Thursday 3 December 2015

Martian Memorandum - There and Back Again: A P.I.'s tale

Tex Murphy Journal Entry #4:  I've spoken to Big Dick and been locked in his office. Fortunately I found a vent and escaped. After questioning other citizens of Mars I realised I needed to go back to Big Dick's of...

RELOADING... ... ...

Before going to Big Dick's office, I question the other citizens of Mars, then I go back to Big Dick's office and realise I need more...


Before I leave Earth via the smuggler's base I return to the jungle for a seemingly innocuous and nonsensically buried newspaper advertisement. This ad somehow opens up many new avenues of investigation. I'm sure I'm now on the right track in my search for Alexis Alexander.

Last time I controlled our hero, Tex Murphy, I was killed by saying the wrong things to Big Dick.

So I went for my usual 'systematically try each possible option of dialogue until one works' process.

The way I do it made this the easiest dialogue 'puzzle' to solve.

I started with Response 1, then chose Response 1, then Response 1 again, and I'd suddenly won the dialogue on my first attempt! Thumbs up for Murphy's System for Dialogue Organisational Success! I should trademark MSDOS immediately.

Well, that was easy.

LOOKing at everything in the room gives me a lot of Big Dick jokes and a Honeywell Computer Access Card, which I take.

I can't leave via the door.

For a game that otherwise delights in killing me, it seems like they got a Lucasarts designer just for the trying to leave the office via the door interaction.

Next to Big Dick's picture is a vent. Fortunately I don't need any items to open it, so I do open it and get to the dreaded Duct Maze.

I'm guessing this would be much harder if I didn't have the blueprints.

I tried to use the map to navigate my way out, and a few times I thought I had it, but each time turns appeared or didn't appear when I expected them. After only six minutes, I found myself in the bathroom without having fully worked out the map system. Well that was fairly painless. I was really dreading this maze, but I can easily accept six minutes of fumbling around.

I decided to visit the other locations on Mars that I'd discovered back on Earth.

First stop, Dr. Lawrence Barkley. His secretary lets me in and tells me the doctor will be in shortly. I naturally try to take everything in the room.

The Orange Box (TM) is a brown Kevlar “Identifier” box, whatever the hell that is. As soon as I take it, Doctor Barkley arrives.

It seems Mr Alexander looked a lot differently 20 years ago. I wonder why he was trying to hide his identity.

After I finish questioning him, I can continue to search his office. I find an empty safe, but nothing else of interest.

As I attempt to travel, my comlink beeps with a message from Mac Malden

I'm going to have to get another mortgage on my office to pay for the interplanetary global roaming charges on this thing.

Next, I take a trip to the Power Plant

I need a security card to enter the Restricted Area, but I can open the door to the left.

The blue pixels in the lab coat are a security pass card, which I take. I don't find anything else to do here apart from talking to the man.

From this description I'm expecting a hard-looking, unfriendly man.

But what I get is a guy who looks like the “PC” from the “Mac Vs PC” ads.

Ferris is the only person I've asked who doesn't know who he is.

Ferris tells me that there was a rumour that Alexis came to Mars a few weeks ago but noone has found her yet. He also mentions that with Marshall Alexander dead, perhaps Lowell Percival will be calling the shots up here instead. That's perhaps a motive, or perhaps just flavour dialogue.

After speaking to Ferris, I go back to the entrance and use my new security pass to open the door to the Restricted Area.

A huge liquid cooled, super conductive electromagnet pickes up martian rocks and deposits them in a large oxygen catalytic cracker, which processes carbonated rock and iron oxide from the Martian surface into liquid oxygen, which then gets processed into a supercooler for the freed oxygen. It's all straightforward stuff - if you don't understand any of it, it's time to brush up on your terraforming science textbooks.

I pick up a monkey wrench on the ground, and stand on top of the trap door to see if I can get killed.

P.I. Rule number 6: Fear of heights is a survival mechanism – DON'T ignore it.

Time to visit my last location in Mars – Lowell Percival. Lowell won't tell me anything until I get something from him.

Couldn't you have told me this BEFORE I escaped from his office.

 I make my way back to Big Dick's and go back into his office. I don't last long.

P.I. Rule number 18: When people threaten to kill you, STOP going back into their office.

I reload back to before entering Big Dick's office back in the last post, and visit the other locations first this time, asking them about all of my topics, getting the wrench and Orange Box (TM). Then I go back to Big Dick's office. Knowing he has a safe, I search his office in greater detail. I notice I can MOVE the light aboove his painting, which reveals a passageway.

