Another retro review of an all time classic. It seems I have gotten into a rut playing older games of late. I kept reading on various forums about people's all time game list and the various arguments that often follow. I am not one to keep a lot of games on the shelf. I tend to trade them or sell for not much more than postage unless they strike my fancy. The few that do scream keep me end up on my top shelf. It is a short list. This talk of top ten or top twenty games got me to thinking, "just what is the real top twenty anyway?" As we all know that answer is "whatever I like the most" I thought I just could not say, The Longest Journey was the best game ever as it has been ages since I played it. Yes I have it rated number one but to be fair I figured I had to play all those games on the top shelf just to be sure. It was a struggle playing through three of four Broken Swords, (BS 3 does not count. Remember that aweful "I wanna be an FPS Action game brain F*** the developer had?", the first two Gabriel Knights, the Longest journey and so on. But one has to be sure. The problem with this is they kind of ruin every game made in the last eight years. I know that is harsh but hey Runaway, Ankh and countless others just can't keep company with April, Grace, Gabe and the like. I finally sorted out my top twenty and even came up with six games in my top five, yeah there was a tie in there. And yes TLJ holds a tenuous perch at number one. Then I stumbled upon Overseer which I recently Reviewed and yes another tie.
After Overseer we just had to take another look at The Pandora Directive. It was not on the top shelf and I had not seen it in years so off to search for it I went. Found it on E-Bay $7.95 plus shipping and scarfed it up. I received jewel case #1, meaning disk 1-3. Oops, no second jewel case no disk 4-6. The seller said, "did not know there was two jewel cases. Keep the three disk, no good to me here is your refund." Next I found it on Amazon for $14.95, bought it again and yes I got all six disk in paper sleeves no box, no jewel case, no manual. But what true gamer needs a manual?. Just one minor problem disk six came in two pieces and disk three was so badly scratched it could not be read. But we do have another disk three from the first purchase. Well one very kind soul here on Game Boomers came up with another set in wonderful condition for a very reasonable price. So I could finally play the game and place it on the top shelf where it belongs. Yes Becky there are now Eight games in the top Five!!!!!!
There are six cd's shipped in two jewel cases. Jewel case one contains cd's 1-3 while case 2 holds cd's 3-6. The game is played in the first person with frequent third person views on plenty of full motion video scenes. There is minimal keyboard usage. When movement is required push the space bar once to engage movement mode. Movement is done by moving the mouse forward, back right, left. A right mouse click stops movement. The arrow keys allow Tex to look up or down which is needed to look into drawers under beds etc. A second click of the space bar returns to interactive mode where you use standard left and right mouse clicks to look talk pickup etc. The inventory appears as a list of items on the top right section of the screen. In order to use an item select an object from the list click on the use button. The examine button brings up a close-up view of the selected item. It is the examine button that allows some items to be manipulated, such as getting the contents from a wallet, envelope, etc. Some of the items will contain puzzles which you solve when using the examine button. Finally, clicking on the combine button brings up thumbnail pictures of the items in your inventory allowing you to use items on one another to create new items.
Saves are an odd animal in this game and caused a certain amount of confusion until I finally figured what worked. When you first start the game you are asked for a player name. The save format the game uses is shown in this example. Let's say your player name is Sarah. The file naming for saves is a six letter player name followed by 00. then a three number sequence. If your player name is less than six letters the six space requirement will be filled in with underscores. So if you are Sarah your first save would be named as this,Sarah_00.000 the second save Sarah_00.001. It gets strange with adding a borrowed save from someone else. Lets say your last save is dropey00.010 and you dutifully rename that borrowed save to dropey00.011 and paste it in. It won't work!!!!
This is the only game I have encountered where simply renaming a save and pasting it in the folder will not be recognized by the game.If you notice in your HD save folder the list of saves begins with 000. When you look at your load screen in the game, 000 does not show it may be a data file that assist the game in recognizing saves. Pasting a new save could not effect that 000 file so it can't direct the game to the pasted save. It appears the save instructions are recorded in that 000 file. When you absolutely need to use a save to get past something you can't quite do, simply create a new save in the game. Take your borrowed save rename it to that last save you just made. Then open the game's folder on your hard drive and paste the borrowed save. It should ask if you wish to overwrite, say yes. When you open the load screen the borrowed will then work.
As was the case with Overseer, the graphics are excellent and looked quite good on my xp system. However, I played the game through DosBox 0.72 which fully supports the game. No sound or video issues and not a single crash. I did attempt a win95 compatibility install in XP and that failed utterly. A second attempt with an earlier DosBox version, 0.65 ran the game but it dragged and produced broken audio. Next I tried the XP installer linked below. It did not work for me, however, it could have been something I did. The link is below for those who wish to give it a shot. The full motion video ran flawlessly with DosBox 0.72 and there was absolutely no tweaking required.
The gameplay pretty much mirrors my comments on the Overseer review and there is little purpose in repeating them here. Again as I said in the previous review voice acting that seems to be a hot button issue of late in games gives way to live acting. Chris Jones is excellent in his playing Tex as he was in the other games. I don't recall the primary actors names for this game. They were not the same as were in Overseer except for Suzanne Barnes who played Chelsee. The character actors in Pandora are actually more recognizable than those appearing in Overseer. I believe the acting was superior in this game, considering how good Overseer was this is quite a compliment.
The story is a combination who done it and government conspiracy. Where Tex is asked to locate a missing scientist and the deeper he digs the further he gets from a simple missing person case. Tex ends up dealing with mystery power sources, aliens, spaceships, rouge government agents, a seductive woman and much more. No spoilers here folks. Let it suffice to say there are seven possible endings to this game. Yes that's right seven possible endings depending on decisions you make. Like Overseer you can play in the gamer mode or entertainment mode. Same rules apply, see Overseer review for details.
The long and the short of it where does this game fit? Well that's hard to say, it is an A+ no question about it. How does it rate against those hall of fame games? Well it's better than at least two Gabriel Knight's Better than three Broken Swords, both Syberias, at least two of the other Tex Murphy's. I have to redo Under A Killing Moon before saying Pandora is the Best Tex Murphy game. Sorry Laura it is better than Culpa as well. However, Culpa is the only game of the eight made after 2000 on the list.
So a final score, can't do it somewhere between 99 and 100. Like I said this is the eighth game to make the top five. If you are an Adventure gamer and have not played Tex Murphy, The Pandora Directive as yet you better hurry because it is a requirement. Failure to comply could result in your pc being confiscated. XP Installer DosBox