Mean Streets (DOS)

Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37874)
Written on  :  Oct 22, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars

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So this is what the future is like

The Good

Mean Streets is the first in a brilliant line of adventure games created by Access Software. We are introduced to Tex Murphy, a hard-boiled private investigator in the year 2033, who does not really achieve anything after solving cases and does not get a reward other than money. Tex's first case involves determining whether a scientist called Carl Linsky fell off the Golden Gate Bridge, or was pushed to his death. The local police thinks he fell off, but his daughter, Sylvia, thinks otherwise, so she hires Tex to uncover the truth. She hands him $10,000 in cash and several leads to get started.

The first thing that I saw was the inside of a speeder, a type of transport invented to make traveling easier for people and what we may be using when 2033 finally ticks over. You cannot really do anything other than use the navigation computer to enter nav codes. Once you input these nav codes, the speeder will point out the destination to you, and you can either guide the speeder to it or use the auto-pilot if you have trouble with your orientation. You will be doing this a lot, but one thing that I like about this is the way that you can switch to different views, not just the front view. You can choose between the left, right, rear, and down views, which means that interacting with the speeder this way makes you feel that you are actually controlling one.

The majority of Mean Streets involves you talking to people, asking questions about other people that you find out early in the game in order to get a new name or a location. Some characters are willing to help you, but others are reluctant, forcing you to bribe or threaten them. When you question people about others, you have to use full names. Reviewers have complained about this, but not once have I hear a true detective say “What can you tell me about John?” when he is referring to a John Smith. Occasionally, you have to go to an apartment to search for clues that enhance the storyline. Some of them trigger off an alarm the moment you go through the door, giving you five minutes to shut it off before the cops arrive.

Mean Streets is aptly named for its arcade elements that you will encounter. Every three or so locations, you will have to battle two screens against security guards and thugs. Their difficulty depends on what setting you have, but Tex can take several hits before he is killed.

Created in 1989, the game was ahead of its time. It featured 256-color VGA graphics, the type of graphics that were not common around that time. As a result, everything looks detailed - the apartments, the speeder, even when talking to people where the backgrounds are animated and the characters look as if they were digitally added to the game. Access incorporated RealSound technology, which makes the PC speaker sound like a Sound Blaster when hooked up to an amplifier of some sort. As a result, the game's theme music is more catchy when hearing it without an amplifier. Mean Streets is one of the first games to use digitized speech. You will hear your secretary and your informant talking, and you will get actual voices when you listen to answering machines, move Tex around, or engage in gun fights.

The Bad

Although it is fun seeing the inside of Tex's speeder and working some of its gizmos, this is the last Tex Murphy game to let you do so. In future Tex games, it is replaced by maps, in which you click on a location to travel there. Speaking of travel, the game involves you going up and down the coast of California. Some locations take far too long to travel to, and there isn't an option for Tex to travel at warp speed.

To help you get more leads, you have your secretary and an informant. The secretary is nice, giving you information for free. The informant, on the other hand, behaves just like any informant. You are required to fork up a large amount of cash just for info on one person, in the range of $500-1000. You will often find yourself running short of cash, and you probably will not proceed unless you can the various locations for some.

When saving, you have up to nine slots in which to do so, but only under the names of GAME000, GAME001, GAME002, etc. You cannot give each a descriptive name like in any other adventure games.

The Bottom Line

Mean Streets is a lovely introduction to the Tex Murphy series, preparing you for the era of interactive movies. As a PI assigned to uncover the truth about Carl Linsky, you spend most of your time interviewing people and searching apartments. As the game progresses, you search for clues that greatly enhances the plot. The game is ahead of its time with VGA graphics and RealSound technology, adding more realism to the game. There is some digitized speech, an element which is also present in Martian Memorandum. A lot of time is wasted when you travel between locations, but don't let this put you off from playing a good game. In 1989, the requirements for Mean Streets was a 8088/8086 processor, which means that the game will not work on most machines, so you have to use DOSBox to get this game to run.