I enter the passageway, which is much larger than it seems, and find an alarm control box.

But what if I ask nicely?

I expect death, but what kind of adventurer would I be without trying anyway. I step on what is apparently one of the pressure sensitive pads.

P.I. Rule number 34: Watch your step in secret alarmed vaults.
 I find a place where I can avoid the pads, but when I keep going I find the second obstacle.

P.I. Rule number 35: See previous rule.

Figuring I must have missed something, I reload (again) and go back to the power plant, as that was a place with three explorable rooms so the most likely place I missed something.

In the restricted area I have a thought: What if I can get myself attracted to the giant magnet?

I try using my wrench on the magnet. It takes a while to time it correctly, but eventually...

P.I. rule number 7: Sometimes it's best to ignore rule #6.

At the end of the catwalk I find a crate, which contains some interesting items.

Thank you, Marty Mc-Fly

Opening the door at the top takes me to the previously unopenable door at the bottom. I leave the room and get myself captured in Big Dick's office again. When I get into the secret passageway, I use my new hoverboard.

And it seemed so promising too.

Reloading AGAIN, I think of what I've seen. I remember when I recently played along with Space Quest IV how I got through a laser security system and I also remember looking at some ashtrays in Big Dick's Casino. Looking at one of them again gives me a deja-vu inspired idea...

A half-smoked cigar. Very familiar.
I try to GET it, but...


I have the same problem with the other ashtray which instead contains a smoldering camel filter cigarette. I can't click on anything specific in the ashtray, but trying to GET the ashtray does nothing for me. And I was sure that would be the solution. I still think making something smolder is the solution. I try doing something with the paper in the bathroom, hoping to direct some smoke into the ventilation system to smoke the security room, but no luck there either.

Also in the bathroom I can open the vent with my newly aquired allen keys (another entrance to Big Dick's office? Perhaps I didn't need to reload so far back earlier) and I notice that trying to MOVE the mirror get a strangely placed but somewhat amusing Blonde joke.

I decide I need the HELP system so return to the secret passageway and try it out..

Yeah, I already knew that.
 Pressing HELP on the same thing again this time gives me a further clue.

Well that information might be useful if I had the slightest idea who the hell Bradley Ericson was!

I've never met or heard of Bradley, and going back to a comment Fry (my conscience again) had made on my last post about me possibly being dead-ended, I wondered if I was stuck.

I got confirmation from Ilmari that now would be a good time to read Fry's clues and I did

The first clue translated as:
  • General: do you have the address for the Aerobis Academy?
Why no, Fry. No I don't. I didn't even know there was an Aerobics Academy.

Time for the next clue:
  • Specific: reload to the jungle hut, dig up the mound of dirt outside the hut using the shovel
I read this hint and sat there for a while taking it all in. I think about all that I've accomplished since the jungle hut – the return of the quicksand maze, the smuggler's base, Lawrence Barkley's office, the power plant, Big Dick's Casino including the vent maze. I'd have to do ALL this again.

At this point I'll admit I became a little annoyed at the game.

I've had enough of this game about investigating the kidnapping of a major character's child that takes place in post-apocalyptic America. I'm playing Fallout 4 instead.

I tried to replicate the pressure plate/laser trap from Martian Memorandum but then I thought - close enough!

After taking a small break from the game, I get back into the action and reload back to a save outside the smuggler's base.

  • I travel to the jungle, cross the quicksand (Die 7 times) , dig...

That small mound of earth seems a lot more obvious now that I know it's there.

THIS is what I went back for. THIS???!!!
  • … cross the quicksand the other way, go back to the smuggler's base, get stone, throw stone at jug, walk through rock wall (Die 5 times) go inside base, hide behind crate, wait for worker to come and go, move across room, get food and remote. Walk back. Use remote to open crate door, GOTO crate, arrive at Mars, GOTO alley, move rag and board, get flashlight, look at password, TRAVEL, see “Aerobics Academy” on list, sigh, TRAVEL to Aerobics Academy...


At the Aerobics Academy I see Jane Mansfield running exercises in the corner, so I TALK to her. She is clearly a friend of Alexis, and among other things tells me that Alexis hasn't been to Mars for a year.

I can tell by her shifty expression she's not being totally truthful here. L.A. Noire, eat your heart out.

After speaking to Jane, the receptionist is no longer behind the counter, so I take the opportunity to rummage through a purse that's sitting there. The only thing useful is a checkbook with Jane Mansfield's home address. I think you can guess where I'm going next.

