Oh you mean and nasty street you!
I’m approaching two hours into Mean Streets and I’ve hardly done anything at all. My lack of achievement isn’t due to high difficulty or stupidity though, it’s just taken me a while to a) get used to the game mechanics and b) to figure out the best way to capture my experience for the blog. I’ll explain the mechanics as I move through the first part of the game, but thought I would mention my technical struggles in case anyone can come up with a better solution. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve started turning to SCUMMVM whenever possible, as it allows me to take very high quality screenshots by pressing ALT-S. When it comes time to write a post, I select the 1.6MB images that I want to use and resize them so I don’t end up with pages that load slower than Tex Murphy’s speeder (more on that soon).
It's very important to point out that the client is beautiful.
When I use DOSBox, I can press CTRL F5 to take screenshots, but they’re generally 320 x 200, which is crappy to say the least. Laukku very helpfully informed me that setting the machine to “vgaonly” in DOSBox for some reason doubles the screenshot resolution to 640 x 400 though, so since Mean Streets is not supported on SCUMMVM, I decided to try this little trick and kick on. I’ve run into one major issue while playing the game though, which is that pressing the CTRL key acts in the same way as pressing the ENTER key. Given that the majority of the screenshots I need to capture contain some sort of dialogue, as soon as I press the CTRL key, it disappears! Long story short, my first session has involved using CTRL F5 whenever there is no dialogue on screen and the bloody Windows 7 Snipping Tool for the rest. Anyone got a better solution? I’d love to hear it!
Be careful to spell properly? I really need to be told that?
OK, that little rant is out of the way. Let’s begin! The game started with Tex Murphy strolling out of a building and hopping into a rather cool looking flying car. It was immediately apparent that the graphics were pretty decent, and the sound of the door sliding open was also fairly convincing. After playing Manhunter for the last few weeks, Mean Streets was already looking very impressive from a technical point of view. Tex hopped into the car (called a speeder), and a bunch of writing appeared on the screen, giving me some background to the case that I’m about to try to solve. The short of it is that I’ve been hired by a woman named Sylvia to investigate the death of her father, Dr. Carl Linsky. The police believe he committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, but Sylvia believes he was murdered, and that his connection to a secret project at the University of San Francisco was to blame. I’ve been given $10000 in cash and have 5 leads, which are written in a section called “Getting Started” in the manual.
It makes perfect sense that flying cars would look like normal cars...without wheels.
Once the intro message was done, I found myself sitting in front of the controls of the speeder, with absolutely no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I then skimmed through the manual and read all I could about controlling the vehicle. The first thing I learnt was how to input a destination into the navigation console. I could bring up the console by pressing N, and I could then press N again to type in a navigation code (aka NC). I entered code 4663, as that was the first location in the manual. The San Francisco University! I could then press A to turn on an auto pilot that would take my speeder to the destination automatically, but I was keen to at least have a go at manually controlling the vehicle. As soon as I exited the navigation console, I received a fax. That’s right, a fax! In 2033! It was from my secretary Vanessa, and was a copy of a news article about Linsky’s death. It didn’t mention much that I wasn’t already aware of, but it did talk about Linsky’s fiancée Delores Lightbody, who indicated in the article that the professor had been under a great deal of stress prior to his death. The manual states that I can contact Vanessa whenever I want to by video phone, as well as an Informant named Lee Chin.
It was hard enough to learn all the controls without them putting me on the left hand side of the car.
I soon learnt that pressing the HOME key caused the speeder to hover upwards and END to go back down towards the ground. The + key would move forward while the – key would move backward. The rest was pretty straight forward, with the arrow keys turning and tilting the flying car just as you would expect them to. Once I realised that the number in the top left corner of the screen was how far from the destination I was (3.53 miles in this instance), and that the compass with two numbers on it above my right knee was the direction I was heading along with the direction I needed to go to reach the destination, it was just a matter of pointing the car in the right direction and pressing + until I reached top speed. Shortly afterwards I arrived at a flashing landing pad, where I was (after a bit of a struggle) able to land the speeder and come to a stop. Then all I needed to do was press E to exit, which I did.
It's very helpful that the ground just lights up in preparation for my arrival.
Rather than witnessing Tex enter a building or interact with anyone at the university, instead I merely received a message describing what took place. Basically I broke into Carl Linsky’s office using my “Private Detective, all purpose, door opening kit”, only to find no-one in there and nothing of interest whatsoever! Since there was “nothing else to see or do at this location”, I checked the manual for another location I could visit. The second lead I had was Sylvia Linsky herself, who lived at NC 4421. I entered the code into the navigational console, turned my speeder the exact direction, and hit top gear (after climbing to a height where I wouldn’t crash into things on the way). Sylvia’s house was over 70 miles away from the university, but that shouldn’t take long in such a high tech speeder right? Right!? Well, I watched as the miles slowly ticked down, with very little of interest popping up in the scenery around me. I’d read others comments about how long it took to get anywhere in the speeder, and was now realising exactly what they were talking about!
This is the navigational console. It was all pretty daunting at first, but turned out to be straight forward.
