Monday 9 July 2012

Game 20: Manhunter 1 - Won!

Manhunter Journal Entry 4: “I have very mixed feelings about today’s events. On the one hand, I have played a major role in thwarting the Orbs control of New York City by destroying their major landmark hubs. On the other hand, Phil remains a significant threat, and even annihilated all the citizens that celebrated my victory. Rather ironically, none of my achievements would have been possible if it were not for Phil’s computer in his apartment. From there I was able to alter the security configuration of various buildings in the city, giving me access where I needed it, and shutting down response systems to avoid being taken out during my travels. Once I gained access to the station, I found myself in a position to fly one of the Orbs’ spaceships, therefore using the aliens’ own technology against them. Sadly, it’s impossible for me to relax and celebrate while the dangerous Phil is still on the run, so I must continue to track him and hopefully take him out once and for all.”

Let the fourth and final day begin!

I’ve conquered Manhunter: New York and it feels good! I had to work for it, but somehow the game never felt like a chore. Looking back, I don’t think I could call the puzzles in the game excessively difficult, but the rather veiled plot made figuring out what each character’s roles actually were rather tricky. This in turn made it challenging to understand my own character’s motives, and subsequently what my actions should be along the way. Despite all this, I really did enjoy Manhunter, and there was no point during the last week that I wasn’t eager to get into the next day to see where things would lead. I really don’t know what the PISSED rating might look like for the game, which is a sure sign of the varying quality of its parts, but let me describe my fourth and final day as a Manhunter in New York before I even consider putting a numerical value to the experience.

I'm truly horrified that anyone would access another man's computer illegally!

My fourth day objective was to investigate an Alliance computer that had been illegally accessed. Strangely, when I attempted to watch the tracker recording of the incident, I found myself having to pass a small mini-game. For some reason I wasn’t able to see who accessed the computer unless I could “capture” the specific signal that belonged to it. This was achieved by locking onto the fast moving signal so I could then follow it to the computer, from where I could then track the user’s movements from that point onwards. It doesn’t make much sense, and the punkish human look of the analyser is one of the game’s silliest aspects, but it did give the game creators yet another opportunity to make the player pass an action based test of sorts.

I find it difficult to trust the analyser for some reason

I passed on the first attempt and eagerly watched where the suspect would go after their serious breach of Orb law. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that the suspect was actually me, since I’d just illegally used Phil’s computer at the end of day three, but I have to admit that I was totally taken aback when the tracker showed the suspect entering my apartment and hopping into my bed! Once I realised what was going on, it became apparent that I wasn’t actually going to be following in anyone’s footsteps on day four. I was going to have to forge my own path! Thankfully, I did have one lead to follow up, which I received right at the end of day three. When I was using Phil’s computer, I’d found that I could play around with the security configuration in Bellevue Hospital (among other buildings in the city). So it was that I began my day with a trip to the hospital!

Haha...I know where the dirty hacker lives! mind!

As expected, on arrival to the hospital, I found that the guard droid that had previously been blocking entrance to the rest of the building was gone. I therefore took the opportunity to go through the door in the hallway beyond where to my surprise I was quickly noticed by an Orb who commanded a droid to capture me. Rather than having to restore my game, I found myself imprisoned in a room filled to the ceiling with bones. Rather ironically the pile of bones actually allowed me to reach a metal grate near the ceiling, through which I could see a room with a conveyor belt leading humans into a highly destructive laser beam. I was able to remove the grate with my crowbar, but even after waiting for the belt to stop and the Orb to leave, any movement into the room resulted in the droid guarding the exit disintegrating me.

I think I finally know what being "transferred to Chicago" actually means.

I restored my game back to Phil’s computer system and accessed the security configuration for the hospital. This time, I not only moved the guard from the first room, I also changed the orders of the guard from the conveyor belt room, commanding it to guard the Orb. This had the desired result, as the guard followed the Orb out of the room, allowing me to enter without being killed. While it was satisfying to solve such a puzzle, I had a daunting feeling that I was going to be heading back to the computer in Phil’s apartment numerous times, changing security in buildings to resolve whatever my current situation was at the time. For the time being though I would have to continue on, facing each challenge as it arose. I retrieved module D from the machine in the room and reversed the conveyor belt, riding it out of the room and into the next.


What was my reward for passing these obstacles? Another maze style mini-game! This time I had to guide my little manhunter through a system of poles by climbing up and down and jumping side to side. It would have been an extremely easy task if it wasn’t for the fireballs dropping down from the top of the screen, but having a save option once again meant it was just a matter of perseverance. Once I made it through, I witnessed my character fall an enormous distance to the ground outside the hospital, only to peel himself off the ground and walk away unharmed. This is just another example of Manhunter mixing tones in an inconsistent universe. On the one hand the game is extremely gritty, with murders and player death scenes all over the place, yet on the other there’s an almost slapstick humour to it all that seems jarringly out of place.

