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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Adventure

 

Developer / Publisher

Access Software

 

Year Released

1996

 

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The Pandora Directive

 

tex murphy,pandora directive        tex murphy,pandora directive

The Pandora Directive (PD), the fourth game in the Tex Murphy series, is considered by some to be the best Tex Murphy game made.  I have to concur – this adventure game has it all: sex, murder, paying the rent, mutants, ultra secret government agencies, a malfunctioning mechanical horse, detective work, and aliens.  What more could you possibly want?

The game opens with a balaclava clad figure ransacking a room, a recently murdered woman lying on the bed.  As Tex Murphy, P.I., an elderly gentleman looking for an old colleague named Malloy soon contacts you to find Malloy as he has mysteriously vanished.  The connection is that the murdered woman was Malloy’s research assistant.  From there Tex quickly gets caught up in a larger conspiracy and all hell breaks loose.  The story, although completely fantastic, is totally 

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believable and is interesting from beginning to end with minimum of CD swapping.  (And Tex fans won’t be disappointed with the many references to previous Tex games.)

 

Part of the interest is the three different paths that Tex can follow: a Mr. Nice Guy path, a neutral path, or the Street of Broken Dreams where you make all the ruthless choices and look out for yourself above all else.  The result is seven 

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different endings – with one “best” ending that wraps up with a bit of “horseplay” with Chelsea.  These paths are chosen through the dialogue branches.  Every time Tex talks to someone he has three possible things to say, usually described in an esoteric manner.  “Test Milo’s photographic memory,” translates to “show Milo a picture of Malloy and ask what room he was staying in.”  But the gist is there, so you won’t be left scratching your head too often.  Whatever Tex says or thinks, there’s always some humor plugged in somewhere, with a possible clue as to what you should be doing next.

tex murphy,pandora directive        tex murphy,pandora directive

Puzzles abound but aren’t too taxing.  As you start a new game you’re given the choice of playing in Entertainment mode (where hints are available for a cost of your points) or Game Player (which offers no hints, more possible points, and access to a few places the Entertainment people miss).  Most puzzles make sense, with only one or two leaps of faith.  If all else fails, start thinking like a detective – look for clues everywhere.  Towards the end of the game there are some particularly difficult puzzles as you work through a Mayan temple.  Some seem to be trial and error, while others boil to down quick actions.

The game engine is quasi-3D during the navigation modes, so you can look under things, in drawers, on top shelves, etc.  Sometimes finding a major clue is the result of patient detective work, scouring your surroundings.  To examine or pick up objects or interact with things on screen you have to hit the space bar to do so.  Thankfully, the learning curve to master all the controls is not extreme – non-existent if you played the previous game, Under a Killing Moon.  The graphics move at a good speed, but on current machines you might have major problems getting PD to run.  After all PD was designed to run under that old workhorse, DOS. (The help file recommends against running it under Windows 95!)  PD makes extensive use of FMV throughout, from the dialogue to the more lengthy cutscenes.  All have high production values, although Chris Jones as Tex sometimes makes you laugh out loud over his acting ability, which is better than his turn in Under a Killing Moon. (Actually, from Under a Killing Moon through PD to Overseer, you can see his growth as an actor in his role as Tex.)  Most, if not all, of the actors present are professional actors.  Kevin McCarthy, most remembered by me as star of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, brings a sense of professionalism to the whole project.  While the FMV quality is lower than current standards, for its time it had some of the best FMV around.

The Pandora Directive is a timeless game.  The themes addressed, betrayal, human relationships, the nature of good and evil, aliens, will be as relevant tomorrow as they were yesterday.  It’s sad that we’ll probably never see an updated version released with higher quality video or a DVD Special Edition to take advantage of today’s hardware.  Microsoft bought up Access a few years ago and as of this writing there are no plans to do anything Tex related.  There’s always hope for another Tex game . . . just like some hope for Larry, Roger, and Purple Tentacle to return – to awake from their dormancy and reclaim their birthright.

- Omni

 

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