
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