Mean Streets logo

US GOLD £24.99 * Joystick and Keyboard

His name is Murphy - Tex Murphy - PI in SF circa 2033 - and he's a hard-boiled gumshoe in the Mike Hammer mould. Some egghead took a flying lesson off of the Golden Gate and his daughter smelt a rat. She wanted Tex to find out the truth. Was it murder? The answer lay on the Mean Streets of San Francisco, lurking in some smog-filled corner like a frightened rat. It was time for Tex to play the piper.

Tex had all the latest high-techn 'tec extras, like a hover car complete with fax, a video phone and a Colt '45. Machines, however, can't solve crimes, so he had to hit the shoe leather to track down the slimeball who'd jumped Carl Linsky.

There were five obvious places to start, five people who knew the guy, five goons to bribe and threaten into telling the truth. All Tex had to do was punch in the correct navigation codes (each address in the state has an address code) and let the auto-pilot take the strain. Gone were the days of incriminating telephone numbers on matchbooks, now it was all about Nav codes.

21st century travel still took time so Tex always used the 'phone to gather some background dirt on suspects while in transit. Vanessa, his secretary, was a smart dame. He'd lay one Vid call on her and minutes later she'd fax the info back. The, of course, there was always the stunning Lee Chin, his grass. Lee Chin by name and leeching by nature - any street talk she passed on cost an arm, a leg and a few other body parts besides - but that's another story.

Interviews were just a stagger in the park to Tex. He slobbed through the door and got grilling. Tex didn't exactly have the gift of the gab - he made Hemingway look wordy. He'd only ever ask "What do you know?" then threaten, bribe or leave. All he ever tacked on the end of his questions were full names, company titles or places. Blunt, brutal and effective, just like Tex.

Tex also loved searching suspects' homes. People invariably had some dirty laundry tucked away and rooting through it was like taking a holiday in the dark side of their souls. He always kept any hard evidence he found - he also kept any hard cash.

Tex walked the Mean Streets packed, his one constant companion a '45 automatic. His cannon was the one partner who wouldn't walk out on him after a fight. In the nether regions of California where law and order seldom dared to tread, and if it did it ran quickly, he needed his persuader.

Pimps, pushers, pros, perps and perverts just loved to take pot shots at 'tecs. Tex either shot back or hid behind the crates, slowly working his way across to his destination.

One slip was near deadly - a few hits and he'd have been vulture bait for certain. But these shoot-outs were always good practice for bounty hunting, a fun task that kept the wolf from the door, the rent paid and the State Coroner on overtime.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND

Mean Streets has style. It's Blade Runner meets Mike Hammer, space age slimeballs with a nice line in downtrodden urban junk. The digitised pictures are animated and ooze sleaze, giving the characters real, solid personalities. The searches are easy - the large animated houses are easily scoured using the joystick and menus. Even travelling to and from places is smart thanks to the great 3D car-flying option.

The music evokes the right sense of late-nite TV and bad Marlowe remakes. The car sections are annoyingly silent and this ruins what could have been one of the game's strongest points. Throughout the interviews and searches, though, there is some well-thought-out digitised speech, which adds atmosphere and humour. Mean Streets alternates between neat samples and total silence, but when there is noise it's good stuff.

LASTING INTEREST

Mean Streets is packed with clues, locations and suspects. The first few encounters just serve to make you aware of how vast the mystery surrounding Carl Linsky's death really is, with political pressure groups, ditched fiancees and leads by the bucket load. There's a large map to explore and bounty-hunting shoot-outs as a sub-game. The various styles combine well to make this an absorbing adventure.

On the down side, though, there are two main sticking points. Firstly Tex spends too much time in transit, espaically when the call of duty takes him down the coast. Secondly, as seems to be the case with most graphic adventures, there's just too much disk-swapping for the single driver player.

