Bureau 13

Moby ID: 6601
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

This is a puzzle, adventure game about an ultra-secret organization called Bureau 13, whose operatives investigate paranormal phenomenon. After one member of the organization draws unwanted attention to himself, the Bureau decides to neutralize him by sending two agents on his trail. The game offers many characters to choose from such as thief, priest, mech and vampire etc. Since each character has different skills, each puzzle can be solved in a number of ways, leading to different endings.

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Credits (DOS version)

49 People (47 developers, 2 thanks) · View all

Writing & Design
Executive Producers
Game Art
Programming
Music & Sound
Editing
Voice Recording
Voice Acting
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 66% (based on 13 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.3 out of 5 (based on 20 ratings with 2 reviews)

More than just finding an assassin

The Good
You are a member of Bureau 13, an organization that is funded by the government, but operating on its own. Bureau 13's purpose is to identify and eliminate all dangerous paranormal entities. Three days ago, in the town of Stratusburg, a person called J.P. Withers tried to assassinate a former sheriff. You are asked to pick two people to hunt for the assassin, and they are the Hacker, Mech, Priest, Thief, Vampire, and Witch. Furthermore, you are specifically asked not to draw any attention to yourself so as not to have that attention lead back to the Bureau. Eventually, the investigation soon centers around stolen explosives, demons, microchips that have the ability to alter someone's behavior, and a virus wreaking havoc on the military.

Having two characters to select from, Whichever character you pick, he or she is likely to perform tasks that most of the characters cannot do. For example, the Mech can smash locked doors open, the Thief can pick locks, and the Vampire can "mist" through doors. This technique offers alternate solutions to puzzles such as unlocking doors, which then lead to alternate endings. I consider Bureau 13 an adventure more than an RPG, partly because when you point that red bullseye cursor over an object and it turns yellow, that means that the object can be interacted with. And when you right-click on that object, it changes to several icons including eyes, teeth, hand, manipulate (varies depending on the two characters you select: For the Mech, it's "smash", while for the Thief, it's "pick"), and treasure chest, and more icons that I possibly haven't mentioned here, and in that order, they mean look, talk, push/pull, manipulate, and open/close. Clicking the red bullseye on a "surface" allows you to walk to that part.

Most of these icons (and more) appear as verbs in the verb interface, which you can access by right-clicking on the top half of the screen. This is also where your inventory is display, which can contain an infinite number of items, and what character you are currently controlling. Click on the Bureau 13 Badge on either side of the interface, and you switch characters. So, basically, you could say that the interface is similar to Sierra's, except that there's an option you can turn on to make the interface always stay on the screen, but since the interface takes up almost half of the screen, I have no idea why anyone would use this feature. Also similar is the scoring system, where you score points for performing required tasks and solving puzzles. However, to get the highest score possible, you are encourage to leave everything the way you find it so you don't draw attention to yourself. You lose points for performing tasks that are unnecessary. Even though the two characters you choose at the start of the game can perform tasks that the others can't, these may be unnecessary. For instance, if you choose the Mech, you can smash doors, vending machines, cash registers, and book returns open. But instead of committing the crime, you could as well use something to pry these open. You also lose points for attacking people. Like many adventure games, you can die, although when I was playing Bureau 13, I only encountered two situations that contributed to death.

As far as I know, Bureau 13 has heaps of locations to explore. This includes the military headquarters, gymnasium, hospital, cemetery, church, and suburbs among other things. To get to each of these locations, you'll just have to find a way to steal a RV which allows you to travel between locations, as well as finding information about people. The save and restore features are quite useful since both of them allow you to save you progress somewhere in the game where you are bound to make a mistake, and load it up when you actually make one. Bureau 13 also keeps track of where you are in the game. If you exit the game, and load it back up again, the game doesn't ask you to select two characters, but you are taken back to where you previously left off. Useful if there was a power blackout.

Bureau 13 is also available on CD-ROM. As far as I know, there is speech throughout the game, and a selection of songs that you can listen to while playing the game. The game has detailed VGA graphics, with no support for SVGA. There is support for sound cards like the Adlib, Sound Blaster, Roland, and Gravis Ultrasound. Also, a mouse is required to play Bureau 13 (you do know how to use one by now, don't you?)

The Bad
There are heaps of locations to explore, that you expect GameTek to include some map in the game so that you travel to locations much quicker, but sadly, there isn't. If you are on one side of town, and your destination is on the other side (the very last screen), a lot of time will be wasted. No matter which character you pick, each ending is disappointing. I expected the endings to be much more than one or two lines of dialogue (Maybe this is not the case with the CD-ROM version). For example, when you complete the game as the Witch, she says that her quest was time-consuming that she feels like a cup of Earl Grey Tea. And unlike all adventure games, this one hasn't got credits.

The Bottom Line
A very good game that can be played multiple times with different characters and endings, as well as different dialogue. This game is based on the pen-and-paper RPG by the same name, and was designed by Tri-Tac Systems. If you want more information about it, then contact the address that is shown when you exit to DOS. ***

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43093) · 2003

The coolest government agency in it's own kickass game.

