Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Adventure of the Week: Mean Streets (1989)

The recent release of the Kickstarter-funded The Tesla Effect has brought the post-apocalyptic detective Tex Murphy back onto the adventure game scene, so I decided it was time to play one of the earlier games in this long-running series.  So this week, we're taking a look at the first Tex Murphy title, Mean Streets, published by Access Software in 1989 for PC compatibles.

Mean Streets came to market on the cusp of the PC's arrival as a serious gaming platform -- its RealSound technology was innovative at the time, tricking the basic PC beeper into playing digitized audio long before onboard sound cards became standard.  The game was also one of the first to feature 320 x 200, 256-color VGA graphics, pushing past the 32-color Amiga standard and well beyond the original PC's hideous 4-color CGA visuals (also supported for backwards-compatibility, of course.)  This pre-Windows adventure doesn't support the mouse, however, so everything is keyboard-driven, including the menu-based adventuring interface as well as the flight simulation and gunfighting sections.

The Tex Murphy games were a little more mature in tone and theme than most of the Sierra and Lucasarts adventures, presenting hard-boiled detective stories full of death and vice, but leavened with humor and fun sci-fi trappings.  Mean Streets was directed by Bruce Carver from a story by Chris Jones and Brian Ferguson; Jones also played Tex Murphy in digitized stills, and continues in the role as a live-action performer today.

Regular visitors know that I almost always encourage readers to try these games out before reading my comments, as firsthand experience can't be beat.  And this one isn't even hard to track down or get running -- it's still commercially available via the good folks at GOG.com as part of a package containing the first two Tex Murphy adventures, Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum.  Beyond this point, I'll be detailing my playthrough experience, and there are certain to be...

***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****

The game opens (past a few DOS menus for installation and configuration) with some funky 80s cop-pop music, a sampled loop that actually still sounds pretty good on a modern system with DOSBox emulation.  After the title screen, we are given an introductory screen of text -- the case involves the murder of a Dr. Linsky, a University of San Francisco professor.  His daughter Sylvia believes he was murdered, while the police think his fall from the Golden Gate bridge was clearly a suicide.  The player is cast as Private Investigator Tex Murphy, in the year 2033, which was farther away when this game was published than it is now.  This opening feels very much like a classic text adventure, right down to a final grammatical error:

We begin with $10,000 in cash, five leads to pursue, and advice to refer to the manual, write things down, and accommodate the technology by spelling correctly and using people's full names when questioning suspects.

We begin in Tex's "speeder" flying car, with a fairly sophisticated instrument panel; hitting H for help on the controls as suggested indicates we can fly manually or toggle the autopilot on.  While I'm trying to decide what to do, a fax arrives from Vanessa, Tex's assistant, forwarding a newspaper article about Dr. Linksy's death.  The deceased had a fiancee named Delores Lightbody, and funeral services will be at 10:00 Wednesday, September 24, at the All Saints Church.

So perhaps we should fly to church.  We can hit V to call Vanessa on the picture phone, and ask her about All Saints Church, but she "Can't help you there."  We can ask her about the characters we've heard about so far, but she just refers us to the faxed information already sent.  We can also call Lee Chin, an underground source who doesn't like Murphy much and doesn't seem to know much either.  Soon another fax arrives, though, with Navigation Computer coordinates for Delores Lightbody's address in Berkeley at NC 4920.  Another fax comes listing Sylvia's home address in Woodland at NC 4421, and another with Carl Linsky's address at NC 4660.

We can use the navigation computer manually, setting a position and then actually lifting off, turning around and heading there, or we can enter a Nav Code and turn on the Autopilot to keep things simple.  I'm opting to focus on the adventure and not worry about the flight simulation aspect of the game, so we'll use the autopilot to get to Dr. Linsky's address.  It appears that time ticks away in real time, so if we're stepping away from the computer we need to stop playing; I didn't run into any true time limitations while playing through the game, but it's a distinct possibility.

The late professor's three-story Queen Anne-style apartment home contains a few clues.  We can walk Tex around the room using the arrow keys -- when objects are close enough to interact with, we're prompted to press ENTER to access a limited menu of items verbs -- LOOK, GET, MOVE, OPEN, ON/OFF, and TASTE.  Fortunately, Tex has a better reach than Sierra's heroes, and having the items available listed means we don't have to do any pixel hunting, just traverse the space and see what we can see; most locations are divided into four separate quadrants for the four corners of the room, and I didn't find any locations with multiple rooms.  The menu also allows for item hierarchy -- the cabinet has a cabinet door, which can be opened to reveal a book and a cabinet key.  We have to navigate the available verbs using the right and left arrows on the keyboard, and the objects with the up and down arrows; this interface takes a little getting used to but it works well enough.  In general, the engine will let us take small objects, but not large ones, so we'll be mostly looking for clues of a portable nature; there are no inventory usage puzzles per se, Tex will automatically use an appropriate item if we have it and do nothing if we don't, so we can't (and don't have to) try every object with everything else.

The book is one of Dr. Linsky's; a page is marked, though I never managed to view the marked page because I chose to GET the book before I thought to OPEN it.  The general inventory list is only available in the speeder, and while it allows us to LOOK at objects and automatically reveals any contained items within carried objects, it doesn't allow us to employ any of the other verbs.  A chair contains a desk key.  A display case is protected by a magnetic field, with two slot screws slightly exposed; if we had a slot screwdriver we could shut it down, according to the LOOK response.  The case contains the Maltese Fruitcake, a joke treasure -- or maybe not such a joke, as it's valued at 4000 dollars.

A trash can contains a lease on space in the Bridgeview Warehouse at NC 4675, "rented by Carl Linsky 10 months ago."  There's also a breakup note to Delores -- "It has nothing to do with Sandra Larsen.  I just know there are other whales in the sea and I..."  Motive, perhaps?

The desk drawer contains a digital tape and a grade sheet for an Advanced Psychology course -- a student named Blaze Wiener received an E, and his or her name is circled.  There's also a digital tape player here -- and we have to figure out how to interact with it... oh, I see, if we have the digital audio tape in inventory, we just have to turn on the digital tape player.  The tape contains an unrecognized voice, crying out, "They're in my head, they're in my head..."  It's a male voice in the brief RealSound audio clip played for us.