It's like Donkey Kong without the fun!

Since I really didn’t have anything in particular that I needed to do at this point, I paid another visit to Phil’s apartment to see what other locations I could access from his computer system. I quickly realised that one of the sites was the Grand Central Station, where the computer suggested the droid had finished repairing the damaged panel (where the suspects broke in on day two). I paid a visit to the station and very quickly undid all the droid’s great work, ripping another hole in the panel with my crowbar (I haven’t had this much use for a crowbar since Half-Life). Inside...was a space craft! All of a sudden I felt like I was getting very close to the end of Manhunter, and yet I entered the craft with absolutely no idea what was about to take place.

It's not every day you get to fly in an alien spaceship!

Inside the craft I found myself staring at a console filled with buttons, lights and switches. The first things that caught my attention were the four empty slots that were just screaming for me to stuff the four modules I’d collected into them. I followed my instincts, but other than a few lights coming on, nothing of particular note happened as a result. I pressed the switch that had what appeared to be a power symbol above it and it seemed to charge up. So far so good! All the early success seems designed to create a false sense of security though, as the last four buttons had to be clicked in an exact order to avoid death. If I clicked any in the wrong order, the craft would be attacked by droids with flamethrowers. Trial and error got me through fairly quickly after which I was controlling an alien space craft and guiding it through an open hatch out into the city of New York.

I guess it would have been unrealistic if I'd known how to fly the thing immediately

Well, eventually I would reach the city. Before I got there though, I was forced to manoeuvre the craft through a maze of underground tunnels in yet another time consuming mini-game. I have to say that out of all the mini-games found in Manhunter, this was the most annoying. As if guiding the craft through a maze that I couldn’t see all of on the screen at once wasn’t bad enough, I also found the twists and turns extremely hard to navigate with the clumsy key driven controls. I bounced between walls more times than I could count, often resulting in my craft being pushed further back rather than forward. Once again it was the save and restore function that got me through the maze in reasonably good time, but unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last time I’d be subjected to the damn thing.

The Ant Farm mini-game was far from my favourite section of the game

As soon as I made it through the maze, a cut scene popped up showing Phil getting into his own Orb space craft and coming after me. Clearly a confrontation was approaching! Flying over the city was really no different to moving the cursor around the city map when choosing destinations. The main difference was that now I was in the space craft, I could drop bombs. Of course, as soon as I figured that out, I got trigger happy and started bombing everything in sight. So it was that I discovered I only had four bombs at my disposal, so I had to reload and try choosing my targets more carefully. Where would be the best places to bomb if I wanted to hurt Phil? Or was Phil my target? Maybe it was the Orbs I wanted to bring down? Either way, the first building I bombed was the Empire State Building, taking out Phil’s apartment in the process. I knew it was the right thing to do as soon as an image popped up showing the building in ruins.

With a face like this, Phil was always going to be the antagonist

By this stage Phil’s craft was trying to collide with mine so I was constantly forced to avoid him while targeting buildings. My second target was Grand Central Station, if only because I knew there was Orb crafts and vehicles stored there. Once again, that was a correct target! Where else had I seen Orb activity? The hospital! Yes, three down and only one bomb left! But what’s the last bomb for? I really struggled to come up with a good target and instead started bombing all the main buildings one by one. The museum wasn’t the right one, nor was the church, Abdul’s pawn shop or Prospect Park. I was so close to victory, yet so far! There was only one thing left to my game, then restore back to Phil’s computer to see whether I could get any hints as to what the fourth building was.

The last building had to be one of these sites.

A quick look through each “site” confirmed that Site Alpha was the hospital, Site Beta was the station, and Site Delta was the Empire State Building. That left only Site Gamma as the fourth building that I needed to bomb. Under the settings of the building I was able to switch the security to Air Defense instead of Ground Patrol, and in doing so witnessed a small clip of some sort of weapon system coming out of the top of the Statue of Liberty! Alright, so all I needed to do was restore to my current game and bomb the Statue of Liberty. There was one problem though! Being an Australian, I’m pretty much geographically retarded when it comes to American landmarks and in particular, being able to pinpoint them from an aerial map.

There's only one building those spikes could belong to, but where the hell is the Statue of Liberty?

