Thursday, 28 June 2012

Game 20: Manhunter 1 - Introduction


It's actually quite sad to see the twin towers in a game set in 2004.

Finally I’m ready to move on from Larry 2 to the 20th game on the list, Manhunter: New York. It’s yet another Sierra game that I’ve never played and one that has always intrigued me. In fact, a good friend of mine talked about how much he loved this game for years, encouraging me to play it. Unfortunately, that same friend recently cranked up DOSBox and played the game again, two decades after his original life-changing experience. He refuses to talk about it much, but it’s clear that his recent play through all but destroyed the wonderful memories he had from his childhood. In short…he wasn’t impressed. I however, have no Manhunter nostalgia to crush, so will go into this with fresh eyes and an open mind. Before I get underway, it’s worth looking at how the game came about and how it fits into the Sierra timeline.


The box artwork sets the dark tone that the title screen fails to do.

Manhunter: New York was created by a company called Evryware, which was made up of what I assume is three siblings. Barry, Dave and Dee Dee Murry developed the game for Sierra On-Line back in 1988. Barry seems to have been the leader of the gang, being involved in the design, programming, graphics and music (Dave had a hand in the design and programming while Dee Dee assisted with graphics). This wasn’t the family’s first attempt at making a game however, as Barry and Dave had already had a fair amount of success with their The Ancient Art of War games, which were published by Brøderbund. In fact, it was the quality of those games that caused Sierra to get in touch with them to see whether they wanted to create a game for them using the AGI engine that the company had already built an empire with. Jumping at the opportunity, the Murry brothers were not satisfied with simply taking the technology and running with it. Instead, they decided to make something far removed from the standard Quest games Sierra were known for.


The Murry family, dressed in the monk robes (hired from a local costume shop) that the Orbs force humanity to wear.

After many months of design, the Murry’s finally decided their game would have much more mature themes than the likes of King’s Quest and Space Quest. It would be set 16 years in the future (2004 to be precise) and would have dark and at times gory themes. It would use real life locations, and they even spent two days in New York photographing locations that would make an appearance in the game. They chose New York as the city because they felt it lent itself well to the gritty, bleak landscape they had in mind. The backstory goes that the Earth has been enslaved by aliens known as the Orbs (giant floating eyeballs). The Orbs have implanted tracking devices in all surviving humans to keep them under control and it’s a capital offence for any human to speak at any time. Certain humans are enlisted by The Orbs as “Manhunters”, with the role of tracking down fellow humans that make any attempt to form an underground resistance. The protagonist of the game is one such Manhunter!


An Orb: Apparently the Murry's made them look like this purely because it was easy to animate.

It’s definitely worth noting that Manhunter uses Sierra’s AGI engine rather than the SCI engine that both King’s Quest IV and Leisure Suit Larry 2 utilised in the same year. I can’t find anything concrete, but I assume Manhunter was developed and released prior to those two games in 1988, making me wish I’d played them in that order. Still, this doesn’t look like a standard AGI game as the Murry’s totally messed with the system to make it do what they wanted. The end result is a game with no text parser whatsoever, making it the first Sierra published game to have a complete point and click interface. This path was chosen mostly due to the fact that no characters in the game were allowed to speak, so a substitute form of control was created. Manhunter: New York also includes a “first person perspective, bizarre camera angles, picture-in-a-picture, long pans, extreme close-ups, overhead shots and a faux 3-D sequence”, making it a truly unique game in the Sierra adventure canon to date.


Blade Runner: An obvious inspiration for Manhunter.

The influence of Blade Runner on Manhunter: New York is obvious, but it’s interesting that the player is enlisted to track down humans rather than the “replicants” that Decker chases in that masterpiece. I’m looking forward to seeing how that plays out, but I have to admit that the screenshots do not look appealing from a visual point of view. I’ve downloaded a DOS version of the game and plan to run it in DOSBox and also got my hands on the manual and a map that came with the original packaging. The manual is called the Official Manhunter’s Field Guide (Planet Earth Edition) and it describes the alien invasion through journal entries written by the protagonist. It also has the notice that was sent to all those humans selected to be Manhunters, which describes the obligations of the chosen along with the devices that are used to fulfil them. It’s a nice touch and makes me eager to get going!


