Mean Streets was one of the very first adventure games that called itself an interactive movie and was still enjoyable to play.
It mixes the traditional adventure game theme of exploring rooms, finding objects and using them to solve puzzles, with the ability to see digitized images of actors when the player is conversing with other characters. The player has a menu of game options to choose from, such as get, open, push, and so on. They can combine these keywords with objects that are found in the game world.
In terms of graphics and sound, Mean Streets was way ahead of its competitors. It was one of the very first MS-DOS games to use more than 16 colors and also was a pioneer in its use digitised speech and images of real actors.
There are sections of the game that don't work. Flying the hovercar between game locations is mind-numbing and essentially a time waster. The combat sequences are repetitive and not likely to appeal to adventure game fans. Thankfully these elements were trimmed from later Tex Murphy games.
The puzzles in the game are clever and none of them are overly frustrating. The humor throughout the game works well, and there are several very funny responses when you try and make Tex do something strange. The mystery behind the game's storyline is interesting and well thought out. The game's setting is an mix of science fiction and Chandleresque style detection that works well and should appeal to fans of both genres.
Mean Streets was later remade as Overseer and is one of the classics of the adventure game genre.
Graphics: One of the very first games to utilise the 256 colors available in VGA mode
Sound: One of the first PC games to incorporate digitised sound and speech
Enjoyment: A very fun game to play. Plenty of humor, and an interesting storyline.
Replay Value: Once you've finished the game and solved the puzzles, there's not much to do after that.
Private investigator Tex Murphy is hired to investigate the murder of a university professor. It turns out that he was one of eight scientists involved in Project Overlord, a mission to remotely control people. You soon learn of the deaths of other related figures. Suspects may include the British intelligence head, a surveillance company owner, and the professor's daughter.
Tex's first adventure (and the only one released for systems other than DOS or Windows PCs) takes you through the seedy West Coast world of 2033. The game is icon-driven, with object puzzles less significant than detective deduction and character interaction.
Mean Streets features dozens of characters to interact with by asking questions or offering bribes. Fights often arise, but a diplomatic approach is more successful with characters whose guilt is unproven. Although it is largely an adventure game, travel between cities involves piloting your Lotus Speeder in a flight simulation section.
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.
People who downloaded Mean Streets have also downloaded:
Martian Memorandum, Pandora Directive, The, Tex Murphy: Overseer, Under a Killing Moon, Maniac Mansion Deluxe, Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 1 (a.k.a. Case of the Serrated Scalpel), Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 2 (a.k.a. Case of Rose Tattoo), Maupiti Island
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