A chess board on the coffee table is missing a bishop; a note nearby reads, "I'm going to get you for failing me, Linsky."  We can open the bar's cabinet door to find a shoe box, with a note from someone with the initials S.F. regarding "POSSIBLE NEXUS PASSWORDS" - ISBPHO, UEQNE, LASENTOLW, NODGAR, GNOP, NIKG, OORK, NAPW, EHCETMACK, BMGTAI, ETSAELMAT, SLCTAE, NIKTGH, CLBAK, and TEWIH.  Hmmmmm.  These appear to be anagrams for chess pieces, black and white, plus, perhaps, fantasy characters -- Dragon -- and, um... Pong?  Cleats?  Not quite a consistent theme, it appears.

We can open the half-empty bottle of whiskey on the bar, though trying to take a simple TASTE causes Tex to drain the contents.  We'll still take the bottle along, as we can pawn most items of even limited value to raise additional funds for the investigation.  In the entranceway we find a switch, a cabinet, a bookcase, and a fax machine (the game's designers didn't, apparently, foresee the advent of email or tablet computing, so in the year 2033 faxing is ubiquitous.)  A fax reads, "Dear Professor, Looking forward to our date Saturday.  Love, Sandra Larsen."  The plot thickens!

What now?  Well, we have one new address -- the warehouse at NC 4675.  Flying there, we find ourselves in a bit of a firefight against armed goons -- the combat action is handled with simple controls and rules.  Tex can advance to the right, ducking and standing using the arrow keys, and firing his pistol using the space bar.  We have to make it to the right side of the screen, as endless bad guys arrive, to enter the rented warehouse.  Why all the heavily-armed guards?

After two screens of heavy gunfire, we make it to a small, closed-off area in the dark warehouse.  A crate here has an uneven, jaggedly-cut hole, near the floor by a rat trap and an old forklift.  We find an antique watch (worth $600) in a desk drawer.  There's also a check ledger indicating a deposit to Linksy's account from MTC Corporation, and the last check written was to a Sonny Fletcher, Private Investigator.

A cabinet contains Pepto Bismol, a Band Aid can, and non-trademarked Radiation pills.  The band aid can contains a NEXUS passcard.  A calendar has October 3, 2003 marked as "DOOMSDAY!"  Uh-oh.  A file cabinet here requires the key from Linsky's home, revealing a list of "SCIENTISTS THAT MAY BE WORKING ON OVERLORD. 1 - JOHN KLAUS, 2 - MAURICE GRIBBLE, 3 - DAVID POPE."

Some boxes are stacked too high to reach, and a safe requires a key we don't have.  A newspaper on the floor mentions a lab accident that killed Cal Davis, scientist.  Accidental?  A fax message here reads, "PROFESSOR, THEY'RE ON TO YOU. I SUGGEST YOU DISAPPEAR FAST."  It came from Sonny Fletcher, the P.I., probably the "S.F." who sent the password list we saw at the apartment.

A computer on the desk accepts the blue passcard and lets us try to enter the "BLUE PASSWORD."  KING fails, and so do several other chess terms, but BISHOP works -- I should have guessed that the missing chess piece was a clue.  We can now read Linsky's Project Notes -- he was apparently working on OVERLORD himself, and employed Sonny Fletcher to find the other scientists involved in what seems to be a highly secretive project.  Linsky was trying to obtain all the NEXUS passcards and passwords, and Fletcher believed scientists were being eliminated once they had finished their work.  Linsky finished his around 09/07 and was uneasy, so he planned to take his concerns to J. Saint Gideon, former president of Gideon Enterprises and MTC Corporation.  But he started experiencing strange headaches and odd behavior, according to his last entry on 09/20.  That must have been his voice on the tape.

In the lower right-hand corner of this area is a machine "CALLED AN ALPHA-WAVE PROCESSOR" and more crates.  Tex can refill his ammunition here.  We can also acquire some 3-1 oil, a safe key, and a step ladder... and a bit of masking tape reading "BLUE-BISHOP" in case we didn't figure that out on our own.  The key opens the safe, where we find a life insurance policy from Transamerica (more trademark law-scoffery!) on Linsky for a million dollars, with his daughter Sylvia as the beneficiary.  The stepladder allows Tex to reach one of those out-of-reach boxes, which is from England and contains a lamp; it has no apparent purpose, but it's comforting that we can GET LAMP here in this new-fangled graphical adventure.

Before we leave, we take another look at the jagged hole in the one crate -- and a black rat bites Tex's finger pretty hard, to no apparent effect other than Tex's comical "OWWWWW!" showing off the RealSound tech.

It seems we're doing a pretty good job of investigating so far.  Let's go to Sylvia's house at NC 4421.  She wears notably short white shorts, and Tex rather clumsily narrates that he thinks he is falling for her, a bit odd as we haven't really gotten to know her at this point in our adventure. 

We can't explore this location, just question Sylvia.  She knows nothing about Blaze Wiener or Sonny Fletcher; tells Tex she is maybe thinking about settling down... with him, which seems suspicious; and thinks Delores Lightbody used "black magic" on her father.  She says Linsky was happy at USF (NC 4663), but his personality changed after he left to do some consulting work; the loss of her father and the life insurance money as well is motivating her to investigate, she claims, and she gives us his apartment address though we've already been there.  Questioning can include bribing or threatening, though Sylvia isn't interested in his money, and threatening earns Tex a crushing blow to his, um, pride:

Checking out USF -- the University of San Francisco, as it turns out when we get there -- sounds like a useful next step.  We break into Linsky's office, which seems disused, and the notes lying around don't provide any clues.  This action is all handled with canned text, not gameplay, and there's nothing we can do here, so we'll take to the air again.  Perhaps it's time to visit Delores Lightbody at NC 4920.

Ms. Lightbody lives in a Victorian house in a wealthy neighborhood, and is not an attractive woman.  This is another interrogation-only stop.  She mentions that Carl had a lab in the city somewhere, where he worked on a secret project, and that the life insurance agent involved in denying Sylvia's claim was named Peter Dull.  Questioned about Dull, she'll give us his work address at NC 4674.  We can get Tex punched hard in the face with threats; fortunately, the interrogation system is pretty simple -- there's no real conversation, and no apparent character memory if we've offended anyone Tex needs to talk to again, so we can always re-enter with a clean slate.