I miss the days of manuals like this one. They really do get you in the mood to play!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've recently written a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 points (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle unassisted (see below for an example). It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Multiple readers can predict the same score, but will be rewarded a decreasing amount of points if it turns out to be correct.

Example Bet:
Bet: V cerqvpg lbh jvyy trg fghpx va gur zhq. Zl vavgvnyf ner WJ naq V yvxr pbzvp obbxf. Jub nz V?

58 comments:

  1. Yes, we finally got to Manhunter. Like you Trickster I missed this one when it came out and I've been waiting for the opportunity to fix that. I'll be tagging along!

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    1. Awesome! I'm still trying to figure out how I can reward people for playing along with me, without giving points out to people who "say" they are playing along with me or just use a walkthrough. Suggestions, as usual, are welcome.

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    2. Yeah, it's tricky. Then again, assistance points suffer from a similar limitation... I think we would all agree that readers who are either helping from memory or while playing along should probably get a bigger share for their efforts than those copying from online walkthroughs. But there's really no way to verify or enforce that that I can see.

      So that's likely the best we can do with what we have. FWIW I'm cool with hopping on for free -- just having an excuse to play these oldies is enough reward!

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    3. Trickster: Wouldn't it be rather simple to verify whether people are really playing along by asking them some insignificant detail, which would be easy to check while you are playing, but which wouldn't likely find it's way in a walkthrough? Say, something like, "what does the game tell you when you look at the tree near cottage?", "what happens if you apply soap to the teddy bear", "what does the detective say when you ask him of New Orleans?" or "what is the response for trying to pleasure yourself?". You might occasionally even make some red herring -questions, if they would be obvious red herrings for anyone really playing the game.

      BTW, as there has been some discussion about the quality of puzzles in the recently played games, what would you think about naming the best and the worst puzzles of each gaming year? You could either choose your own favourites or then nominate some outstanding candidates from which the readers could vote - or you could even do both.

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    4. Ilmari, that's so simple, yet genius. That's exactly what I'm going to do! I think I will write down three or four questions as I play that only someone playing along would be able to answer. If they can answer them, then they'll gain CAPs. I just need to make sure I don't give the answers in screenshots, plus if someone is way ahead of me, they might have already missed the answer earlier on. I guess that's what save games are for though.

      I already plan to write some posts like the one you suggest at the end of 1988. I've got some in mind that I'll work on between now and then.

      These are both fantastic ideas so I'm giving Ilmari another 10 points for helping build on the blog. It's much appreciated.

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    5. Can we skip the questions if we blog as we go, possibly with screenshots or vids? Basically, an 'or sufficient evidence' point, you know, in case I don't notice what colour the cat I need to chase the bird is.

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    6. Yes. I'd rather treat you guys as companions than criminals. If I can see any evidence that you're playing the game, I won't even question it.

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  2. Two adventure games on sale tomorrow; http://www.gog.com/en/page/2012_summer_promo You vote one for 60% off, the other will be 40% off. Look like good games too, The Longest Journy and Syberia.

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    1. You beat me this time! 5 points for Canageek.

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    2. Man, BOTH great games. I have no idea where my Longest Journey disc is after all this time, so I secretly hope that one wins.

      Believe it or not, my dad bought me The Longest Journey out of a Walmart bargain bin simply because it had a "game of the year" sticker on it. In a lifetime of great chance computer game purchases, that might have been his best moment.

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    3. I've been checking each day of the sale; I really should have posted the RPGs over on Chet's blog, but I forgot. :(

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    4. It was The Longest Journey and Syberia that got me back into adventure gaming. Without them this blog wouldn't exist.

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    5. Woot woo. Glad to hear they are good.

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  3. I'm liking the theme of this one, I must say! I can't wait for you to play this!

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    1. Yeah, at least the theme is right up my alley. :)

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  4. I also had fond memories for this series, maybe because of the unique setting and game play mechanism. But unfortunately, it ends to the same category as Gold Rush: lots of wasted potential. And I would assume your biggest complaint is regarding the puzzle design: many of the puzzles make absolutely no sense, at least from the story perspective. Also some trial and error is needed.

    I guess you will be stuck a couple of times, but have no idea where in particular that would be.. no bets this time.

    And my guess for the score.. let's say 44.

