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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Access

The year is 2043. The city is San Francisco. You are Tex Murphy, PI. World War III, which lasted for several hours a generation ago, left much of the city (and planet) in radioactive ruins. It also added two new classifications to the census forms: mutant and norm. You are an old-school PI who tries to pattern his life after the classic detectives. You are divorced, perpetually low on resources (cash), and rapidly approaching the big 4-0. You live in a run-down "mutant" section of town in a seedy dive ironically named the Ritz Hotel.

Time has passed since you last saved the world from a secret organization bent on destroying most of the human population on the Earth. Your life has settled back down into the hum-drum existence it seems to always have been. You are down at the Brew & Stew having a bite to eat with your would-be romance, Chelsee, when a stranger walks in. After you blow things with Chelsee again, he approaches you. He says he is looking for an old friend of his whom he lost touch with some time ago. He heard the fellow was in San Francisco and came to find him. You, being a PI, are asked to look for his friend. The man pays up front, and pays rather handsomely. Being short on cash, as usual, you take this seemingly cake walk of a job and start out.

About that time, things start to get complicated. The farther along you get, the larger the danger you encounter. But you are a PI and this is what you live for, right? In the words of Tex Murphy himself, "Danger is like Jell-O, there’s always room for a little more." Hang on to your hat, detective, you know what just hit the fan!

The Review:
Here it is folks, the sequel to the hit interactive detective movie, Under a Killing Moon is here! If you liked Under a Killing Moon, you’ll love The Pandora Directive. If you have never played Moon, then now is a great time to meet Tex Murphy. Actually, Pandora is the fourth installment in the Tex Murphy series of games, Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum were the first installments in the series. Pandora takes you on a non-stop ride around the city of San Francisco and North America. You will meet and interact with a large cast of characters, unravel mysteries and solve puzzles. All of it set in a VR world that you are free to walk around in.

First of all, if you have ever played the detective game The Dame was Loaded, or have read my review of it, Pandora was the kind of game Dame could have been. I was really impressed with this game; it is a fine sequel to the popular Under a Killing Moon. Staying with the action of Killing Moon, when you are not talking to people, you move within an incredibly detailed virtual reality world. The graphics are excellent and plentiful. There are approximately one to two hours worth of video clips to enhance the story line of this game, as reflected in the six CD’s that game play requires. The cast of these clips has both old faces and new. You will recognize some of the actors from TV shows and movies. The arch-bad guy is played by the actor who plays "Maurice" in the TV series "Northern Exposure".   The plot itself is great and features interesting versatility; you actually have three different "narrative paths" you can follow depending on the type of responses you give to questions and the questions you ask others. There is the "straight and narrow" path, the "neutral" path, and the "down and out" path. These three plot sequences end in a total of seven different endings. So not only is the story great, you can play the game again and get a different path. Each path has some unique conversations and movie clips that keep things different. In addition, the puzzles were plentiful and tough. However, unlike many other games that have puzzles to solve, Pandora’s puzzles were just right: not too hard so you get frustrated, not too easy so you beat the game and feel like you wasted your money.

As much as I liked this game, I'd better put in some "cons" to make this an objective review. I really only found two items that spoiled the shine on this game. The first is the CD swapping. Access did as good of job as they could with 6 CD’s, so it is not too bad, but with that many CD’s you start to notice it. It is much better however than the swapping in Police Quest 5: SWAT. That game is a model of what not to do when you have multiple CD’s. The second problem is the programming. Pandora was plagued by a series of crashes in the video clips and VR memory errors (???) when loading certain rooms. I am running a P150+ with 16 megs of RAM and a 6X CD ROM, much more than the game requires, so I am pretty sure it is not my system. I also tried it on a computer down at the Games First! office - it froze totally on that system. Perhaps I got a bad set of disks; I am not sure, but because of this, and because some other games have a similar problem, I am adding a new category to my list, the Code category.

--Brent Hegarty