Mean Streets

aka: Tex Murphy: Mean Streets
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Description official descriptions

Private detective Tex Murphy is hired to investigate the murder of a university professor. It turns out that he was one of eight scientists involved in Project Overlord, a mission to remotely control people. Tex soon learns of the deaths of other related figures. Suspects may include the British intelligence head, a surveillance company owner, and the professor's daughter.

Tex's first adventure takes the player through the seedy West Coast world of 2033, a setting that combines futuristic elements with film noir and "hardboiled" detective fiction styles. The game's main adventure portions are icon-driven, with object puzzles less significant than detective deduction and character interaction. Characters are represented by digitized photos.

Mean Streets features dozens of characters to interact with by asking questions or offering bribes. Fights often arise, but a diplomatic approach is more successful with characters whose guilt is unproven. Although it is largely an adventure game, travel between cities involves piloting Tex's Lotus Speeder in a flight simulation section. The game also contains side-scrolling action sequences where Tex has to eliminate a number of enemies before being able to proceed to the destination.

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Critics

Average score: 73% (based on 23 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 71 ratings with 4 reviews)

An absolute classic.

The Good
The immersion. I have never been drawn into a game in the way I was with this one. I kept pages and pages of detailed notes, and would look over them (I even found myself talking to them) while I was flying from one location to the next. Speaking of flying, I'm sure many disliked this feature in the game. However, it added greatly to the realism, since you couldn't just "warp" from one location to the next. After returning from a far-off area, I would think "it's good to be home." How many games incite this emotion? Also, this game had graphics and sound (speech!) WAY before many others, and you DIDN'T need a sound card! Also, this was the first game I beat 100% on my own...no hints, no walkthroughs, nothing. Heck, even game reviews tend to reveal at least one puzzle or plot point, but I never even read a review. I had no idea what I was getting into, and loved every minute of it. By far the best of the Tex Murphy games.

The Bad
The action/shooting sequences got to be tedious, since they weren't really difficult, and were just "something you had to do". Other than that, nothing.

The Bottom Line
Virtual Reality before the term was invented. Story over glitz (though there was some of that, too). Yet another underrated classic.

DOS · by Toka (13) · 2001

Interesting story with mostly tedious gameplay

The Good
“Mean Streets” is the first of the games featuring Tex Murphy, a private investigator working in a dystopian San Francisco in 2033. The main success of “Main Streets” is in developing a seedy future with an interesting mystery story full of corruption and ambiguity. Tex’s first case is to investigate the death of professor Carl Linksy, deemed a definite suicide. In the style of the best detective stories, information is slowly revealed regarding the case by interacting with various characters and visiting different locations. In short, Tex uses a combination of questioning, bribing and threatening to get information from a wide range of characters. Sometimes Tex explores rooms to look for clues when not interacting with characters, and these sections feature an interesting and effective interface that allows players to largely use a mouse rather than a parser commands.

The game is solid from a technical standpoint. It features VGA graphics which are impressive for their time. Access used live actors as the basis for their character portraits and characters in cut scenes, and the result is impressively realistic looking characters. The soundtrack of “Mean Streets” features one decent song that is repeated for full impact, but the major achievement in sound in the game is the inclusion of digitized speech. The amount of spoken dialogue is understandably little, but it is a welcome addition to the game, particularly the taped dialogue of Carl Linsky.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the gameplay of “Mean Streets” is tedious in many respects. The gameplay consists of traveling to various locations to gather information about the case. The first problem arises in the travel between locations. Tex Murphy uses a flying “speeder” to move between locations, which is a nice concept, but unfortunately the amount of time spent in getting to different locations is excessive and increasingly boring. At a number of locations players will also have to pass simplistic side scroller action sequences being able to access the location. These are a dull and unwelcome addition to the game. In the beginning, visiting the different characters of the game is interesting, but visiting the characters becomes tedious as Tex visits an increasing number of unmemorable minor characters to get information allowing him to visit other minor characters.

Some locations involve investigating rooms for clues rather than interacting with characters. While the game has some decent puzzles in these rooms, most of the actions required consist of moving or opening objects and using inventory objects in obvious places. In short, “Mean Streets” is severely lacking where conventional adventure game puzzles are concerned, which for me makes the game less interesting than it could be. Searching these rooms becomes especially boring during the long “passcard hunt” toward the end of the game.

The Bottom Line
“Mean Streets” has an interesting futuristic detective story and impressive graphics and sound, but mundane gameplay which makes it a chore to finish. Access seems to have realized the failings of this game and vast improvements were made to the gameplay of subsequent Tex Murphy games, including the elimination of traveling time between locations and action sequences, introducing more interesting puzzles and including less trivial minor characters.

The last Tex Murphy game, “Tex Murphy: Overseer”, is a heavily enhanced and expanded remake of this game and is definitely more worth playing. It is also notable that “Overseer” and “Mean Streets” have the same basic story, though the story of “Overseer” is more intricate. Therefore, it may be worth skipping “Mean Streets” to avoid revealing plot details in common with “Overseer”. I only recommend this one to those willing to muddle through arduous gameplay for the sake of seeing the original Tex Murphy storyline.

DOS · by Ingold (119) · 2007

A very good entry to the Tex Murphy series, complete with some humor thrown in for good measure

The Good
The Tex Murphy series is proven quite popular with the many people who enjoy detective fiction. Ask the majority of fans what their first Tex game was, and chances are they will say Under a Killing Moon, the first game that heralded the introduction of full-motion video to the series. But what the majority of Tex Murphy fans do not know is that the series goes way back with Mean Streets, a game that is classed as an “interactive detective movie”, and a game that is overlooked to this day. Furthermore, the Kickstarter trailer for Tesla Effect did not mention Mean Streets or its sequel.

