Friday, 12 April 2013

Game 30: Manhunter 2 - Final Rating

As much as I’ve really enjoyed my time with Manhunter: San Francisco, I have little doubt that the PISSED rating system is not going to be all that kind to it. In fact, I imagine the result will be quite similar to that of Manhunter: New York, since the majority of pros and cons of the first game returned for the second. Let’s see if the improved story and more logical puzzle solutions can push it up past 50!

Puzzles and Solvability
I gave Manhunter: New York a 6 for this category. The sequel uses the exact same puzzle formula as the first one, so it’s tempting to give it the same. However, I just feel that they worked a lot better this time around! I can’t be certain whether it has more to do with me knowing what to look for after my previous experience, but I found the puzzle solutions to be much more logical this time. The ambiguity of the plot meant that I really had to use my brain, and sometimes puzzles took days to solve, but in the end it was logical deduction that got me there. I felt a huge sense of achievement with these successes, much greater than I've had when solving standard inventory or branching dialogue based puzzles. My biggest complaint for New York was how difficult it was to figure out the suspect’s names, but they were less obtuse in San Francisco. I’m therefore upping the rating to a 7
Rating: 7


Nothing should be ignored in this game, as it might very well be important much later on.

Interface and Inventory
Well, nothing has changed between the two Manhunter games. There is still no real mouse support, and moving the cursor around with the keys is slow and frustrating, particularly given how much pixel hunting is required. I still feel exactly the same about the MAD interface too. I really love the concept and thoroughly enjoyed watching the tracker recordings and then visiting the locations in person, but having to watch the full recording to its completion before being able to restart, and having no way to jump to a certain part of it, is irritating. It was even worse in the sequel because each recording was much more complicated and longer. The arcade game sections are hardly worth mentioning as the controls are so simplistic (the drilling vehicle one was infuriating though), and the inventory is pretty stock standard too. I only came across one bug, which occurred during the lava flow map section towards the end (one of the slaves and one of the robots kept appearing off the map, yet I could still move them). I’m sticking with the same 3 I gave the first game.
Rating: 3


Pixel hunting a room like this one took over a minute, as I slowly moved my cursor up and down the screen with the arrow keys.

Story and Setting
I’m really torn on this one. On the one hand, I was totally captivated by the story in Manhunter: San Francisco. I really liked how it drip fed me information, with new revelations were consistently thrown into the mix. Answers to long held questions were revealed at regular intervals, pushing things along while making the player work for it. However, when I step away and have an actual look at it, I realise that the above feelings have a lot more to do with the game design than the story itself. The fact is I can’t really confidently piece together what even occurred throughout the game, and the majority of the character’s motivations are very unclear. I have so many important questions that remain unanswered, and the failure of the Murry’s to wrap up the story in a third game means I’ll never know the answers. Still, I have to give points somewhere for the amount of enjoyment I got from this game, so I’m going to give it a generous 6.
Rating: 6


I still don't know what "life" the Orbs were after. What was their actual goal?

Sound and Graphics
Once again, there is very little change between the two Manhunters for this category. There is still an impressive amount of effort and detail put into the game’s visual design, but its effect is dramatically decreased by the very average implementation. The bright colours clash with the game’s overall tone and the animated sequences are fairly laughable. The sound is even worse, and I got to a point where I simply couldn’t listen to the PC speaker quality sound effects and music. I gave the first game a generous 4, but given that much of the sequel’s graphics and sound were lifted from the first one, and the extra year that has passed between them makes it more noticeably horrible than before, I have to punish Manhunter: San Francisco further by giving it a 3.
Rating: 3


There was lots of little details in every screen, but boy is it ugly!

Environment and Atmosphere
The Murry’s trips to the actual San Francisco landmarks paid off, and I actually looked up the real locations on Wikipedia a few times while playing, just to see how well they virtually imitated them. Moving from location to location on the overhead map also really helped to make me feel like I was exploring a large area, filled with hidden horrors and dark secrets. The city has the same suppressed yet rebellious feel to it that pervaded New York, and there was a surprising amount of gore in the game that added to the atmosphere. As mentioned before though, the low quality and overly bright graphics don’t help on this front, nor does the silly nature of some of the occurrences and messages. Overall, I think it was the puzzles, the story, and the atmosphere that kept me coming back to Manhunter 2, so I have no issue with using fairly high numbers for those categories.
Rating: 6


The game pulls no punches...well...that is unless it pulls them off completely!

