Surprisingly no one has written a review on this old classic here at GameBoomers. Well I figure I may as well having just completed it.
Tex Murphy, Overseer, 1997
There are five cd's and one dvd shipped in two jewel cases. Jewel case one contains cd's 1-4 while case 2 holds the fifth cd and a dvd. The dvd is a fully playable version of the game. It is reported that video quality is superior on the dvd but at the time of release few people had dvd drives and Access was forced to rely upon cds. Since the only availability is likely to be through used game outlets be sure you get both jewel cases.
You have to remember that as a mid nineties series the Tex Murphy games were very system demanding. Many systems could not handle the intense requirements. They were designed primarily for win 95 and dos. I recall constant crashes with Under a Killing moon and Pandora. Today's machines have finally caught up, however, now the operating system is left behind. Overseer ran fine on my xp system in win 95 compatibility mode. The game instructions with my set did not claim to be dos compatible. I doubt you can run it in dos or dosbox though I did not test that. As my version was a spartan ebay special my manual comprised of a read me file on the first disk. There is also a trouble shooting read me as well. Unfortunately the dvd was not included. Because of the constant disk swapping required by five cds, the dvd with its better graphics quality is likely a better choice. The game is not alt-tab friendly nor does it respond to the windows key. The primary response from using those controls is the game crashing. Sometimes the windows key did work so be sure to save before attempting that. In fact the only crashing issue I suffered was at the hands of the windows key or alt-tab.
The graphics are excellent and looked quite good on my xp system. One of the Caveats was that the video drivers used by the the designer are not commonly present in modern computers. MPEG video drivers have greatly advanced and it is possible newer drivers may interpret the older codex. You do not have to swap drivers, Microsoft, who purchased Access has released a patch to include the video codex and it does not interfere with other drivers on your system. ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/deskapps/games/public/texmurphy/tex5b104.exe
Overseer crashed several times before I installed that patch. Installation of the patch stopped further crashes other than the alt/tab and windows key attempts. The Tex Murphy series was the only one in the FMV format to rival Gabriel Knight in quality. While these games excelled many attempts to use this media in other games failed. I'm guessing to hire quality actors was likely cost prohibitive. Whatever the reason FMV was set aside with very few games produced.
I will include comments here for sound as well as gameplay. Usually background music, ambient sound and voice acting is lumped together under the category of sound quality. It is a bit different here. The music is muted and used sparingly you can hardly find it to be in the way. The noir setting demands use of subtle jazz or that solo horn so often heard in the old black and white 1940-50's detective movies. you barely notice it. Instead of voice acting we comment on live acting or film acting and it ranges from excellent to tolerable. Where it counts it is excellent. Chris Jones plays Tex and most of you will recognize him. He does a credible job as does Suzanne Barnes who played Chelsee through the entire series. Others you may recognize are, Michael York a well known actor with many leading roles in major movies. Clint Howard, and Henry Darrow, names not commonly known but they are highly recognizable character actors seen in many movies and tv shows. Several others lesser known ranged from bad to worse, though a couple were ok.
This is an interactive movie in the truest sense with some very difficult puzzles and some less so. This game is point and click and can be completely controlled via the mouse. However you can navigate by using the arrow keys for direction of movement. Locate your inventory by moving the mouse to the right side of the screen and moving it to the left side brings up your transportation map. When retreating from those positions the screens disappear and are conveniently out of the way. Bringing your mouse to the bottom of the screen a pad becomes visible with directional keys you click for movement. You can look up to view ceilings and down to see the floor etc, even lower Tex's body from standing to squatting. The game is viewed in the first person through Tex's eyes when you are in control. In full motion video you see Tex on the screen. Many objects are well hidden. Open up a drawer and your look tool will tell you there is nothing in there.
One of the controls allows Tex to bend down to change angles. When you do and get a better view of the drawer or whatever suddenly there is an object there, one you definitely need. Then you can examine it and take it. So this is a movie version of pixel hunting, the hidden in the drawer trick? There are two ways to play this game one is called Entertainment mode the other is Gamer mode. Entertainment is easier on the puzzles and allows use of a hints button. Gamer gives you all of the puzzles some of which are timed. You choose when you begin the game. You can switch from entertainment to Gamer during play. But if you do you cannot go back to entertainment. I have no idea what effect this will have on future use of saved games. I was told with use of Entertainment mode the timed puzzles are omitted. I utilized Gamer mode and any comments will be made in that light. The game did provide a forgiving do over at the point of failure when you muffed up the timed puzzles. I will add none of these were overly difficult and as slow as I am I did not run out of time once. Yes Tex can get killed, save often. There are no player involved action scenes those are handled in the movie format. For instance Tex has to escape some bad guys by climbing out of a sky light. You click the required tool on the skylight and the movie takes over. You see Tex climb up and out while the bad guys fail to catch him.
Overseer primarily uses inventory puzzles, yes mix and match items. There are some logic puzzles as well. This is a long game think GK-2 or TLJ. Many conversation choices and Tex keeps a notebook listing questions already asked helping you to avoid repeating the same question. Like Culpa Innata you chose Tex's approach to questioning, like Culpa your result can vary if you choose tough guy over diplomat. No cutting corners here Chris Jones and his team did not cheat you in game play. Nothing smacks of lets add a puzzle or create unneeded running back and forth to make the game longer. Gameplay is not difficult but it will challenge you.
Now we come to the meat of this game, the story. Talk about an involved who done it with rich detail and depth of character. If you played any of the Murphy series then you know this has a great story. As some of you may be aware Overseer caused a lot of player angst with it controversial ending. The dreaded cliffhanger with the intent of another game. When Access sold out to Microsoft it ended any hope of another Tex Murphy leaving fans hanging. After completing Pandora and thinking what a great game it was I could hardly wait for Overseer. Problem was when released my system could not handle it so I had to wait. The controversy was one of the reasons I did not buy the game. Who wants to deal with a cliffhanger that will never be resolved? Perhaps someday another game.
Overseer's narration is in form of a story that is told to Chelsee by Tex. It is a retelling of his first detective case. Tex met Chelsee in an earlier game and he was chasing her ever since. Overseer opens with Tex going out on a date with Chelsee and she ask how he became a detective. Briefly the story involves Sylvia Linsky who asks the rookie P.I. to prove her father's suicide was a murder. Simple, so Tex thought, but we all know better. The investigation follows a contemporary trail that is believable. but it interjects an intricate web of science fiction extrapolation that is not too far fetched. As the web begins to unravel we come to see Tex is in a bit over his head. Overseer was his first case meaning these events occurred before any other games in the series.This informs the gamer that since Tex is telling the story he obviously survived. The mystery we are examining is resolved. The cliffhanger applied at the end of Overseer is a set up for the next game. This final layer is done in "present" time creating the fan issues. The question becomes can you deal with an ending that was intended to lead into another game, one never provided? Normally I would say no, however, Overseer is a complete story of itself. Yes you have to ignore the cliffhanger because ten years later it still hangs. In spite of this Overseer is a great game one of the best.
Many contend three Tex Murphy games, Killing Moon, Pandora and Overseer rival Gabriel Knight for the best ever series. I'm not sure if I agree as I already have seven games in the top five. It is getting crowded in there. Well if I can force these in with a shoe horn, perhaps I will because they are fairly equal........Bottom line, Overseer may not be the best game ever it depends on the day of the week and what mood you are in. But April, Gabriel & Grace, George & Nico, Phoenix, move over you have company.