• Crime Stories: From the Files of Martin Mystere



    Genre:   Adventure; Third Person Detective Mystery

    Developer:     Artematica Entertainment

    Publisher:    The Adventure Company

    Released:  2006

    PC Requirements:   see end of review



    Additional Screenshots



    by inferno


    When I was first asked to review Crime Stories by Italian developer Artematica, I knew that it had already been released under another name: Martin Mystere: Operation Dorian Gray, published by GMX Media in the U.K. Since I had never had the time to play the original, which was based on the popular graphic novels by Alfredo Castelli…I consented to take a look at the game. After all, I’ve always been rather fond of a good mystery. And since I knew nothing about it, I thought I’d take a chance and have a look. Unfortunately, there is the odd occasion when the “true” crime story isn’t necessarily contained within the confines of the plot, game and box.

    At first glance Crime Stories looked interesting enough. I read through the manual (which, by the bye, was one of the items that did impress me – it appears that care and thought went into its creation). The manual imitates an “official” detective style black leather Department of Justice notebook. Now contained within its covers, of course, is the typical adventure game fare: requirement specifications, installation, rules of gameplay and credits -- all very succinct and readable. (No big surprises there.) What makes this item worthy of note is that it also provides a small portion of Castelli’s graphic novel. However, it would have been even nicer if a certain character germane to the story had been somehow included, as the ending would have then made far more sense to me.  That said, I installed the game first on my Gateway E3600 (which complained heartily at me as it barely made the minimum requirements). I then settled into my Presario Laptop, which accepted the game quite nicely, and I found myself inside the “Comic Book rendered world of Professor Martin Mystere: ‘Criminologist Extraordinaire.’” 

    My first impression of the adventure was that the game had potential. The opening scene of a stylized dream sequence and broad musical flashes reminded me of The Broken Swords and Gabriel Knights of yesteryear. The theme: a simple murder mystery which eventually grows with a few subplots and a number of odd twists, adding in a mix of intrigue, clues and exploration of the game’s universe, delicately peppered with a touch of ancient Mayan culture and a little “mysticism” thrown in for some flavoring.

    Another item worth mentioning is the game’s attention to detailed graphics and the level of interactivity between the character sprites and their environments – all of which look as though you’ve just stepped into the pages of one of Castelli’s highly colorful graphic novels. The look and style is relatively immersive, and lends itself well to a third person, mouse driven format. As the gamer, you will find much with which to explore, engage and converse. The cut scenes normally employ a form of double and triple “split” screens, typical of the graphic novel genre. These did work well within the game. Yet they did nothing to move the story along. Unfortunately, one will also find insanely long loading times, lags and various crashes if one’s system is the least bit under or (as in my case) at the maximum required specifications for the game.

    The music for this game was fully scored…and the musical color choices were vibrant, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to have a Soundblaster XFI sound card. Still, overabundance seemed to be the rule here, especially during the sections that were inappropriate for the scene or emotion at the moment in question. The music played a huge part in this adventure, yet in my opinion it was thoroughly wasted on it. There are large expanses of lyrical phrases constantly swelling toward some unknown crescendo only to be lost and “mark missed” as the action just did not support the musical phrase.

    The storyline and character development (or should I say overdevelopment in some areas) had their good sides…but…as time wore on…sadly, so did my patience. 

    The bulk of this story takes place in October of 2005 in various locations in and around New York City and Mexico, where you can experience the obligatory Aztec ruin to your heart’s content. Professor Martin Mystere, the hero of our adventure, is asked by the New York Police Department to help them solve a murder of a famous anthropologist, one Professor Eulemberg. 

    Professor Mystere, a crack anthropological criminologist of renown, is either a genius with absolutely no common sense or a bumbling savant, the likes of which would put even “Lieutenant Columbo” to shame. Add a gargantuan manservant from “some mystical unknown area high in the Himalayan mountains,” and a buxom wife (honestly, all the women in this story are more than buxom, to the point that if women looked this way in real life, they would be constantly falling over for lack of balance…but I digress) and we have the makings of a true comic book adventure. Hey, wait a moment -- Martin Mystere is a comic book adventure.