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    1. Ooohh...thanks for reminding me about the score predictions and betting. I just added the final paragraph.

      Wow! 44 is lower than I was expecting. Doesn't bode well...

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    2. You should pick another number Fenrus. After realizing that my guessed score of 51 for LSL2 would never happen, I felt I should post a warning.

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    3. I have a plan for that Zenic but I might kick it off at the beginning of 1989.

      Glad to see I'm not the only mathematically inclined individual around here. I'm surprised Canageek hasn't already listed the possible ratings.

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    4. Thanks Zenic, I have to be more meticulous in the future - Both 43 and 45 are now already taken, but I will round my guess up to 45 anyway.. if Trickster allows me to change my guess.

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    5. Sorry, I was trying to do this at 5 (Even got off work early today), but net troubles slowed me down.

      I'm going for 47, as your median score is 50, with some low ranked games dropping it to 47. Given that people seem to find it a below-average game, but not terrible, 47 seems a good bet. I could go lower, but the theme seems cool, and some people like it.

      The list so far:

      Zenic 42
      Tk 43
      Lars-Erik 43
      Fenrus: 44
      Charles 46
      Canageek 47
      Bleaghhh 48
      JosephCurwen 51

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    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    8. Edit: Math error, truncating instead of rounding.

      Here are the only final scores currently possible in the PISSED system as it stands:

      0, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, 40, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 50, 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 60, 62, 63, 65, 67, 68, 70, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 80, 82, 83, 85, 87, 88, 90, 92, 93, 95, 97, 98, 100

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    9. I was wondering how long it was going to take for someone to a) realise this and b) publish it.

      I've already made the decision to give myself a one point leniency from the beginning of 1989. That means I use the PISSED rating as usual, but if I feel the game probably deserves 1 more or 1 less to make it "feel" about right, I'll do it.

      I don't think that will hugely ruin the historical flow of what I'm doing.

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    10. Good you clarified that, so the "floating point" means I still have a chance of winning my bet of 46, right?

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  5. Huh, based on the name, i was thinking it might have been a licensed game of the movie, and we all know how most licensed games usually fare. -.-

    This one should be interesting :)

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  6. I remember seeing the box for this (or the sequel) at a game store when it was brand new, but I passed it over for the likes of one quest games. Years later I had a friend rave about it, so I gave it try. Thing is I can't for the life of me remember about about the game other than a vague sense of it was AGI and had maps. For that I'll go with a source of 43.

    Also Trickster, it still can't be your birthday can it?!

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    1. Haha...no it's not my birthday anymore. I need to remember that you guys are always looking for clues.

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  7. I'm going to guess 42 as the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

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  8. I always knew OF this game, but never anything about it.

    When I read your quick description I was floored: THESE guys made The Ancient Art of War??? I absolutely loved that game, which featured some of the fiercest strategy AI before Civilization and Age of Empires. Took me ages and ages to beat the harder foes, and some I never beat. Never got tiring, though.

    So I am very curious indeed as to what they churned out for Sierra...

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  9. Oh wow, another round of How Low Can You Go!
    I'd say it's not quite as bad as Déjà Vu, but worse than Tass Times. 46.

    No wait, LSL2 got 50. OK, for its year, 45 (next non-guessed number is at 41, and that seems harsh).

    ...43. That's the one. Standing in line behind you, Tk.

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  10. I've made a couple of additions to the Companion Assist Points Explained post. More specifically, I've added Kickstarter and GOG announcements as official ways to gain companion assist points.

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    1. Sounds fair, especially using a $50k limit on the Kickstarter projects. Otherwise it'd be far to easy to flood the list with teeny tiny uninteresting games that just barely can be called adventure games.

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    2. At the same time, that kinda knocks out really interesting smaller games, doesn't it?

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  11. My predictions gonna be 48 for this game. I've no experience of it at all, but it just looks like an interesting idea that falls apart. I'm too lazy right now to work out whether that's even a valid score or not.

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  12. Uh, a lot of sub-50 scores so I guess I'll have to lower my expectations diving in. I predict a rating of 46 just to go with the crowd.

    Where can I find the formula for the PISSED rating system?

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    1. Isn't it just counting the average of the individual values of P, I, S, second S, E and D, multiplying with ten and rounding to a whole number?