Off to Peter Dull's office we go.  He is the vice president of Transamerica, suggesting this is getting some attention, and he says Sylvia demanded the insurance payment, but the policy was void due to the circumstances around Linsky's death.  Dull says that she stormed out of his office, screaming, "We'll see about that."  He knows a few of the other principals but doesn't tell us much we don't already know.

What about this Sandra Larsen?  Vanessa says she'll get back to Tex if we ask her about Sandra, and she promises to fax information on scientists Gribble and Pope (though not John Klaus.)  In short order we learn that Sandra is at NC 4599, Pope at NC 6211, and Gribble at NC 8231.  We can also get Peter Dull's address from her -- I always appreciate adventures, especially mystery games, that allow multiple pathways and cross-confirmation of critical information, as it makes it feel more like a genuine investigation.

Sandra Larsen is another interrogation subject, an attractive young woman whom Tex finds at a local pub in a rather seedy district featuring neon signs advertising "NUDE FREAKS" and other questionable delights.  She says she dated Carl for about two months and was heartbroken about his death, and considers Sylvia a little wild.  She also says Carl was worried about Delores' temper when he broke off their engagement.  She maces Tex if we threaten her -- it's getting to be quite entertaining just seeing what happens to our poor hero when he gets overbearing.

Let's visit Gribble and Pope next.  Gribble can't be interactively questioned -- in text, he just says that he is retired and has been relaxing, showing us to the door so he can get to the golf course.  It seems we're not going to learn anything from him.  Pope claims not to have heard of Gideon Enterprises, MTC Corporation, or Carl Linsky, saying he works for Zeno Morph Corporation, training mutated insects to be butlers and factory workers.

What now?  Let's ask Sylvia about Peter Dull, as we didn't have his name earlier -- but all she'll say is that he is a pompous ass.  She was supportive of Carl's dating Sandra, and doesn't know his fellow scientists.  No new leads here.  Vanessa can't help us with J. Saint Gideon or Sonny Fletcher, but she can provide information on MTC and Gideon Enterprises (NC4650).  It seems MTC (Management Training Center) iss a subsidiary of Gideon Enterprises, specializing in high tech computer and electronic surveillance equipment, founded in 1997.  Vanessa's fax also mentions that Gideon handed the reigns over to a Frank Schimming when he retired, and we can get her to find out that his office is at NC 4650, the same as the company address.

The frequent autopilot flights that account for much of Mean Streets' playing time aren't such a bad thing, as they provide some time for us to think over recent developments in the case.  Before we go to the lair of the beast, let's threaten Peter Dull just for fun, getting Tex thrown bodily out of Dull's office.  We can also call Lee -- she apparently has some information, but demands payment from Tex. $1000 seems to work for Fletcher (NC5170), $800 for Klaus -- he and Ms. Lightbody were romantically involved -- and $750 for J. Saint Gideon (NC3891).

Going to Sonny's run-down apartment, we don't learn much.  He is pretty resistant to questioning, though bribes are effective and threats just get Tex punched out again.  We learn nothing new about Sylvia, but confirm that Linsky hired Sonny to check out MTC, and he was researching mental ability improvement before he got "iced."  Sonny suggests visiting Wanda Peck (NC 4621) at the San Francisco Chronicle for more about MTC.  Sonny can confirm a bunch of other information, but the bribes add up fast.

Let's go visit Mr. Gideon at his lavish estate.  He's at an advanced age, focusing his attention on a chess board, and there's a photo on the wall of him with (future) President Michael J. Fox.  We learn that Schimming forced Gideon out of his own company, and is in Gideon's opinion "ruthless and totally unethical."  Gideon was formerly head of British intelligence.  He's heard something unusual is going on at MTC.

We can visit Delores again to quiz her about John Klaus, learning that Carl and John were once partners, and Delores left John for Carl.  John was angry at the time, but more recently he believes he is in danger and is hiding out in Reno, Nevada (NC7012).  It's not too far away, so we'll visit and learn that Delores was a great dancer, some people are afraid of Schimming, Klaus is a neuroscientist who worked with MTC and fears for his life as a result, and Linsky was trying to reach him but Klaus wouldn't return his calls.  The best new information we get is that OVERLORD was "a project designed to enhance an executive's mental capacity and performance," but something wasn't right and Klaus was threatened when he started asking questions.

Checking in with Wanda Peck at the San Francisco Chronicle re-confirms a lot of things we've heard elsewhere; it doesn't seem anyone we've met is trying to lead us deliberately astray.  She suggests that MTC really means "Management Through Control," and that OVERLORD started 50 years ago in England and involved connecting a person's brain directly to a computer.  The result did increase IQ, but also increased a person's susceptibility to suggestion -- some committed suicide or died under mysterious circumstances.  She will accept bribes though it doesn't really seem necessary, and threats earn Tex another kick in the tenderloin district.

Well, let's go visit MTC Corporation and see what's afoot.  Tex (perhaps foolishly) informs the security guard that he's working on a murder case and wants to talk to Frank Schimming, who is not happy to see him.  He is vague about Linsky, but bribes are pointless and threats just get Tex thrown out again.  He claims to know nothing about OVERLORD, and is generally not very willing to talk.

As Tex returns to his speeder, he receives a threatening fax from a "CONCERNED CITIZEN" urging him to "GET OFF THIS CASE OR YOU'LL BE SORRY!"  So we must be getting somewhere, especially because if we visit Schimming again, we get sent another copy.

So now what should we do?  We haven't found a screwdriver to use on the trophy case at Linsky's apartment, but I think we only need this if we want to steal the statue to get 4000 dollars.  Tinkering with the display case sets off an alarm -- if we don't disarm it in five minutes, the police arrive.  And we can't just flee the premises as the clock winds down, either; it's GAME OVER after time runs out.  We can, however, use the safe key found at the warehouse to liberate some plain old money from a safe behind the painting -- $1000.

Revisiting the warehouse, we have to shoot our way in again.  This time we take more informed notice of the desk chair cabled to the computer with the Alpha-Wave machine across the room, but it doesn't seem we can do anything new with this equipment other than observe its similarity to the OVERLORD system we've heard described.