JUDGEMENT

Mean Streets is a tough, hard-nosed adventure. It's not a game you take on and beat in a few hours. It has slow moments and requires the usual pedantry to ensure success, but the satirical bent more than makes amends. The detective character is well designed and well-defined in what he can and cannot do: so when conversing with suspects, he doesn't spend weeks trying to find the correct syntactical form to elicit an answer.

All aspects of the game follow logical detective patterns, which helps in piecing together the scattered notes and solving the crime. Evidence pops up regularly enough to keep you interested while the plot is complexly vague enough to maintain real suspense.


SUSPECTS
Mean Streets: Suspect Sylvia Lynsky
SYLVIA LINKSY - The Prof's daughter. WIth a massive insurance policy on her father nullified by suicide, was she in it for the dosh?
Mean Streets: Suspect Delores Lightbody
DELORES LIGHTBODY - Ex-fiancee of Linsky, she was dumped with the loving epithet "plenty more whales in the sea". Was it revenge?
Mean Streets: Suspect Sandra Larsen
SANDRA LARSEN - The new light in Linsky's life. Was she after his body, his money, his mind or his secrets?
Mean Streets: Suspect Bash Dagout
BASH DAGOUT - Low-life extraordinaire, he hasn't got the nerve to murder. But does he know someone who has?

Mean Streets logo

Bei flüchtiger Betrachtung sieht U.S. Golds futuristisches Detektiv-Spielchen eher wie ein mißlungener Flugsimulator aus - aber der erste Eindruck ist ja nicht unbedingt der richtige. Oder etwa doch?

Zur Frage, wieso denn eigentlich ein Detektiv-Abenteuer wie ein Flugsimulator aussehen kann, kommen wir gleich - zuvor noch kurz die Ausgangssituation: Als eines schönen Tages im Jahre 2033 Professor Carl Lnsky von der Golden Gate Bridge hüpft, glaubt jedermann an Selbstmord. Nur seine hübsche Tochter Sylvia nicht, schließlich lag da diese mysteriöse Fax-Notiz auf Daddys Schreibtisch. Außerdem war der Gute in letzter Zeit völlig mit den Nerven runter und oftmals stockbesofften ("Papi, so kenne ich dich ja gar nicht!"). Trotzdem beharrt die Polizeit auf der Suizid-Theorie, also muß ein Privatschnüffler ran.

Ausgerüstet mit den neuesten technischen Errungenschaften, macht sich Tex Murphy auf die Suche nach dem wahren Mörder....

So, und wie war das jetzt mit dem Flugsimulator? Nun, einen Großteil des Spiels verbringt Held Murphy in seinem Gleiter, um damit von einem Ermittlungsort zum nächsten zu flitzen. Dabei steuert man das High Tech Gefährt durch langsam und ruckelig animierte Vektorgrafik, die zudem nicht immer eine Augenweide ist.

Die Farbkleckse sind zwar nur selten als San Francisco zu identifizieren, aber dank des eingebauten Navigationscomputers findet man dennoch seinen Weg. Sobald das Gerät aktiviert wurde, bewegt man ein Fadenkreuz über eine Landkarte und bestätigt die Schnittkoordinaten des Zielpunkts, oder man gibt von Anfang an einen Navigationscode ein. Einige dieser Codes stehen bereits in der Anleitung, weitere erhält man durch das Verhören von Verdächtigen oder Hausdurchsuchungen.

Grundsätzlich kann man mit seinem Gleiter nur zwei Typen von Lokalitäten ansteuern: Einmal solche, wo man auf (mehr oder weniger) interessante Personen trifft, die über ein kleines Menü mit den Punkten "Verhör", "Bestechen" und "Bedrohen" ausgefragt werden. Dabei sieht man ein animiertes und (manchmal) überarbeitetes Digi-Bildchen seines Gesprächspartners, darunter befindet sich ein Fenster für die englischen Textein- und -ausgaben.