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  13. I actually enjoyed the game, but mainly for the clever "tracking suspects" -minigame, which might not carry into a good PISSED-score... Otherwise, it has an interesting theme, but the AGI-graphics just look cheesy and point-clicking with keyboard is pretty clunky - and some of the action scenes are irritating. Let's say 45.

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    1. I also enjoyed the game despite the flaws, but never fully understood the plot or the motivations of some of the characters, including the protagonist. More discussion about this probably in future postings.

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    2. It's probably because there's very little dialogue. All you get to know from characters is their names and addresses and perhaps you can read some scraps of paper they've written - not much of a possibility for characterization there. I wasn't so concerned with the protagonist - just trying to stay alive, I guess. Instead, I found the game's main antagonist quite inane, and at the end of the game I had no idea what had been his nefarious plans or whether he had any plans at all. The second game didn't improve that much.

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    3. Yep, the main villain and his motivations was mainly whom I was referring to. But I am glad to hear that I am not the only confused one. And the second one indeed makes it more confusing, with even more weird stuff going on..

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  14. And no bets this time. I don't think there's any really harsh puzzles to run into.

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  15. Just a heads up, I found this good article on IOS adventure gaming. I didn't know that Simon the Sorcerer was ported to IOS!

    http://indiegames.com/2012/06/10_ios_adventure_games_you_mus.html

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  16. Also, while I had your data in Excel, I checked. There is no correlation between gameplay length and score. There IS a noticable cluster of bad games at the 10 hour mark, but not enough to form a trend. I tried removing these, and checking for some sort of trend, and the R^2 values get worse; I'm going with the relationship between time and score being basically random at this point, as the line it does form has almost no slope.

    I also checked; There isn't, so far, any obvious relationship between age and score. It does sort of look like the best games are getting higher ratings, and the worst ones getting worse, in a < shape, but that could be a sampling artifact due to the low number of games per year.

    There also isn't anything resembling a exponential, or even geometric progression in game length. The longest games are getting longer, but at what looks to be a very linear rate (~3.5 hours, + 2 hours/year, or 1.95x+3.45, R^2=0.932). However, the SHORTEST game of the year has only gone from 2.5 to 3.5 hours, not counting 1988. So I think while the longest games get longer, the shorter games will only increase in length slowly, at least, if this trend continues. (While a really bad predictor, the average game has been going up by about an hour/year, not counting 1988, but this is a horrible trendline, as I'm just doing really basic stuff, never having taken stats. I did count 1988 in the highest playtime check, as it fit so perfectly on the line)

    Now, by category:
    Puzzles and Solvability: Going down over time, but no real measurable trend. I'm going with random.

    Interface and Inventory: Essentially random.

    Story and Setting: Also going down over time, though essentially random: I think this is more that you are giving out more low scores over time, than any trend in the Story and Setting category itself.

    Sound and Graphics: See, this is getting a bit better over time, but is still mostly random. I think this shows a problem, as these SHOULD be going way up over time, since sound and graphics DO get better. However, the R^2 is only .16, showing not a real line, and the slow of the line is only about .3. I think you gave out too high S&G scores early on, I mean, your lowest is a 2, and I don't think we are going to get any worse in this category.

    Environment and Atmosphere: No change AT ALL over time. Average is 6.0, no trend up or down.

    Dialogue and Acting: No trend, looks random.

    Now, this COULD be due to the fact I'm used to having discrete data points, not a per-year thing. If I take the average score each year, then plot that, I do get a trend of your scores decreasing by 1 point/year, though this isn't a great linear relationship. As I said, I've just picked up some basic stats, never taken a class in it.

    Is this enough mathematical analysis for you?

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    1. Um...yes...I think that is enough mathematical analysis Canageek! ;)

      The only real criticism I can pick up from it is that you feel S&G should continue to go up dramatically over time. I think we have to admit that this is just not possible. Even if I started with 1 for King's Quest, there's still no way that I can continually increase the number in a purely comparative way. Instead I've decided to balance the rating based on how it looks and sounds overall, how the sound and graphics affect actual gameplay, and how it compares with the games that were released at a similar time. I realise that's very subjective, but I think it's a fairer way to do it. Otherwise a game like Secret of Monkey Island, which quite frankly had excellent sound and graphics for its time, would get about a 3, while Syberia would get 10. That doesn't feel right to me, despite the fact that anyone playing them today for the first time would probably see them that way.