    This is a third person mouse driven adventure game in which the player takes on two versions of the indomitable Martin Mystere, as well as Mrs. Mystere in short shorts with nary a mosquito bite on her. There is a generous assortment of puzzles, which are inventory and mechanical based. All are quite easy and not too taxing. By finding various items and clues and speaking and occasionally interrogating various people within the game world, you will gain access to other areas. The game seems to be divided into eight or so chapters and about just as many saved game slots (far too few in my estimation). 

    The main task in Crime Stories is to find out who the killer is and why the murder took place. The plotlines for this mystery were never very clear to me -- and as I got further into the game, I began to lose interest in the characters and indeed lose even more interest in the story. Perhaps if more of the graphic novel had been included for the purposes of back story -- say in PDF format -- this may not have been the case. However, the music and scenery were curious enough (along with the occasional comedic situations which surfaced now and then) and I found myself being dragged along with the beat of things and actioned the various puzzles until I came to the end. I won’t go into the crux of the story because, even though I didn’t understand why the murderer was the murderer, there will be some of you die-hards who will undoubtedly love the story, especially those of you who may be fans of Mr. Castelli’s work. 

    To say that Crime Stories as a whole did not meet my expectations would indeed be an understatement. My biggest disappointment was that the game looked so promising. The background graphics are beautiful and artfully executed with much detail, and the interesting split screen scenarios did not go unnoticed. And even though the character sprites are “blocky” for the most part, they are passable and don’t interfere with plot immersion, that is until they had to move…then we had the “Martin Mystere Fetish Dance” whenever he or anyone else walked across the screen.

    But the largest issue for me -- the most grating and irritating portion of this adventure -- was the dialog in both the written and spoken forms. The written portions in the form of subtitles had just too many typographical errors, poor grammar and several outlandish misnomers.  This hampered the gameplay to such an extent that I began to care less and less about the story. I understand that a number of reviewers have mentioned the poor voice acting in both the game’s U.K. and U.S. versions. But I have to disagree here. It isn’t the voice acting…it is the vocal directing style. It just didn’t work for me at all. This single factor kept throwing off my concentration and seriously impaired my willing suspension of disbelief. Now, in their defense, I have to point out that the actors try valiantly to save this game; instead it is the “dialog script” itself and the odd technical vocal direction which misses the target. During the entire adventure, all of characters speak their lines in a “piecemeal” fashion. The lines are clearly spoken to fit the subtitles, a certain error in my opinion. Subtitles are there to support the vocals in any theatrical venue -- be it cinema, television or interactive media -- and not the other way around. Also the overabundant use of what is known in the business as “guttural emotives” such as “urhhhhs” – “ahhhs” --“erhmmmms” and “pfus” bordered on the maniacal. Sometimes, less is more. 

    Would I recommend Crime Stories: From the Files of Martin Mystere? That depends on the gamer, the system and what one is looking for. If your system only meets the minimum recommendations, then my advice would have to be: pass on this one until you upgrade, as the glitches and lag times in this game will be many and the frustration level will be high. If you already have Martin Mystere: Operation Dorian Gray, this current version offers little difference for the gamer, so again my answer would have to be: pass. But if you are a collector of all mystery adventure games and/or graphic novels, or have an interest in the artwork of Alfredo Castelli and would like to see his fantastic artwork brought into the realm of interactive media…and aren’t too picky when it comes to really strange vocal cadences…then by all means…enjoy.   


    Grade C

    Minimum Requirements:

    OS: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

    CPU: 850 MHz Pentium 3 Processor or Equivalent

    RAM: 256

    Video: 32 MB Direct X 9.0c Compatible

    CD/DVD-ROM: 16x

    Sound: 16-bit Direct X Compatible

    Disk Space: 700MB

    Input: Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers

    Recommended Requirements

    OS: Windows XP

    CPU: 1.8 GHz Pentium 4 Processor or Equivalent

    RAM: 512MB or higher

    Video: 64 MB direct X 9.0c Compatible or Higher

    CD/DVD-ROM: 32x

    Sound: Sound Blaster X-Fi Series

    Disk Space: 1.0 GB

    Input: Mouse, Keyboard and Speakers


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