Reading Linsky's NEXUS log again reminds us that he thought he needed all the passcards and passwords.  Sandra heard Gideon threaten Schimming once.  Asking Klaus about NEXUS reveals that he did have a passcard and a password, and asked about PASSCARD and PASSWORD, he gives us his green passcard and password, PAWN.  Any further luck with Pope or Gribble?  No.

So let's see what we can learn from Klaus' account, after fighting our way into the warehouse yet again.  Darn, we can't log in to this terminal with anything but the blue passcard.  Asking Klaus about the terminal doesn't yield any new information, and we don't have any options at the MTC building to go looking for another terminal.  Does Sylvia or Sandra know anything about Carl's lab?  Not that I can determine.  What about that marked page in Linsky's book?  We can't seem to examine the book in inventory, so we'll have to hope whatever information it contained will turn up elsewhere.

Maybe we should talk to Gideon again -- or not, as I don't learn anything new, but in flight, I review the original game manual and detective information chart and discover a name I haven't encountered yet, investigating officer Steve Clements at NC 4680.  As copy protection goes, this is one of the most subtle schemes I've seen!  The detective chart also lists the terms we can ask people about -- including LAW AND ORDER and INSURANCE, which I haven't tried out yet.

Ahhhh... there is a Law and Order political party in Tex's universe, which we note as we enter Clements' office.  There's a witness named Bash Dagot (NC 4657) who claims he saw Linsky jump from the bridge the night he died, and a suicide note that doesn't quite ring true.  Clements doesn't trust the Law & Order Party himself.  His investigation never discovered the insurance policy, apparently.

Let's pay Mr. Dagot a call.  It's a rough neighborhood, so we have to shoot our way through a few screens of bad guys.  Dagot is "a scum bag" who needs a little encouragement to talk -- we can get some information about Linsky and the Law & Order Party if we're willing to pay him.  He says Linsky didn't hesitate, just walked past him, climbed over the barrier and jumped.  He also thinks the party wants to get all the "freaks out of town."  Dagot also responds to threats and violence, so I could have saved some money.

Wanda Peck will share info about the Law & Order party, but she needs payment to cover the risk -- $800 as it turns out.  Robert Knott is their president, Peck says, and they have moved from the political fringe to become more mainstream, blaming any and all of society's problems on the mutants of this post-nuclear era.  She advises we talk to Larry Hammond, via Ron Meat.  Meat moves around a lot, so we will probably need to talk to Lee, and Hammond used to do some computer work for MTC.

Tex is getting low on funds here after paying Wanda, then Lee for information on Ron Meat (NC 4525) and the Law and Order party.  There's a pawn mechanism in the inventory screen, but we really need a screwdriver soon, methinks.

Visiting Mr. Meat is interesting -- he's only got one eye, in the center of his forehead.  Threats and violence are effective, and we learn that Larry Hammond is at NC 4935 in Freak Town.  He has heard L&O is planning "something big" -- maybe that October 3 doomsday?

Larry Hammond has a twin... or at least a second head.  He was hired to design a computer for MTC along with eight access terminals.  A colleague, Cal Davis, was also hired to work on human behavior aspects of the Overlord project, and was later killed.  To stop project OVERLORD, Hammond tells us, Tex will have to get to the main computer (location unknown) and destroy the satellite used to impose OVERLORD's control.  To do that, we will indeed need all eight passcards.  Hammond's was grey, with password KING, but has been stolen by the L&O party.  He directs us to Gideon Enterprises' accounting team -- Jerome Milbourne, Ed Bradley, and Arnold Dweeb -- to see if we can find the names of the other six scientists involved (we already know about Klaus and Linsky, of course, so we really have four names and six passcards left to track down.)  Hammond also hints at a political movement he's involved with, opposing the Law and Order Party, and says the movement considers Wanda Peck a friend.

Vanessa can check out Cal Davis and Jerome Milbourne, but she has no information on Bradley or Dweeb, so we have to pay Lee again.  Vanessa's report indicates Cal Davis (NC 3720) was poisoned, according to the Santa Barbara police deparment (NC 3614) report.  His body was discovered by a close friend, Aaron Sternwood, who told police he mumbled some chess term before he died.  Supposedly, Davis absent-mindedly drank a flask of cyanide instead of his Diet Coke.  Lee faxes us to let us know Arnold Dweeb will meet us at the Oakland Coliseum (NC 4610) and Ed Bradley lives at NC 7312.  Vanessa's fax on Jerome Milbourne sends us to NC 4623.

Okay, finding Hammond was a substantial breakthrough -- at least we know what we have to do now.  Checking out Davis' home should prove productive.  (Heading there, I think I discover that the autopilot isn't always able to do its job -- I got the impression that if we're blocked by a building at an oblique angle, we need to manually back up and rotate the speeder to allow it to take us airborne.  Except what really happened is that I had already come here before saving, so the autopilot had nothing to do until I made it take a very short flight back to where I had parked.)

There is still police tape up as we enter Cal Davis' home -- and a burglar alarm sounds, giving us ten minutes to shut it off before police arrive!  We can liberate a screwdriver from the rat cages.  A note in a file cabinet indicates Davis' NEXUS password is coded as EHCCETAMK.  An ominous table has straps and a powerful drill at one end, which we can turn on but not take with us.  Opening an angry ape's cage proves fatal, though Tex's demise is only described, not animated.

Restoring and looking around some more, we see a small metal box inside the ape cage, probably containing something we want.  Turning on the table lamp over the workbench reveals a key.  It opens a drawer in the file cabinet, revealing a receipt dated shortly before Davis' death for a Galium Arsenide Bar, 2000 dollars.  I find a key after moving the desk -- but not soon enough to do anything with it.  Another try lets me open the desk drawer to find a deposit slip from MTC Corporation to Davis' account.  And moving the rat cages reveals a key and a circuit box, with a switch that turns off the surveillance camera and disables the alarm.  Whew!

The key lets us open the cabinet on the wall, where we find a valuable bar of Galium Arsenide.  It doesn't seem we have any way to soothe the savage beast to get the metal box, and there's no sign of Cal's passcard, but the screwdriver may help us back at Dr. Linsky's place, at least to help us raise some funds.  Unfortunately, while the screwdriver allows us to disable the magnetic field, the pressure sensitive alarm still goes off when we try to take the valuable fruitcake statue inside.  So we'll have to restore and think of something else.