Dialogue and Acting
No-one speaks in the Manhunter series. I’m not even sure whether there was any explanation for that during the first game, but I guess it’s all part of the repressed society scenario. It does make this category challenging to rate, and the only aspects I can consider are the various letters and documents I collected and the Murry’s messages that popped up from time to time (mostly when I died). These were mostly of the cryptic variety and in that way I guess they were quite clever, but they were also conveyed in the same toddler poetry style, with an attempted humour that was only half successful. It was 4 before, so it’s 4 again!
Rating: 4


Every time my character died, a little part of my brain died with him!

Let's see now...7 + 3 + 6 + 3 + 6 + 4 = 29 divided by 60 = 48.33333 which is rounded down to 48! Just as with the first game, that feels a bit low, but this time I'm going to use my discretionary point to take it up to a 49. So, despite all the good things I had to say about the game, it still couldn't crack 50! I guess I just can't ignore all the very obvious technical flaws.


So did anyone predict 49? Time to go take a look. Yes, Fenrus got it bang on the money! Congratulations Fenrus, you win a copy of Tex Murphy 1 & 2. Send me an email to theadventuregamer@gmail.com and I'll reply with the GOG codes. I hope you'll join me for the fun. Once again I'd like to thank Lars-Erik for his generous contribution to the blog.

50 CAPs for Canageek
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about a new adventure game sale on GOG
• Genre Support Award – 20 CAPs – For commenting about a BIG new adventure game sale on Steam
• Gay Disco Award – 10 CAPs – Seriously guys! I really was very curious!
• April Fools Award – 10 CAPs – For fighting giant robots on top of a zeppelin

50 CAPs for Dave_the_Turnip
• Resident Artist Award – 50 CAPs – For completing the artwork for the new PISSED rating characters

45 CAPs for Lars-Erik
• Sponsor Award - 20 CAPs - For sponsoring the blog with free games
• Batman Award – 5 CAPs – Adam West
• LucasArts Closure Award – 10 CAPs – For giving us all the bad news...or is it good news?
• KickstartVenture Award – 10 CAPs – For telling us all about Infamy’s latest venture

25 CAPs for Andy_Panthro
• Ransom Stark Award – 20 CAPs – For solving my CyberNET riddle
• Screenshot Screw-Up Award – 5 CAPs – For spotting my screenshot anomaly

20 CAPs to Pacpix
• What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – For answering the What’s Your Story questionnaire

20 CAPs for twaitsfan
• What’s Your Story Award – 20 CAPs – For answering the What’s Your Story questionnaire

15 CAPs for Draconius
• Minor Assistance Award – 5 CAPs – For letting me know that the path through the warehouse is actually in the recording
• Abominable Snowman Award – 10 CAPs – For picking up my reference to both of our childhoods

10 CAPs for Ilmari
• Knowledge Award – 10 CAPs – Because he knows that I don’t know, but I really wanted to know what he knows

10 CAPs for Laukku
• Screenshot Assistance Award – 10 CAPs – For letting me know about the “handy” bug in DOSBox 0.74

5 CAPs for Jarikith
• Genre Support Award – 5 CAPs – For commenting about an adventure game sale on GOG

5 CAPs for Cush1978
• Minor Assistance Award – 5 CAPs – For “reminding” me that I could target other suspects, but I figured it out myself eventually

0 CAPs for TBD
Failed Bet Award - -10 CAPs – For betting I wouldn’t be able to figure out Tad Timov’s name, but I did
Companion Award – 10 CAPs – For playing along with me

0 CAPs for Fenrus
• Failed Bet Award - -10 CAPs – For betting I’d need assistance with the pipe puzzle (which I nearly did)
• Clairvoyant Award - 10 CAPs - For predicting the score I would give the game

24 comments:

  1. New adventure games on GOG.

    Slender: The Arrival is a modern horror adventure, but the rating of 2 out of 5 after 177 votes doesn't bode well.

    Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor is the first Nancy Drew game to appear on GOG, and I hope more do. I'm pretty sure I'll be playing at least one of them at some point.

    Also, Kingdom: The Far Reaches is on sale for $2.99 if you're interested. It's a little known fantasy adventure game from 1995.

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  2. That game was fun to read about, though I'd have given it a slightly higher score personally.