I spent a fair amount of time flying around bombing anything that might represent the statue. I figured I’d found it for certain when I saw a star shape in the middle of an island, so I was stunned when bombing it didn’t achieve my goal. Strangely enough, spending time near that island while avoiding Phil’s attempts to stop me, actually resulted in the solution smacking me in the face! During one of my evasion manoeuvres, my ship flew close to a small island off to the left of the star bearing island. As soon as I flew over it, I was shot down by anti-aircraft weaponry. The very same anti-aircraft weaponry that I’d turned on using Phil’s computer system! I was stoked to finally figure out where the fourth target was, but I can’t say I was happy about restoring back to the computer system once again, reconfiguring things, dealing with the underground maze, and bombing all the targets all over again.

Haha..take that Statue of Liberty! And Justice For All indeed!

Having no other choice, that’s what I did, and on bombing the last target, it appeared that victory was mine! Blatantly ignoring the fact that Phil was still a threat, I landed my craft, exited, and did a victory dance. A whole heap of other citizens joined in my celebration by holding me aloft and dancing. Finally the orbs control of the city had ended and life was good again! Well…it was…until Phil lowered his craft down and annihilated everyone in the gathering. Rather unexplainably, I was unharmed in the attack, and calmly climbed back into my craft to continue the fight. I take it that fight will be the subject of Manhunter 2. This bizarre ending seems pretty suitable given the unusual and unpredictable nature of the game, and I’m going to have to devote some time to thinking about whether the game should be punished for its eccentricity or praised. You’ll know my answer in the next day or two.

It was a celebration that all participating would remember for the rest of their lives...which would be limited to around three seconds.

Session Time: 2 hours 00 minutes
Total Time: 9 hours 30 minutes


  1. It definitely is a wildly conflicted game - like it was trying to be very different but wasn't sure exactly how to go about it - sometimes succeeding, sometimes not.
    It'll be interesting to see what kind of rating you end up giving it.

    I'm still not sure if I liked this game because it was being "dark and gritty" when most of its contemporaries were still being "cutesy" and kid-friendly or if I'm just a graphics whore who loved the detailed closeups and realistic (compared to other games I'd played at the time) animation.

    P.S. From your screenshot I was wondering why the hell Phil was wearing clown makeup - then I realised it was just a mustache and beard - go 1980s graphics!

    1. This mix seems common to old games; I wonder if it has to do with the fact that most of the people making them were programmers, not professional writers; the fact games were still seen as strictly entertainment by most (Portal being the exception); or some quirk of the 80s?

  2. Regarding the spacecraft startup, here's my supposition:

    Qb lbh erpnyy gur unaq-jevggra abgr jvgu gur 'hphpp' flzobyf? Fvzvyne flzobyf ner cevagrq arne gur guerr fdhner/clenzvq tencuvpf, nf jryy nf va gjb cynprf nobir gubfr tencuvpf. Cerfhzvat gung gubfr ner gur fjvgpurf, creuncf gurer vf n pbeeryngvba.
    Bs pbhefr, onfrq ba lbhe erivrj fb sne, lbh'q yvxryl unir gb ebgngr gur cvrpr bs cncre gung unq gur flzobyf vagb inevbhf bevragngvbaf gb fbyir gur chmmyr. Creuncf jvgu uvaqfvtug, lbh pna qvfprea gur fbyhgvba.

    Anyway, sometime reader, first time poster, here by way of CRPG's blog. I, like Mr. Cole, look forward to your play of So You Want to Be a Hero - that was my first entry to the genre, if you disregard an abortive attempt at Tass Times in Tone Town on a friend's Apple.

  3. While you might be correct ailurodragon, particularly as some of those symbols also appear on the main screen of the console, I couldn't figure it out. Does anyone know how or if you can decipher the symbols on the console?

  4. Day 4 was my least favorite day because of puzzle design, which was primarily based on keyboard skills and guesswork. Or maybe I'm just bitter, because I had to resort to the Internet for my second and third hints in my playthrough! :-(

    First I found myself hopelessly stuck in the cell with the pile of bones. Anything I did in the "grinder" room meant getting zapped by the guard robot. I spend A LOT of time trying different settings in Phil's computer, trying to outrun the robot in the hallway, etc. before giving up and looking for a hint. In the end this turned out to be yet again a case of my impatience working against me, as I kept trying, dying and reloading, and the answer was that I simply had to wait a good 40 secs or so for the Orb to leave the room!! I can't tell you how many times I scoured the bones with that clumsy cursor trying to look for some hidden object -- all the time with that strange cheerful music playing in the background! :-(

    Once that puzzle was out of the way, everything was pretty straightforward. The Donkey Kong Jr. puzzle was annoying, but it was nothing compared to the "pinball spaceship" segment. Very frustrating, and the cursor keys in my netbook didn't help! I missed my numeric keyboard...

