Plot: Its Raymond Chandler's classic detective and one of his classic stories, Little Sister (1949). Just after the war in the 1940's sitting in a seedy office with the name painted on the window and door sits a detective who perpetually wears a gray raincoat and fedora. We are not sure if the raincoat is gray because of the dirt and liquor stains or if it is the original color. A beautiful lady comes in with a most revealing dress, preferably red in color, and bats her now tearing eyes in the detective Phillip Marlowe's direction. Of course she wants someone found, money recovered, or some such trite, but very entertaining, detective type job. This time the job is to find the dish's (Orfamay Quest's) missing brother, Orrin Quest. As usual, the conflict comes from both the cops, who want to arrest Marlowe, and the gangsters, who want to kill him.
Game play: Play the game out as it was originally written by Chandler or choose an alternative plot if you are familiar with the original 1949 story. Philip interacts with hoodlums, coppers, and beautiful Hollywood starlets to provide him with hints as to where the missing man has gone. Phone and radio messages and your journal provide additional information needed to solve the mystery.
One of the most baffling parts about the mystery in Philip Marlowe is the absence of any deductive reasoning on the part of the gamer. Like an episode out of Columbo, you are presented with the facts and the associated deductions on a platter without any mental effort required. There are really no puzzles to solve or piece together, an essential element to any graphic animated adventure. Thankfully, there are none of the obligatory animated arcade sequences that game designers seem driven to frustrate thinking gamers with in an attempt to mollify the arcade and twitch set of gamers. Another problem is the lack of control of where the program goes, crossroads to take you down different paths, decisions to be made about evidence, and other events outside of the normal linear plot line, to spice up the story and give it character.
Graphics: A three dimensional world with two dimensional rendered characters. Cell animation and graphics make this game work similar to a cartoon with the look and feel of the 1940s, a lot like a new Batman or Superman cartoon made over into the dark metropolis with swept back cars.
Voice actors: An appropriately seedy voice accompanies the game, with a cast of other well done voice acting.
Sound effects: Police sirens and other effects occasionally replace the music.
Multi-player: This is a solo game, man.
Hint: If you are unsure how you are doing in the game, grab the whiskey bottle and Marlowe will tell you.
Reviewer: Corey, in describing the plot, points out that, "what begins as a simple missing-person case soon involves blackmail, murder, anger, and betrayal." Well said.
Comments and Summary: Check out the link to the Chandler biography for a copy of the book, and the several good classic movies based upon Chandler's work, which hopefully you will read and watch following a foray into this article and perhaps even the game that some found, not quite as satisfying as it could have been. "It could have been a contender." We look for Byron Preiss to learn from its mistakes here and build on its strengths to give us an even greater game in the next installment of this new series.
C. Panther, www.zdnet.com/gaming/content/960813/eye/eye.html, Warm (66%).
Chandler biography, http://lolita.laas.fr/~adamczyk/chandler-txt.html Tim Royal, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 102, 2.5/5, (50%-75%).
Corey Cohen, http://www.pcentertainment.com/games/Jul96/marlowe796.html, B, (85%).