It seems 4:3 T.V. Screens will be making a comeback in the next century
 I move the couch pillows and find a note.

And don't destroy this note after reading it, just shove it under a cushion or something. I'm sure the people looking for me won't think to look there

After reading the note, The game decides I need a hint. “Why did Jane lie to you? Maybe if you had proof Alexis was here, she'd tell a better story.”

So I need to return to Jane. Thanks, Access!

Before leaving, I take the letter as proof and open the closet and find a suitcase with "Alexis Alexander" written on its name tag. I also turn on the TV.

Another address for my collection.

And now I'll stop for the day. The next port of call will be to go back to Jane, visit the Deacon, talk to all the people, go to the locations I did last time, then go back to Big Dick's office and get captured like I did two posts ago. Phew!

Deaths: 4 (14 total) - Falling death, Eyebrow-parting goon death, Pressure plate death, Laser death.

Inventory: Gun, Cash, Comlink, Paper, Boots, Keys, Remote Control, Food and Water, Flashlight, Letter, Film. Since my previous post, I've lost my shovel by digging in the jungle, and lost my Big Dick Card and Blueprints because I didn't get them yet after my reload. But I've gained a letter from Alexis.

Session time: 1 hour 43 minutes
Total time: 6 hours 33 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's 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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one.


  1. Wow, you got THAT far in your investigations, before reloading to jungle. No wonder you were pissed at the game.

    Yeah, the goggles are a necessity for getting through lasers. And even with them I found it somewhat painful, since it's not so clear when your hoverboard hits laser beams

    1. Thank you for feeling my pain. :)

      I've actually already done the lasers. I discovered 3/4 of the way through the section (and after a few more deaths) that I could use the arrow keys rather than the mouse to move my hoverboard. Made the whole thing much easier.

      In fact, it would have made other bits easier if I'd noticed this before. I'm particularly thinking of getting past the first guard at the smuggler's base.

  2. I revel in the pain felt by adventure gamers playing through terribly hidden and obscure nonsensical clues.

    The negative energy feeds me for my inevitable rebirth.

    1. I'd kill you for that comment, but then I know you'd be back next episode to taunt me again so what would be the point. :)

      Actually now that I think about it I do remember an episode that explained why you keep dying and coming back (probably related to that picture) but can't remember the explanation.

  3. I died a LOT on the lasers, and I even had the correct tools in hand and procedures in mind the first time I went at it. :/

    The instruction manual explains how the vent maze works, but it's a really bad system: those arrows are both your controls for moving forward and backward and turning left and right, but they're ALSO your compass to tell you which direction you're facing. Ugh. Once I found that explanation in the manual, it made the navigation a lot faster.

    Jane isn't the first person to make shifty eyes when talking about particular sensitive topics. I really appreciated that touch.

    I mentioned on a previous post that I had to look for external help to find a missing location, due to an unfortunate death-and-reload error: that was the Temple. Not visiting it until so late in the story screwed up the narrative a bit, I think; hopefully you'll go there soon so I can see what, if anything, I missed.

    IIRC the box in the plastic surgeon's office gives you a decent idea what it might be used for when you LOOK at it, but since the game doesn't allow you to examine items in your inventory, you have to do that before picking it up (this might be why you didn't notice learning the ORACLE STONE keyword a while back).

    1. Actually, since I take a screenshot every time I LOOK at something, I can tell you exactly what the doctor's box says...

      "A BROWN KEVLAR "IDENTIFIER" BOX" is all it says when LOOKed at.

      It's when it is in the inventory that it is called something totally different, which actually helps to work out what it is, but that's a story for my next post...

      And thanks for the tip. I'll make sure to visit the Deacon fairly early in the piece.

  4. I did get kinda lucky with the dirt mound in the jungle; I noticed it as I made it across on the log, and assumed it was just the cast-aside tarp that had been covering the pit trap, and was thus useless. Luckily I examined it anyway!

    1. Yeah. I was in 'This side scrolling area is all about traps' mode and didn't get back into 'investigation' mode until I got into the hut. I wouldn't have noticed anything on that screen unless it was obviously different to the background.

      Then again, maybe my eyes are just failing me. It also took me a while to spot the rock outside the smuggler base.

      I loved it when games started giving us tooltips so we didn't have to click on everything in case something isn't just background scenery. (I think Secret of Monkey Island might have been the first, though I think Maniac Mansion started the basic idea with the "What is" verb)