Mean Streets

By Al Giovetti
Price: $60 (if you can find it)
Genre: graphic adventure and flight simulator
Release: 1989
Developer: Access Software
Producer: C. Jones
Publisher: Access Software
Requirements: 80286, 12 MHz, 512 KB RAM, 5.25" (6 disks) or 3.5" (three disks) floppy disk drive, installs on a hard drive (also runs on the Commodore C64, C128 - Ed.)

Plot: Tex Murphy is a private eye and alter ego of Chris Jones, Access executive. Tex is a private eye who lives in his speeder in a post-holocaust San Francisco, modeled after Raymond Chandler detectives like Philip Marlow. Tex perpetually wears a raincoat and wide brim fedora.

A beautiful dame, Sylvia Linsky, who just happens to be wearing a skimpy low cut dress, asks Tex to locate her father, Carl Linsky, a neuropathologist ( a physician who studies the diseases of the nervous system - Ed.) San Francisco Police classify the death as a suicide, but to our hero Tex, this is a textbook case of coverup.

As the case develops, you collect clues, beautiful women, and homicidal goons, who all seem to be looking for you for some special attention. The plot centers around mind control.

Puzzles: Coded messages, tapes to listen to, evidence to unravel, and other clues made this one a fun game to play, and promised a sequel. You need to search many rooms and accumulate artifacts, analyze the artifacts and get the right clues to move the story along. Tex can also pay for clues from Lee, an oriental female street person, or an Los Angeles police detective named Sonny Fletcher.

You fly: One weird and almost navigable futuristic hover, speeder car over San Francisco, California, and Nevada. Thankfully, the speeder has an autopilot to get you around San Francisco, which takes you to landing pads where you converse with the non-player characters in the game.

Combat: The gun battles are set up with Tex on the left of the screen and the bad guys are on the right. Primitive battles are crouch, see bad guy, shoot, move right, and repeat the sequence until they are all dead. The reward is another clue. The more bad guys, the better the clue. This would best have been left out of the game. Most arcade sequences in adventure games are just a way to extend game play and are best avoided by designers and players alike. These sequences should be optional.

Graphics: Mean Streets was one of the first VGA games with 300x200 resolution and 256-colors. Good graphics of San Francisco allow you to look at the landmarks, such as the Golden Gate bridge. Animation of digitized faces drawn with photograph clarity was remarkable at that time.

Sound: Human speech first appeared in this game. Voice actors pay homage to the shrine of Mean Streets. Mean Streets was the first game with RealSound human voices winning the CES Innovations 1989 award.

Utilities: Ten save games is definitely not enough. Copy protection is key word from the manual. Version 1.3 is the IBM version without the bugs. Get the patch or get version 1.3.

Ken chronicles the famous Carl Linsky case from Tex Murphy’s files. Tex’s speeder was a low tech flight simulator. And the game does not stoop to crass sexist stereotype women who flirt all the time. Both Vanessa, Tex’s secretary who was absent in these stories since this one, and Lee are above using feminine wiles to get Tex’s and your attention.

Ken St. Andre’, Mean Streets: in-flight adventuring, QuestBusters, volume 7, number 1, January, 1990, pg.3, 5.