    When you were giving points for interface and inventory and mentioning the MAD, you mentioned having to watch the full recording to its completion and having no way to jump to a certain part of it.

    Um... is it possible that despite noticing the most minor details throughout the game you never noticed that 'Press (S) to skip' was written on the bottom of the MAD and that pressing 'S' lets you skip watching a location and follow the suspect to the next one?

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    1. Sorry, I probably wasn't clear about that. I used the S key all the time to skip sections, but there are plenty that I wasn't able to, particularly when watching the suspects move around the map. I still spent minutes completely bored, waiting for the recording to get where I wanted it to be, and had to make sure I targeted the correct suspects at the right times too.

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  3. ooo~ so close. If only the Murphy's had improved the graphics. Can't wait for the next game. :)

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  4. I am dying to get to Neuromancer, personally.

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    1. That looks almost interesting enough to play along with Trickster.

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    2. Neuromancer is a rather odd mix of two very different sort of games. The more traditional adventure game part is a bit lame - sillier than the book and not very engaging. The little I managed to see about the second part appeared pretty unique: something like a real-time cyberwar simulation.

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    3. I'm extra interested in it being cyberpunk, but at the same time, I hated the book...so....mixed feelings I guess?

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    4. There's a Neuromancer game? I'm looking forward too. The book was not bad, and I think it lends itself well to adventure-game-ness.

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    5. You might be in for a disappointment...

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    6. Sigh...then I can at least look forward to a couple days of me going "I could make a better game out of this," then finally getting Neuromancer from the library and taking notes on how to make a better game. (At least I'd get to read Neuromancer again and find out if it's as good as I remember, or as good as the recasting with Homestuck characters.)

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  5. It's obvious you had fun with this game :)
    Good luck for the next one, i tried it out, but the control isn't my thing.
    Maybe I try it again and play it parallel to you :)

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  6. Woohoo two more games until Space Quest 3. :)

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    Replies
    1. That's the one I'm looking forward to. I still enjoy it, even though I must have played through it half a dozen times.

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  7. I'm still undecided whether I should join you for Mean Streets. I've tried it once, but gave it up after a while. The story appeared interesting, but most of the time was spent watching the slow movement of your vehicle. Also, the controls in the more regular adventure parts were clunky. When failure in an unexpected action minigame would have forced me to go back a lot, I just couldn't bear the game anymore.

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  8. Manhunter was a game I desperately wanted to love, but the interface/deadending (You were treating it as though you should be KO'd on every single failed save, Trick, which while I understand in the vein of PQ2 and its gun sights and the like isn't a bad thing, but if you're trying to get immersed in a game I find makes it an incredible failure) - made it like a puppy dog with three legs and no tail with extremely bad flatulence. Kinda cute, but you don't really want it in your house.

    I do have Mean Streets (I believe it was given out for free on GOG long ago) - I might play through it with you, but do remember my short attempts at a playthrough were flummoxed by the interface.. something about a Mars rover or somesuch.

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    1. Yeah. The flight simulator.

      One of the strangest concepts ever added to an adventure game. I wonder if Trickster will attempt to 'play' the flight sim at all or just stick it on autopilot.

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    2. Interestingly enough it's the other way around. The adventure game aspects are the strangest concepts ever added to a flight sim. :p

      It started as a flight game where they added on the story from a home made noir movie some of them did on their spare time. It's not the most successful pairing ever, but fortunately they kept the setting and adventure bits going forward making the Tex Murphy series.

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  9. Man, I loved Mean Streets when I played it. I thought the whole thing was really novel and had tons of surprises. I remember hearing an audio log or something that was actually voiced and gave me the creeps. Good stuff!

    I found it in a bargain bin in Lechmere (great New England dept store chain that went under). Back then, every game I pulled out of there could be a diamond or a dud - it made popping the disks in the drives for the first time so exciting. MS wasn't quite a diamond, but well worth the 5.99.

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  10. Replies
    1. I'd say it would be fair to deduct 10 points from me due to failing a bet: although you didn't even see the puzzle, you still managed to beat it!

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  11. Replies
    1. 3 CAPS behind? DAMN. My whore myself out more, for illuisionary, meaningless currency!

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  12. By the way, The first manhunter game said that the Orbs banned talking to each other, I do believe. Since they seem to be able to contact psychically, and we can't that seems fairly logical from their point of view.

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