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    2. I like your first two points, but dislike the third one, as it seem the only time you compare to the games of the time, instead of the quality of the game today. I think you are really on to something with the 'hinders or helps gameplay' idea though.

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  17. I've played Manhunter for about an hour and a half so far. I may even get a post out by the end of today (I'm home sick), so remember that any score predictions or bets need to made prior to that.

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  18. As I don't feel like packing just yet:

    Jack Houston and the Necronauts: $56,000 goal, 42 days to go. Predicted funding: 323%, though biased by initial day of funding. http://kck.st/OnsHns (Already on sidebar)

    Quest For Infamy - An Adventure Game By Infamous Quests: $46,503/25,000 (Funded). http://kck.st/KSJOKe Already on sidebar.

    HeXit: $75,000 goal, Trending to 32%, 11 days left. http://kck.st/KME193 (Already on sidebar)

    Reincarnation: The Root of All Evil: $15,000 goal, trending to 76%. Based on a series of Flash games I found rather dumb. 14 days left. http://kck.st/KWs11b

    Devil Gene R - Episode I: $3,000 goal, 19 days left, $2,182 raised; trending to 193%. http://kck.st/KdB2Tk Looks like a graphic novel, not sure if that counts as an adventure game. There is a free demo.

    The Verge: $5,000 goal, $56 raised, trending to 4% of goal. Yes, this one looks like a flop, due to asking for $5k, and promising stuff you'd need 10x that to even contemplate doing. 23 days left, http://kck.st/O5aZFk

    The Third Age: The Fallen: $150,000 Goal, $67 raised, Projected: 0% of goal (ouch). 22 days left. http://kck.st/LmxYbY NOT LISTED YET, AND OVER $50k LIMIT. :D You might want to add 'and have a hope in hell of succeeding to your criteria...)

    Lilly Looking Through: An animated adventure game: $30,920 of $18,000 goal. **51 hours to go** Projected: 182% of goal. http://kck.st/LbUwcc Looks like a good game, but not $50k.

    Based on this, I agree you might be flooded with low value games if you allow anything, however I'd suggest $10k as a better alternative? I mean, Lily has a demo out, looks pretty good in the gameplay video, but wouldn't fit your criteria.

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  19. Oh, and while I suspect everyone is sick of hearing from me: Parts 4 and 5 of my Quest for the Magic Candle are up, and with some adventure game stuff in them:

    http://canageek.wordpress.com/2012/06/24/quest-for-the-magic-candle-part-4
    http://canageek.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/the-quest-for-the-magic-candle-part-5/

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  20. I remember liking this game, but had a very hard time getting through a couple of (related) puzzles in the beginning. I distinctly remember buying the sequel when it was new. I bought the game at the mall and had to spend a couple of torturous hours trying on clothes before I could come home and play. I don't remember puzzles being too obtuse; even if the solutions were hard to find, they made sense. I'm sure there were a couple "pixel hunting" things that could be missed. I've forgotten most of the game, so maybe I should dig it up and play it again.

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  21. By the way, no-one has answered my latest riddle. There's 10 points still on offer.

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    1. Haha, didn't even realize there was a riddle. The first thing through my mind was Joss Whedon, but I can't for the life of me figure out his connection to adventure games. Back to thinking.

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    2. He has nothing to do with adventure games but he's worth mentioning under any context. 10 points to Lars-Erik!

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  22. Two hours in, I find I'm enjoying Manhunter after an initial lackluster impression. It helps that I'm actually making some progress.

    I had another idea for "proof" that I'm playing this along, which I'll share once Trickster gets to the first checkpoint.

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  23. Wow lots of comments!

    I too, have never played Manhunter, and haven't heard much about it either.

    Since most predictions are gone, I'm going to say 52 for the final score.

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  24. Manhunter can be streamed from Archive.org at: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Manhunter_1_-_New_York_1988

    Note that you can't save in the streaming version of DOSBOX they use, but if you want to give it a go with zero set up, give it a try.

    However, there is also an entry for it at https://archive.org/details/Manhunter_1020 which appears to be a download for it.

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