Let's go talk to Detective Monroe of the Santa Barbera police about Cal Davis' death.  He demands a little "consulting fee" to give us any information, and we're short of cash, so we need to pawn some of the treasures we've acquired along the way -- the antique lamp, the watch, and the galium arsenide -- to raise some funds.  Monroe needs $500 to tell us that the investigation concluded that Davis died when he accidentally drank a hazardous chemical instead of his Diet Coke.  The emergency call came from an Aaron Sternwood, a friend of Davis, which we had heard earlier.  Another 200 bucks reveals that Sternwood hangs out at the beach (NC 0439).

Might as well visit Sternwood before we go on.  He says that Davis' last word was "checkmate," and he doesn't believe Davis accidentally poisoned himself.  Sternwood says (as we might have guessed) that Davis' passcard is kept in the small box near the ape cage.

Next on our list is Arnold Dweeb... complete with nerd glasses held together with tape.  He also demands payment for information.  I tried threatening him, only to be shot with a .38, so that was a bad idea.  He knows Gideon threatened Schimming, which isn't worth the $1000 it takes to get him to talk, and that Davis was on the MTC payroll.  All of his information is overpriced; it costs us a solid three grand to get the MTC payroll list, with navcodes for some of the people on it.  Since we can use a restore to time warp back without losing the information gained after we spent the money, I'm going to cheat and copy down the list right here 'for free':

Carl Linsky
Ron Morgan
Jorge Valdez (NC 4931)
Brenda Perry (NC 4577)
Greg Call

Cal Davis (NC 3720)
Big Jim Slade
Tom Griffith (NC 4590)
John Klaus
Bosworth Clark
Sandra Larsen (NC 4599)
Della Lang (NC 2111)
Sam Jones
Larry Hammond

Interesting.  At least we can believe the information, as it jives with what we've learned independently.  And there's a Kentucky Fried Movie joke in there, always nice to see.  Visiting Dweeb also triggers another threatening fax, so somebody's watching us.

Let's finish up checking out the other contacts we learned about earlier, before we start hitting the payees. Ed Bradley just directs us to Arnold Dweeb. Jerome Milbourne left a few days earlier on an extended vacation, according to his neighbor.

We're starting to get some redundant information, so it's probably time to focus on finding the other scientists and seeing if we can round up more of the passcards.  Vanessa has no information in her files on any of the new people on Dweeb's list.  Before we pay Lee or anyone else, let's visit the new addresses we've acquired.

Jorge Valdez lives in a tract house in Oakland, and works for MTC security.  He mentions that "some Law and Order Party big shots" have been around the office, secretly, and he seems suspicious of their activity.

Brenda Perry has only worked at MTC for six weeks, Tex asks her to call if she hears about anything odd or peculiar.

Tom Griffith lives under armed guard -- he's the V.P. and General Manager of MTC.  He admits OVERLORD is almost operational, and promotes it as a new frontier in public safety.  He considers J. Saint Gideon a good friend, and is happy Schimming stays away for the most part.  He says Larry Hammond designed the NEXUS system, and Big Jim Slade works for the Law and Order Party.  We also learn that Greg Call was the victim of an "accidental" shooting, and that MTC is very interested in finding John Klaus.  Asked about himself, Griffith says there are big changes in his future.  All interesting but vague and non-incriminating, and we don't get any new addresses out of him.

Della Lang lives in an apartment in Ventura -- she is impatient with Tex's questioning.  She shares Schimming's ideals, and is a management consultant.  We do get Ron Morgan's address, NC1998, as they date occasionally. 

So let's go visit Mr. Morgan -- we can explore his remote cabin, though he's nowhere to be seen.  There's a lockbox key hidden behind a panel on his high-definition television set.  Switches operate the ceiling fan and gas-lit fireplace.  A latch under a moose head on the wall yields 500 dollars.  A crumpled fax, not yet burned in the fireplace, says the Professor's computer equipment has been moved to his beach house.  Moving a chair near the fireplace yields a Phillips screwdriver. 

Under a couch cushion we find some Cheetos brand corn chips, nylons with Della Lang's initials, a dollar's worth of change, and a handcuff key.  An ashtray on the end table yields a small key.  On the breakfast table, a newspaper lies open to an article about Linsky's death.  And a compartment under a loose floorboard yields jewels worth $2000, a deed to property near Bakersfield (NC 1710), and some ammunition.

The fax machine on a desk in the upper right-hand corner has jagged paper, as if something has been torn away hastily.  There's a photo of an attractive woman in lingerie in the desk drawer, along with a mortgage book.  A wad of paper in the trash can reads, "DEAR RONNY, LAST NIGHT WAS INCREDIBLE," yada yada yada, "BUT I NEED MY NYLONS BACK.  YOURS ALWAYS, DELLA."

The Bakersfield property is barren, no leads there.  Visiting Della again yields no new information.  Vanessa still has nothing about Greg Call, but Lee does -- for $500 she faxes us info.  $250 buys something on Big Jim Slade.  More money gets us info on Bosworth Clark and Sam Jones.  We're supposed to talk to Steve Clements about Greg Call and Big Jim Slade, John Klaus about Sam Jones, and Peter Dull about Bosworth Clark.  So all we really did here was buy some more specific hints from Lee, and we'll use the restore cheat to avoid the unnecessary expense.

Clements says he's under orders not to talk to anyone about the Greg Call case, especially Tex, but we get Call's apartment address, NC 4753.  He also mentions that a couple of Law & Order goons went through the house before the police arrived.  Big Jim Slade is from Detroit, and Clements thinks he's a hired gun and dangerous, but suggests we talk to Ron Meat about him.  Following up with Meat indicates that Slade has probably been bumping people off, as he has been throwing money around.

We have to fight our way into Greg Call's place in Vallejo, and all we get is a brief text display.  We do get a map of an area in California near Mt. Shasta, NC 8911.  Tex thinks this might be where the lab is located?  Ah, it's Greg Call's lab, another explorable area.