I’m not sure exactly how long it took, but it had to be close to five minutes before I reached Sylvia’s house, with nothing to do but watch the miles to destination slowly tick down. Once I arrived, I was shown an external of the apartment and given a brief description of Sylvia. “The bell chimed inside, and after a moment, Sylvia opened the door. She wore a pale blue blouse and white shorts that were short enough to be friendly. She was as beautiful as ever, with her soft blonde hair and clear blue eyes. I knew I was starting to fall for her. Careful, I reminded myself. She’s a client, and falling for a client is dangerous in my business. Still, if only I knew how she felt for me...” It seemed pretty odd that my character would be so forthcoming after one brief meeting with her previously, but the seductive look and posture Sylvia had in the short video I witnessed was enough explanation for me. Sylvia is clearly a nasty piece of work, with the looks to back it up!
It's a little too soon to be worrying about this sort of thing isn't it?
While the video quality isn’t amazing by today’s standards, it sure would have been impressive back in 1989. It’s definitely the first example of live actors in a game on The Adventure Gamer playlist. Anyway, once I regained control, I was given the option to ask Sylvia questions or leave, so I chose “question”. The words “Tell me about:” appeared on the screen with a cursor, so I immediately began typing in any names I was aware of followed by the words that the manual suggested I question people about. These include “MTC Corp, Gideon Enterprises, Overlord, Passcard, Password, Nexus, Law and Order, and Insurance”. I have to admit that it feels a bit strange being told what questions to ask people, particularly when the majority of them don’t mean anything to me at all. That seems like a pretty lazy way to get the information to the player that they might need.
Actually, why don't you tell me about your body!
Asking about “Carl Linsky” gave me some important information. “If you need to look through his apartment, it’s located at NC 4660”. Asking about “Delores Lightbody” revealed that she and Carl were about to get married, but that Sylvia believed Delores had seduced him with black magic. Asking about “Insurance” really put Sylvia on the defensive, as she immediately assumed that I was suggesting she killed her own father for the 1,000,000 dollars insurance. It seems that if he committed suicide, Sylvia gets nothing, but if he was murdered, the million bucks would be hers. No wonder she’s trying to prove that he was murdered! Despite this revelation, Sylvia still suggested that if I investigate the death and am convinced it was suicide, she would accept that finding. I tried all the other words and names that I had, but none of them resulted in anything very interesting.
No, I'm wondering whether you'd be willing to split the million 50/50 if I make it look like a murder, then run away with me to the south of France where we would spend the rest of our days enjoying each other in every way imaginable. How does that sound?
Interestingly, once I’d asked Sylvia a couple of questions I gained the ability to Bribe her or to Threaten her. I’d just saved my game, so I tried both! She refused to accept a bribe, but threatening her resulted in her kicking me in my nether regions, which “I expertly blocked with my body”. Apparently I lost consciousness from the pain and woke up on the street. I restored, figuring that pissing off Sylvia probably wasn’t in my best interests at this stage of the game, and hopped back into the speeder. I decided to visit Dr. Linsky’s apartment now that I knew its location, so set my navigation console to NC 4660. I then spent another 5 or so minutes watching mostly empty scenery as I travelled over 70 miles to the destination. I was already starting to feel the pain that many other players have commented about, and had to wonder why the game creators didn’t either make the speeder go faster or put the locations a bit closer together.
Tex was actually going to punch Sylvia in the face! I'm kinda glad she kicked him in the balls!
On entering the apartment, a message popped up saying: “The three story Queen Anne style home of Professor Carl Linsky has been well kept. I step inside and notice the quaint style of furniture and décor…” I was then given a third person view of Tex walking into the room. It was time to do some detective work! Moving around the room was easy enough, and I quickly figured out that I could press ENTER to take a closer look at all the pieces of furniture in my near vicinity. Once I highlighted an item, I could choose one of six actions to apply to it, being “look”, “get”, “move”, “open”, “on/off” and “taste”. Looking at an item gave me a description of it, and quite often revealed yet another item either on or inside it that I could then investigate. I had some fun trying stupid things such as opening the plant and tasting the couch, and the game humoured me with responses like “your suggestion sounds a bit demented” and “yuk – obviously you’re not a gourmet.”
I find it hard to believe that there was no remote control in the couch somewhere
So what did I find in Linsky’s apartment? I discovered a chess set on the coffee table that was interestingly missing one of the bishops. I also found a note on the table that said “I’m going to get you for failing me, Linsky.” That could be taken two ways really. Did Linsky write it or was it left for him? Either way, I had to wonder why it wasn’t found by police the day he died, just sitting on the table. I found a desk key on the chair in the back left corner of the room which I assumed I would be able to open a drawer in the desk with, but before I could even try that, I took a look at the display case nearby. “The display cabinet is protected by a magnetic field. You notice two slot screws partially hidden and surmise that you could shut down the field if you had a slot screwdriver.” I could see that there was a statue inside the cabinet, which I very stupidly decided to pick up…
This magnetic field would surely set off some sort of alarm. Oooohhhh check out that statue! I reckon I can get it if I just...
Unsurprisingly, my foolishness resulted in an alarm going off, and I had five minutes to turn it off before the police arrived. I quickly looked at all the other items in the room, but couldn’t find any way of turning off the alarm. I then realised that the front door had closed and locked, so it was clear that I was doomed. The police arrived and I was thrown jail, ending my game. I figured I’d just restore my game and investigate the rest of the room, only I hadn’t saved since visiting Sylvia! That meant I was going to have to travel the 70 plus miles again in the speeder to reach the Professor’s apartment! Damn! Well, I’ve learnt a lot in the first session, including some valuable lessons around saving every time I arrive at a destination and not touching things that have magnetic fields on them. My second session should be much smoother for it!
Do not pass go and do not collect $200!
Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutesTotal Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: I've 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. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!