Die andere Möglichkeit ist, Murphy per Joystick, einen Raum durchsuchen zu lassen. Auch hier gibt es wieder ein Menü, in dem bestimmt wird, ob man Gegenstände untersuchen, ausprobieren oder einstecken möchte. Gefundene Hinweise läßt man dann mit einem Telefoncomputer (im Gleiter) von seiner niedlichen Sekretärin oder einer japanischen Informantin checken. Sehr viel haben die beiden Damen zwar meist nicht zu sagen, dafür versorgen sie den Spieler von Zeit zu Zeit mit Neuigkeiten oder versteckten Tips.

Man ahnt es schon: die spielerischen Möglichkeiten sind sehr begrenzt, im Grunde läuft alles auf das Sammeln (und Notieren!) von Infos hinaus. Leider macht auch die Präsentation keinen allzu guten Eindruck, der Sound ist trotz gelegentlicher Sprachausgabe spärlich, und die Grafik wirkt an vielen Stellen etwas dilettantisch. Mean Streets ist zwar relativ umfangreich, es gibt viel zu sehen und zu lesen - aber halt nur wenig zu tun! (C. Borgmeier)



Mean Streets logo CU Screenstar

CD-Rom systems are using their vast memory and real sound capabilities to produce games which are more like films than conventional software. Standard home computers such as the Amiga don't much of a chance of matching a machine which can access over a hundred and twenty megabytes of information as well as recorded music, but Mean Streets is a very good attempt to mach this new phenomena. Whether it wants it or not, this is the comparison which will be made.

Tech's, Pis, Dick's, call them what you will, but for some reason they all seem to wear beat up old flasher's macks, bashed fedoras and carry a .38 special tucked under their shirt and braces, and they always talk to themselves. In Mean Streets you play such a private investigator, Tex Murphy, only he's sleuthing around in the twenty-first century.

Your case starts with a rich, young attractive broad stepping into your office and offering you a ridiculously high fee to investigate the mysterious suicide of her father. It's a job you can't turn down.

As in the film Blade Runner (which the environment of the game resembles) ground vehicles are no long the common mode of transport. The hover car has revolutionised transport, and it just so happens you own one.

Instead of using addresses or co-ordinates to guide you round the city all key locations have navigation codes. When you enter one of these codes the car's computer shows you where to fly and how far the location is. Then you can fly manually or use the auto pilot to get you there. The game starts you off with six navigation codes, which is enough to get you into the game and give you a few good leads.

Finding out about people can be costly. You have your secretary, Vanessa, who can find out basic facts, but for more personal details you need to go to Li Chin, your informant. For a small price she'll dig up all the available dirt on a character. You'll find yourself going to her quite a bit as she is a constant source for Nav codes.

Money is important. It's the best way to loosen tongues, violence also works, but occasionally you get flattened instead. To make more money you can take a trip to the lawless zone, the games arcade sequence. Tex is now on a left to right scrolling screen, armed with his pistol and facing hordes of on coming criminals. A bounty is awarded for each criminal killed. This section's quite primitive, old idea, average execution, but fun all the same.

Mean Streets manages to find a fairly distinctive brand of game play. I personally would like to have wandered round the streets a bit thus expanded the games features but that's a fairly minor quibble. Absorbing, atmospheric and clever, Mean Streets gets serious high fives from me.


Solving the overall puzzle is a matter of wrapping up lots of minor problems, such as finding combinations to safes, or finding missing persons. When you enter an unoccupied building the game format changes to one similar to the Sierra adventures. To move Tex around you need to point at a location with the cursor, clicking on an object will bring up a menu of nearby items. All these can be operated on, but what they do is left to you to find out.

SOUND The most notable feature about Mean Streets is that it brings the CD-Rom tout of a digitised cast and sound to the normal micro. Here on your disks you get a full cast of digitised people whose expressions match the mood of their conversation with you. The quality of the graphics is high, it needs to be to compensate for the lack of animation frames. Then there's sound. The music is all digitised, as are the sound effects. Vanessa and Li Chin both have teir own sampled phrases. Even the intro tune's impressive, modern sounding and sampled through three channels.



Mean Streets logo

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.