Inside the box (the front cover is reminiscent to the poster for “Blade Runner”), you have the manual and the three game disks. You will have to refer to the manual for the copy protection, the usual “enter word x in line y on page z” kind of stuff. There are also some papers, including a quick start guide, a map of California (showing the state's suburbs as well as its landmarks), and two copies of the “Detective Information Charts”, one of them filled with information and the other one blank. The former is what you'll use to help you get started in the case.

Tex's first case is an interesting one. Sylvia Linsky, the daughter of a well-liked scientist who took his own life on top of the Golden Gate Bridge. She went to the police, who claim that it was a suicide. Sylvia is not convinced that it's suicide and hires Tex to uncover the truth. Vanessa, his secretary, gives him a newspaper article about the death, as well as a few leads to help him get started.

The very first thing that I saw the inside of Tex's speeder, a type of transport invented to make traveling easier for people and what we may be using when 2033 finally ticks over. The speeder is used for traveling between locations, and this adds realism to the game. After you punch in the co-ordinates, you can manually control the speeder as you proceed to your destination while you learn what everything does and explore the sights. But non-flight-sim fans like me can toggle the auto-pilot. The idea is to use auto-pilot only a few times to get a good idea of how everything works, then control the speeder yourself.

Mean Streets was considered technically superior to what was available at the time. The game supports 256-color VGA graphics, and this was at a time when VGA cards were a rarity. Everything in the game looks detailed, especially the backdrops for the interrogation scenes. Even with the vector graphics (if you're in the speeder), the locations are represented clearly and there isn't too much clutter between the different objects. Characters you meet in the interrogation scenes are not 2-D pieces of art, but rather Access employees, such as Chris Jones and Doug Vandegrift, were digitized in the game. People who couldn't afford to buy a VGA card could run the game in CGA, EGA, or Hercules, but the graphics didn't very good.

Another innovation was the use of RealSound, which provides high-quality sound through the PC Speaker without any additional hardware. All you needed was a machine that was capable of running at least 6Mhz and the speaker cable hooked up to an amplifier. Designed by Steve Witzel, the technology was already featured in Echelon, Access' 3-D flight simulator, and other games made use of it before the introduction of sound cards made RealSound obsolete. The soundtrack sounds amazing; and two of the most important characters, your secretary and informant, actually talk.

There is a little bit of humor in the game, especially when you can “threaten” every person you meet, with humorous consequences. More often than not, you are treated with a still shot or two showing Tex getting attacked and a description well-worth reading. You also get to see Chris in his mid-twenties. My favorite person to threaten was Delores Lightbody, Carl's ex-finance. “Threaten” was a nice feature in Mean Streets, and I wish that you could do that in the future Tex Murphy games.



The Bad
There are two things that I didn't like in Mean Streets. There are some action sequences in Mean Streets which you are forced to play just before entering apartments. They are difficult even when the game's fight level is set to Easy, and they just ruin the flow of the game.

There are also some time-crucial moments near the end of the game, which won't work properly even on a 386. For instance, you have to type in a series of words within a time limit or you will lose the game. Even when I think if I type the word right, the first key wouldn't register and I waste a lot of time re-entering the correct word.

The Bottom Line
Mean Streets is a lovely introduction to the Tex Murphy series, an “interactive detective movie” that is a precursor to FMV-based adventure games. As a private investigator 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 uncover a more, sinister plot. Unique to this game is the use of Tex's speeder to travel between locations. Although there is a lot of time wasted between locations, especially when going from one end of the state to another, this adds realism to the game. Having said that, I wish that you could have the opportunity to control Tex's speeder in future games of the series.

The game was ahead of its time due to the use of the VGA graphics and RealSound technology, providing detailed graphics digitized speech (an element which is used a lot in Martian Memorandum). In 1989, the minimum requirements for Mean Streets was a 8088/8086 processor, which you might as well run the game on since you may have timer-related issues near the end.

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43051) · 2015

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Discussion

Subject By Date
C64 Mean Streets US Gold Box Edwin Drost (7020) Jan 31st, 2017

Trivia

Cover art

The US box art bears a striking resemblance to Blade Runner's original theatrical poster.

Graphics

Mean Streets was the world's first popular PC game to fully support VGA graphics. Not content to stop there, it was also the world's first PC game to also support EGA, CGA, and Hercules graphics modes with real-time quantization and dithering. ("Real-time references the fact that they didn't include pre-converted graphics, which would have taken up twice the disk space, but rather they converted each graphic as it was loaded to fit the graphics mode being used.) Most games that supported VGA didn't support any lower standard at all because it was considered too difficult to convert graphics utilizing 256 colors down to 16 or even 4 for EGA or CGA.

Music

The Mean Streets intro music is also used in a TV commercial. Access plagarised music in the past; see the trivia for Crime Wave for another example.

Remake

In 1998, Access released Overseer which is a remake of Mean Streets.

References

There are many references to TV shows and movies in Mean Streets. For example, turn on the TV in Ron Morgon's Cabin and the sound resembles Star Trek. The robot in Cal Davis's Secret Lab is a reference to Lost In Space. The scene where you meet Larry Hammond is a spoof of a joke in The Bob Newhart Show. Also, the president is called Michael J. Fox, and a final joke refers to the first Back to the Future film he starred in.

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #139 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
  • ST Format
    • Issue 01/1991 – #4 Best Adventure Game in 1990

Information also contributed by Blood, Brolin Empey, hydra9 and Ricky Derocher

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Eurythmic.

Atari ST added by Martin Smith. Linux, Windows, Macintosh added by lights out party. Commodore 64, Amiga added by Katakis | カタキス.

Additional contributors: Jeanne, Patrick Bregger, Jo ST, firefang9212.

Game added August 16th, 1999. Last modified August 17th, 2023.