The Good
Probably the coolest element in Bureau 13 are the ones borrowed from the original pen&paper Bureau 13 roleplaying games, so good in fact that they made me look up the books, but unfortunately they seem to be long dead by now. Basically the game centers around the adventures of a super-secret division of paranormal government agents that work completely on their own and dedicate themselves to investigating supernatural events while keeping the knowledge of such events away from the general public. Basically Call of Chtulhu meets Men In Black, but with much more esoteric characters and situations a-la Hellboy, as the Bureau also hires supernatural creatures such as vampires and ghosts to work for them. I think you'll agree with me than that just oozes coolness, and if you don't then you should go back to playing checkers or stuff like that.

Unfortunately the PC adaptation of Bureau 13 isn't an rpg, but instead a classic point 'n click adventure game. However several nods are made as to the rpg roots of the game. Most importantly being the fact that you play the game with a party of 2 players (you can try it with only one, but that's heavily discouraged) which you get to select from a lineup of 6 characters that represent some of the most effective/popular classes of agents in the P&P game: a Priest, a Hacker, a Witch, a Thief, a Vampire and a Mech (fighter).

Beyond being just cosmetic choices, what characters you select affect the way you'll play the game and how to solve the puzzles. The thief for instance might have to break a fuse box open and find a replacement in order to light up a certain room, while the witch can simply cast a light spell and be done with it. Of course, to get to the room in the first place the thief can simply use his "sneak" ability, while the witch will have to find another way to fool the guard... As you can see this nice approach allows for plenty of variety and replayability for what's essentially yet another adventure game, and truly gives the game it's biggest edge when compared to the competition. Not to mention that the game also rates you with a score based on how much of a ruckus you create, and how many evidence you leave behind of your investigation, I mean, sure the mech can punch through doors and you can kill certain characters screaming "I'm a Bureau 13 agent! Fear my wrath!!" should you see it fit to do so, but there are probably cleaner ways to solve those problems.

As for the story, the game manages to weave a conspiracy plot that picks up most of the popular elements from the games, such as demonic apparitions, corporate machinations and murder mysteries, which is how the game starts off. Initially the Bureau sends you to subdue a rogue Bureau agent that has made an assassination attempt on a small town sheriff. Unfortunately things aren't as simple as that and the aforementioned elements will soon pop up as the story turns towards it's final conclusion using some clever twists (though most players will see the ending coming a mile away).

Also, to the game's immense credit, the puzzles are integrated in a true detectivesque way, laid out as clues and actual logical solutions to the mystery or particular problem at hand, a feat many "mystery" games forget when they start throwing wildly outrageous puzzles your way just for the sake of it. This may turn the game into less of a challenge to experienced players, but at least you don't have stupid color-coding crap or pixel hunts and stuff like that in the middle of a conspiracy investigation.

The Bad
The first big problem with the game is the graphic look of it. This is one of those early games that adopted 3D studio (or a similar package) as it's main artistic tool, and all the graphics in the game are made of pre-rendered sprites and backgrounds. Unfortunately they are cursed with the lack of graphic quality from those early 3D packages and render everything in sight with a fake plastic quality that kills the mood of the game. Had the game resorted to the beautiful (if grainy) hand-drawn look of a game like Gabriel Knight, it would have gained a lot of feeling and atmosphere, however as it stands now you get the feeling you are playing out a murder/mystery adventure in the land of Fisher-Price complete with plastic cars and poorly-animated mannequins as characters.

The second big problem is that sometimes the story doesn't exactly point you in the right direction. By that I mean that it points you in no direction and just leaves you stranded and waiting until you switch into "click into stuff until you stumble into the next clue" mode. I mean, sure it's nice to uncover a clue in a book left on the library's book return, but we have a problem when I opened the book return box out of boredom, or broke into the library just because I had exhausted all other options and had nowhere to go.

Finally, on a more bitchy note: there are some real plausability problems in the game, such as a cop leaving his post and running like a wuss because of a fire in his waste bin, or nobody reacting in the slightest to a half-naked native american babe stuck in a metal egg with arms and legs or a vampire dressed as Bela Lugosi in Dracula walking around town... Oh and the ending sucks ass.

The Bottom Line
A really cool adventure game that fails in a couple of areas but still has a lof of good elements in it. I know of worse games that have fared better so I never really understood why Bureau 13 got the shaft. Probably because it wasn't marketed to the hardcore adventure gaming niche as it should have and instead billed itself as one of those shinny multimedia products of it's time... Whatever the case anyone who considers him/herself as a true adventure gamer should check Bureau 13 out as it does a lot of cool things with the genre that you simply can't find anywhere else.

DOS · by Zovni (10503) · 2004

Trivia

Covermount release

The full version of this game was released on a cover disc for Computer Game Entertainment magazine.

License

Bureau 13 is actually a pen-and-paper RPG by Richard Tucholka and Tri-Tac Systems. The game was based on that franchise.

Information also contributed by Demian Katz

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Related Sites +

  • Crapshoot
    A humorous review on PC Gamer
  • Tri Tac Games
    Authors of the roleplay system Bureau 13 is licensed from.

Identifiers +

  • MobyGames ID: 6601
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Roger Wilco.

Windows 3.x added by PolloDiablo.

Additional contributors: deepcut, tbuteler, Patrick Bregger.

Game added June 8, 2002. Last modified February 22, 2023.