We're able to open a rusty cabinet with the 3-1 oil we picked up in Linsky's lab earlier, retrieving diamonds worth $3000.  There's a voltage regulation control panel nearby, with a master power control switch.  Turning it off, though, releases deadly nerve gas, and Tex has 5 minutes to deactivate the door locks and escape.  We can retrieve a circuit breaker key from a chemical workstation, and we can set off the alarm again by trying to retrieve a vial of nerve agent.  A map points to NC 1700, the Lost Dutchman Diamond Mine.  We can open the circuit box with the key, but all that does is let us turn off the energy field.

Maybe it's better if we reenter fresh.  We can turn off the energy field, grab a ten-foot metal pole, and take the diamonds to fund our investigation.  Turning off the inertial containment unit directly does not set off the alarm; interesting.  We can't seem to do anything with the equipment otherwise.

Can we use the ten-foot pole with the gorilla in Cal Davis' lab?  The alarm goes off again, so we have to move the rat cages and turn off the alarm; the Mean Streets engine tracks inventory locations but not general status of the room.  The ten foot pole does allow us to retrieve the box, yielding the orange passcard as well as some money.  Now we have three of the eight passcards!

We can put the orange passcard into Davis' computer, and enter the password -- unscrambling EHCCETAMK/EHCETMACK to Davis' final word, CHECKMATE.  Davis' NEXUS files document his successes with control microchips in primates, aimed at psychiatric assistance, then behavioral manipulation.  He accidentally discovered a way to kill the subject with this technology, creating an aneurism, and when MTC encouraged his experiments along these lines, he grew suspicious.  His last log entry was on 08/10/33.

What next?  Let's talk to John Klaus about Sam Jones.  He says Jones is "an arrogant old Nazi who works in Las Vegas (NC 0021)," a Law & Order party member who won't be cooperative.  We have to fight our way in once again -- these constant gunfights are becoming repetitive -- to interrogate Jones.  He refuses to talk about OVERLORD, but since we've taken out his security guards, threatening works out fine.  He tells Tex that OVERLORD is almost operational, the Law and Order party is becoming more powerful every day, and that MTC Corporation and the political party are heavily intertwined, seeking world domination.  He also says that Schimming won't be at his post long, suggesting that Tom Griffith is primed to take over MTC.  He has a passcard and a password for NEXUS as well, and we can threaten him to get his yellow passcard, password QUEEN.  4 down!  It seems we don't necessarily need to access everyone's computers; obtaining the cards and passwords is the primary goal.

We might as well contact Peter Dull and find out about Bosworth Clark's insurance policy next; Dull directs us to Clark's lab in Death Valley, NC 9932.  We find him lying on the ground... "dead as a rock."  It looks like an explosion occurred -- equipment is smoking and lots of objects have been blown out of place.  There's a locked cabinet in the upper left hand corner of the room, and a robot we can switch on and off.  A matchbook that used to be on a lab table is from the Big Surf Hotel, NC 5162.  A list headed "CAGED RATS" lists the names of prominent Californians, and here are Camel cigarette butts littering the floor.

We can acquire a pair of brown leather work gloves from an open cabinet, near a mug with a "SKI UTAH" promotion on it.  We cam run water in the sink -- it tastes cold and clear, no obvious issues there.  A control panel appears to control the MTC Corporation satellites?  No, it just controls the monitors for the satellites.  Some blueprints for a high-frequency relay satellite are nearby.  We can turn a bank of computer monitors on and off, though some are broken.  We can also take some data from the satellites from a drawer -- Tex can't make sense of it but maybe someone can.

We don't have the passcard for this NEXUS computer system; if we examine the dead scientist, we can see that he's been garroted with a thin steel cord.  We can find the man's wallet if we move the corpse; his ID identifies him as Bosworth Clark.  There's $50 in his wallet, which Tex can take, though he doesn't feel good about it, and a dog-eared appointment book with a page marked: "CALL FRANK SCHIMMING."  

There's no sign of Clark's passcard, so let's go to the Big Surf Hotel. Onscreen text informs us that Big Jim Slade's name is on the register, staying recently in room 305.  The manager remembers him -- he left yesterday, but the room hasn't been cleaned yet.  Tex checks it out and finds a faxed order, apparently from MTC, to add Lola Lovetoy to a hit list, with the initials "R.K." at the bottom -- Robert Knott, maybe?  Following up with Vanessa, a fax sends us to NC4603, Lola's club.

Before we go there, let's check out NC 1700 -- the Lost Dutchman Diamond Mine.  Tex finds nothing to do here -- the mine appears long-abandoned -- so we're off to Lola's.  Her club appears to be in the same sort of neighborhood where we found Sandra Larsen, but she doesn't know anything about her.  We can bribe her to learn that Tom Griffith asked her to find out about Schimming's awareness of MTC, and if he ever mentioned OVERLORD; she was paid to keep an eye on him, and was given a key to an apartment: NC 4605.  She thinks Griffith wants to take over Gideon Enterprises, and says he was developing a project with the Law & Order Party, working with Robert Knott.  She has no address for Knott.  Lee can't provide any information either, but Vanessa can send a fax -- it contains no new names or destinations, though.  Clearly this is going to be one of our challenges.

The apartment is heavily guarded, and after another gun battle, Tex enters a seedy-looking "love nest" room that wouldn't be out of place in a Leisure Suit Larry game.  The Serta-brand bed has a small panel in the headboard -- we find a bottle of vodka and Camel cigarette butts inside, suggesting Schimming is the person who's been leaving these all over the place.  There's also a box containing an inflatable companion, in case Mr. Laffer does show up.

A piece of artwork on a table bears a sign reading, "DANGER - ELECTRICAL FIELD."  A suitcase is tagged as belonging to Slade, and a shirt inside contains a note mentioning NC 5194, the L.A. Air Bus Station.  There's a valuable antique Radio Shack mood globe here, but trying to get it proves electrically fatal to Tex (I guess those work gloves don't serve as adequate protection.)  Restoring, we find a switch behind a piece of artwork on the wall -- it resets the pressure-sensitive burglar alarm, but doesn't apparently turn off the zapper.  There's also a book here called "AN ELDERLY MAN'S GUIDE TO PICKING UP CHICKS," by Dr. Ron Morgan.  More significant, perhaps, is a binder with the Law & Order insignia; someone has written the address NC 5037 inside.  There's also a hit list with a few new names -- Harry Rice and Tex Murphy (uh oh!) as well as Lola Lovetoy and Sonny Fletcher.  And we get NC 0132 -- the code for Robert Knott's home!

