Access/US Gold, Amiga £24.99
Suicide. That was the verdict anyway. Dr Carl Linsky was found floating, face-down, in the San Francisco Bay. Someone did see him standing on the Golden Gate Bridge - they said Linsky was alone. His daughter, Sylvia, doesn't buy that verdict, though. That's why you're here: Tex Murphy, private eye.
It seems that the Doc, a professor of neuropsychology, had been working on an independent consulting contract. Lately, though, he had been under stress, drinking too much and irritable. Then someone saw his body falling from the Golden Gate Bridge. But why would a man who had a fear of water commit suicide by jumping into the Bay? Then there was the FAX - 'Professor: You were right about these boys. They play for keeps. Watch your step. S.F.'
Sylvia Linsky has offered you £10,000 to find out who murdered her father and why. 10 G's is a lot of money for an advance, an awful lot. 'My gut feeling tells me something is wrong. Maybe I'm just too cynical.'
Presented on six disks, Mean Streets is set in 21st Century America. Graphics include rather nice digitised images of actors and actresses as characters in the story. There are 27 digitised and animated characters in Mean Streets as well as a variety of touched-up, digitised stills and solid 3-D graphics that make for a very impressive front-end.
As Tex, you can do a number of things. You can fly around California in your Lotus Speeder, flying car (a sort of pseudo spinner from BladeRunner) looking at the 3-D scenery (bridges, solid-filled buildings etc). You can go bounty hunting in the wastelands (where the game shifts to a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up), question/bribe/threaten suspects, check out information via a videophone/fax from your secretary and street informant, search through offices and Labs and, so, either solve the Linsky case or die trying.
A large amount of effort will be used in interviewing characters. You do this by flying your Lotus to their location, either manually or by autopilot after punching a set of co-ordinates into your navigation computer. After which, a pretty backdrop and descriptive text will set the scene. A small, animated, digitised picture appears centre-screen and then you can ask questions. The game presents you with a 'Tell Me About' prompt. You just type in a name or whatever and hope for a response. This section has similarities to Killed Until Dead (remember that?) because certain inputs provoke emotional responses from the characters. Their facial expressions change, for example. If questioning doesn't work you can always resort to bribery or violence. Be prepared for a few bumps and bruises, though.
The bounty hunting sequence is available to earn ready cash. After flying to one of these lawless areas the game shifts to a sideways shoot-'em-up about two screens long. This is a fairly simple sequence involving ducking behind crates and barrels to escape the shots of the bad guys. The aim is to walk through the two screens upon which you're given a tidy sum.
Some sequences present you with an empty room to search for clues, objects, money, messages and so on. You must move and open items using text input or you can utilise Access's new Tree Search routine which brings up a menu of items. After selecting an item, you can then select a command for that item (look, get etc).
Mean Streets plays its part in pointing the way forward for computer games of the future. It is not perfect, it is rather slow to begin with and parts of the game area are a little repetitive. However, software houses are having to come to terms with the phenomenon of 'Interactive Movies'. It is quite a jump from the standard fare, so it is understandable that Access, like the rest, are finding their feet by trying new techniques, introducing the human element and preparing for the coming of CDTV. As such, Mean Streets is an enjoyable game which, unlike other games that rely solely on presentation, offers extended gameplay.
NB: A C64 version is available on disk and should be reviewed soon.
Zzap! Issue 69, January 1991, p.41