    By the way, it may be as ailurodragon says that there is some underlying logic behind the ship's controls, involving those familiar UC symbols. However if there was, I couldn't figure it out, and it all boiled down to another Simon-style game of guessing the correct sequence.

    Bombing the city required another trip to the Internet for my third and last hint. I had figured out from my previous tinkering with Phil's computer that the four bombs correlated to four sites, the fourth of these being the Statue of Liberty. However I had no idea of the statue's location, and I was shocked to realize it was actually not marked anywhere. Bombing the pentagram-marked island, the obvious choice, was seemingly ineffectual. A visit to Google maps gave me a general idea of the statue's location in the real world but there was no way I could match it with the in-game map. (You see, I had deactivated the "air defense" controls earlier on Phil's computer. This meant I didn't get any hint at all from the game, not even by being shot down when flying over the place. On one hand I'm glad I didn't have to do the pinball maze again, on the other I had no way of guessing that the statue sat in that tiny unremarkable island).

    Oh well, a bit of a letdown for me. All things considered, however, Manhunter turned out to be a better experience than I was expecting from the low score bets. Low expectations helping the game? Maybe, but I think it also did a few things real well, and I´ll wait for your scoring post before discussing them. :-)

    1. I agree with pretty much everything you've said Charles. I think the fact I'm taking notes and screenshots was the only reason I found out the Orb leaves the room after the 40 seconds you mentioned. I undoubtedly would have been as impatient as you otherwise!

      It appears that I was lucky with that (with the statue as well), but I can totally see how things could have gone against me as they did you.

    2. Thanks for the support! :-)
      IMO, another way they dropped the ball with that grinder room puzzle is related to the main computer. When you switch the robot's orders from Room Security to Orb Protection (or similar) you see the robot actually moving to a new position on the screen. But when you get to the actual room, the robot never moves from its post besides the door!

      That misled me to think that I was controlling a robot in another yet unseen room. Oh well...

    3. Huh, I thought that island was more star shaped. *Goes to google maps* Nope, more oval-shaped, or possibly tear-dropped. What did it look like from the air in-game?

  5. I think all those mini-games would have driven me up the wall...

    Weird ending too. An odd game really!

  6. Orb security does not seem very efficient. All the important security controls are placed in a computer in someone's living room, without any guard, so that any stranger could just waltz in. And when the Orbs learn that someone has tampered with this computer, no one bothers to change the settings anymore.

    1. At least the computer is protected by a 5-character password, which I guess is enough for trusting it with all your planetary invasion plans and operations. (!)

      Contrast how easy it was to access Phil's Central Command in the Empire State Building with all those locked empty rooms in the Museum. The place was like Area 51. Clearly the resistance had the up on the Orbs regarding security practices.

    2. The island that the statue is on in the game is just a little blob up against the left hand side of the map, whereas there's an island in the middle of the screen that really looks like it should belong there.

      Can anyone confirm whether the statue has actually been moved for the game? If so, I have to wonder why, other than to delay the ending of the game unnecessarily.

    3. Originally the game appears to have contained a sort of map with the Statue of Liberty marked in it:

    4. And there were other useful stuff like a map of the Central Park and a plan of the Museum. Wish I'd known of these, when I played the game a couple of years ago.

    5. Um...I try not to swear very much on this blog as I like to keep things reasonably kiddie safe, but...f#$%!!!!

      If you read my introduction post to the game, you'll see that I actually had the map all along but never looked at it. I totally forgot about it while playing!

      Oh well...I didn't punish the game for the difficulty in finding the statue. I always assumed that I'd missed something somewhere!

      5 Points to Ilmari for solving yet another mystery.

    6. Wow, haha. I had no idea. Those docs would have been cool to have, esp. the maze map.

    7. Whoah.

      Looking at those docs I noticed something else...

      On the back cover of the box, under the white writing, is a hard to read wanted poster that unless I'm mistaken is for "Phil Cooke" possibly being a clue to one of the more difficult logic leaps in the game.

      Now I'm wondering if you'd searched for Phil Cooke with an 'e' would you still get Phil's address?

    8. I can confirm searching for Phil Cooke does not turn up anything on MAD... good catch, though! It's possibly they changed the name after the back cover illustration was done.

  7. This Phil guy does remind me of somebody...

    Ah, now I remember! Does anybody know Aphex Twin? The music video "windowlicker"?
    It's him! Definitely! :-)

    1. I thought it was the Joker (Batman) at first.

    2. I too was reminded of Batman, but now that you mentioned Aphex Twin I can't get that vision out of my head! Check out the cover to the Richard D. James

    3. Obviously I meant The Joker there and not Batman. Been a long day!