It's 2033 but the hotel room still features a video cassette recorder -- though it's a high-definition model connected to a holographic imaging display.  There's also a locked panel in the entertainment cabinet.  A dresser contains lingerie, size medium, and a matchbox containing a bus locker key and the same navcode we saw earlier, 5194, though the locker number has been filed off. A jewelry box is locked; we can move the mirror to find a button which pops open the panel in the holographic unit.  This panel contains another button, which turns off the energy field protecting the mood globe.  This stumped me for a bit -- the menus don't reveal the button per se, but it also doesn't turn off the energy field automatically, so I got Tex zapped again and had to restore.  What happens is that LOOKing at the panel reveals the button's existence, but we still have to OPEN the panel and press the button, even though the panel is supposed to have popped open when we pressed the mirror button.  There is a visual indication that the force field is off, at least, so it's not hard to avoid this issue.  After we grab the globe, we have five minutes to turn off the alarm using the wall switch behind the art.  (During the retry, I take the matches without opening the box to find the key -- fortunately both items end up in Tex's inventory after we leave the room.)

Vanessa has nothing in her files on this Harry Rice, but Lee will send information for $500 -- he lives at NC 1231 in Pasadena.  Let's visit the Air Bus terminal and that other mysterious location before we invade Knott's place.  We don't have to figure out the bus locker number -- Tex just tries about 50 of them in non-interactive text before turning up a wallet with a black passcard and the word "KORO", which probably decodes to ROOK.  5 down!

Visiting NC 5037 takes us through another shootout into Law and Order party offices -- with an alarm set off as we enter, and 10 minutes to disarm it.  We have to find a button in a desk drawer and push it to open a closet, then move a shelf in the closet after removing a hat with white, stringy hairs attached to it, revealing the alarm reset button.  I was able to do this in one shot by shirking my note-taking, but in passing I found some anti-mutant hate literature, weaponry, and a note indicating that the L&O security chief has the navcode for the secret computer lab.  Something we've done also unlocks a safe in the wall behind a picture, where we find some cash and Larry Hammond's gray NEXUS passcard.  We have 6 passcards in hand now.  Some L&O meeting minutes give the names of the group's officers -- Robert Knott, President, of course, along with V.P. and security chief Bazil Mallory, Secretary Melba Wiedbush, and attorney Stanford DeMille.  We'll be wanting to walk to Mr. Mallory, it seems.  An answering machine message from Slade, with matching RealSound audio, says Clark has been taken care of.  Ah, those Camels are Slade's cigarettes, not Schimming's -- that makes more sense.

Vanessa can get Tex some information on Wiedbush (NC4122) and DeMille (NC 3199), but not Mallory.  Lee advises Tex to talk to Sonny Fletcher, so we'll visit him again -- for $750 worth of encouragement, he'll give us Mallory's address: NC 2713.  We'll check on Wiedbush and DeMille first -- both are quick, text-only encounters.  Wiedbush is a raving conspiracy theorist with nothing serious to say, politically or otherwise.  Getting to Demille requires another gunfight, and this one is particularly difficult due to the light-colored background artwork which makes the bullets harder to see.  DeMille goes on the offensive, accusing Tex of all manner of illegal activity and defamation against the Law & Order party, and we leave frustrated, with no new information.

Bazil Mallory is also heavily body-guarded, and Tex finds him cowering in a closet after we get into the house.  We're anxious to interrogate this guy, with a little threatening and fisticuffs generally required to extract the information.  His responses are not very masked -- we confirm that the Law and Order party intends to rule the world with the help of OVERLORD, and asked about NEXUS he gives us the address of the core computer system: NC 4550.  He also indicates that Gideon sympathizes with the party's views, which is not something I had guessed yet.

Perhaps it's time to talk to Harry Rice, before we go to Knott or the computer center -- we still need to track down two passcards.  Rice appears to have left in a hurry, Tex notes, and there's nothing we can do at his place.  So it's time to visit Robert Knott, after another round of the firearms combat so in vogue in these social circles.  At least Knott is cooperative after Tex dispatches his goons.  He echoes Mallory's statements about OVERLORD -- it will be used to rule the world, but he won't be in charge.  He also suggests Tom Griffith isn't pulling any strings -- that J. Saint Gideon is the leader (the white hairs on the hat in L&O headquarters might belong to him, we surmise.)  Knott keeps encouraging us to ask about Gideon Enterprises when we approach the topic in the course of other discussions, but when we finally do ask directly, he gets shot in the head by an unseen assailant who flees before Tex can get a look at him.

We don't have all the passcards, but we're short on leads now, so let's go check out the computer lab... except as we're about to take off, a fax comes in with an address for a meeting with Big Jim Slade, NC 4921.  This might be dangerous -- we're advised to come alone.  Sure enough, Tex runs into another invitation to battle, replying soon via pistol, and Big Jim ends up with six slugs in him, puffing on a Camel cigarette as his life ebbs away.  He doesn't know a lot, but he provides deathbed confessions concerning his murder-for-hire work on Cal Davis, Carl Linsky, and Greg Call.  Unfortunately, in my game he died before I could get any other information.  Hmmmmm.  Retrying, we learn that he killed Bosworth Clark but never did find Ron Morgan or John Klaus.  (We can cheat a bit here, as the game seems to remember that we've already played through the gunfight -- restoring to a point just prior lets us go straight to the dying Slade and ask different questions before he drops dead.) 

Not having really learned much from Slade, but confirming a few suspicions, we head off to the secret computer facility.  Exiting his speeder, Tex is jumped by a couple of thugs and treated to the usual power-mad dictator speech that gives away the whole plan.  This guy is seen only in silhouette; he believes Tex has all the passcards and has served nicely as a pawn to round them up.  Will he be surprised when he learns we only have six of the eight?

We'll have to find out later, as right now Tex has to find a way to escape after he is imprisoned in the boiler room.  Opening a blast furnace door directly fries Tex to a crisp, so that's not a good idea.  A sprinkler head is out of reach; some notes on a table suggest there's a remote control panel for the furnace door, and the door should not be left open for long as it is a serious fire hazard.  A floor grate can't be opened, and a sliding panel on the wall is locked.  The control panel is in the lower right-hand corner, but we should look around some more before we open the blast furnace again.  Tex can open a vent above the room's only exit using the Phillips head screwdriver we picked up earlier, but it's too narrow to crawl through.

There's a box of pipes and flanges in one corner of the room, but we can't seem to do anything with them.  Let's try opening the blast furnace from the remote panel -- the heat pours out, along with noxious fumes that take Tex out as well.  So that's not quite the right approach.  The door switch for the exit is disconnected, of course; moving the pipe boxes reveals a key, which allows us to open the sliding panel and examine a box hidden behind it.  The box contains a gas mask, so we're making some progress here.

When we hit the switch now, the fumes increase, Tex's gas mask does its job nicely, the sprinklers come on, and a robot enters to reset the system, leaving the door open briefly.  I missed the first opportunity, but trying again I was... confounded again, the entire sequence happens faster than Tex can easily move to the door.  Flipping the furnace door switch on and off can keep the robot in the room longer, but we still can't move away from the control panel to make an escape.  We can't seem to pick up the piping or flanges to set any kind of sprinkler trap to short out the robot, or plug the air vent, or disable the furnace monitoring.  Hmmmm.  I finally resorted to a walkthrough to learn that we are indeed supposed to be able to escape while the robot is doing its work -- I turned my CPU speed down to 2314 from 4000, which may or may not have made a real difference, and was finally able to escape the room.  (I think it had more to do with my walking upward through the exit instead of trying to walk off the screen on the left edge, where it seems Tex can get stuck in the doorway without actually passing through the door.)

Leaving the boiler room, Tex shortly finds himself held hostage by the NEXUS supercomputer, which demands he insert all eight passcards and enter the matching passwords.  I'm short two passcards and we only get 60 seconds to enter all the information!  And the first card it prompts for is a red one, which I haven't seen yet, though it lets me go on to the green one.  I'd better make an offline list so I don't mess up under pressure when I try this for real; now we'll go back and track down the remaining passcards.

Who might have them?  Slade didn't seem to have a passcard.  Sandra Larsen doesn't have one.  I think we're missing Ron Morgan's card, at least.

Returning to Morgan's cabin, I find nothing new, unmoved or unopened.  Then I realize we never did find his beach house -- I was confusing Greg Call's lab with Morgan's, and the Bakersfield property on the Morgan deed was a dead end.  I still have the mortgage book in inventory -- it took a while to find it as it's just called BOOK -- and it lists the beach house address as NC 6470, a detail I failed to make proper note of earlier.

The beach house is protected by an alarm, and we have five minutes to shut it down -- but this is an easy one, there's a console on the coffee table and switch 3 is clearly labeled "BURGLAR ALARM" so we can just switch it off.  We can open a panel in the table and unlock the safe to gain 3000 dollars for Tex's investigation.  There's a computer here, which requires a passcard; a desk drawer is locked.  And we find a packet of piranha food under the lamp... hmmmm.

The answering machine plays an upset message from Della -- again, the futurism fails a bit here, as answering machines per se are already largely gone in favor of voice mail, and we're nowhere near 2033.  There's a chess book in the bookcase, which I failed to open before taking it, so I'll have to check it out later.

Ah!  Ron's lab has a fish tank in the lower left-hand corner, and we can see a passcard resting on the bottom.  But that piranha food sounds ominous.  The BASE OF TANK is available as a separate object to inspect... it has a door, behind which we find a book about the care and feeding of piranha.  Warning signs abound!  Can we use something to get the passcard out safely?  Or move the whole tank?  Ah, there's a key underneath, which opens the desk drawer, producing a valuable diving watch.  Does this accessory somehow protect Tex's wrists from the fish?  No, but sticking a hand in is not fatal anyway -- Tex just lets out a shriek as the piranha take a quick nibble.  Can we use the fish food?  Yes, Tex automatically feeds the fish with something other than his hand and GETs the passcard.

Now can we use it in Ron's computer?  Yes, this is the red passcard.  Password is... ?  Working from Fletcher's list, I try PONG -- which produces an amusing easter egg that lets Tex play the classic video game, earning 10 dollars a point!  I have no luck with DRAGON, but STALEMATE ends up working.  Morgan's personal log notes that he realized J. Saint Gideon was a dangerous lunatic and left town.  We've got seven passcards ready to go!

My guess is that the last card belongs to either Bosworth Clark or Greg Call -- the one from the bus terminal might have been Clark's, so let's check Call's Mt. Shasta lab again.  There's that weird vine in the lower right-hand corner.  Aha!  With the work gloves from Clark's lab, we are now able to MOVE the vine (GET still refuses, noting as before that IT'S A NATURAL ADDITION TO THE ROOM, AND CANNOT BE MOVED, though this isn't strictly true!)  And there's a purple passcard on the shelf now visible.  Call's computer accepts the card, and the password turns out to be KNIGHT, in keeping with the chess theme of all the valid passwords.  Call's log notes his concerns about the implications of his work toward controlling emotions with a microchip, trailing off ambiguously.

Okay, now we have all 8 passcards and passwords!  It's time to try the secret computer lab once more, with my list populated as:


We escape the boiler room (the CPU speed does seem to make a difference on the timing), fight our way to the supercomputer, enter all the passcards and passwords, and Tex saves the day!


And he gets the girl, after he apologizes to Sylvia for suspecting her because of the insurance money.  Tex Murphy and Sylvia Linsky ride off together into the sunset, and following some slightly risque romantic dialogue, victory is ours!

Detective adventures aren't normally my favorite genre -- my impression has been that they too often devolve into ASK EVERYONE ABOUT EVERYTHING exercises.  But I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Mean Streets -- the speeder flights and gun fights become repetitive after a while, and it took me quite a while to play through, but I like its adult sensibility and its nonlinear design, a mixture of exploration and interrogation.  As Tex Murphy, the player gets to unearth little bits of information that add up to a storyline, and there are many optional puzzles and thus many possible paths to its satisfying ending.  I'll definitely be tackling Tex Murphy's further adventures as time permits.

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