What is it?
Tex Murphy is one of those legendary names in gaming.
Since his adventures from 1989 to 1998 he's been regularly referenced
alongside classic characters such as Gabriel Knight, Lara Croft, or
Guybrush Threepwood. For many years, though, the idea of a new Tex
Murphy game seemed as likely as another moon landing. Until now, of
course. Now we have Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure
The eponymous Tex Murphy is a gumshoe, a private eye, a
hard boiled street detective, that could have come straight out of a
Raymond Chandler mystery (one of the Phillip Marlowe stories), or a Dick
Tracy comic strip. He's the rugged yet naive, world-weary observer of
the depths of humanity; a man that belongs in a 1940s film noir,
but he lives in post World War III downtown San Francisco of the 2040s,
a hundred years out of his place, perhaps.
This is the sixth (or fifth, depending upon how you see
Tex Murphy: Overseer) game featuring Tex. In all cases the games
have been written by Chris Jones, who is, in fact, the actor who plays
Tex. Tesla Effect is published by Atlus—a subsidiary of
Sega—better known for Japanese arcade games and the Persona
series, but given the extremely well-supported Kickstarter project that
funded the development of the game, the publisher is of less relevance
than it often seems; mostly because of the ground-swell of support that
successful crowd-funding can bring.
Is there a plot?
Tex has been assaulted, beaten and possibly drugged right
outside his home at the Ritz Hotel, Chandler Avenue, San Francisco. Then
he finds himself back at home, but somehow things aren't quite as he
remembers them. For one thing, there are holes in the walls of his
office, and a bed in the bedroom, more suited to some sort of lounge
lizard than our friendly P.I.
Of course, this leads Tex to investigate, knocking on the
doors of some familiar, and some not-so-familiar characters in Chandler
Avenue to find out how and why he has apparently lost seven whole years
of his life, and why people are actually afraid of him!
Further investigations take Tex around various sites in
San Francisco: most of Chandler Avenue of course, the Coit Tower, the
police station, the hospital, the swamps, a beach house, a very
dangerous scientific research station, and even the home of a mysterious
cult awash with Egyptian motifs.
Which brings us to the question, what has this to do with
Nikola Tesla, flawed genius inventor, electrical engineer, futurist, and
linguist? The focus of the plot of TE: ATMA centres upon what
happened to Tesla's papers and possessions after he died: everything was
confiscated on the orders of the FBI. It took nearly 10 years for these
items to be sent back to his family in Belgrade, Serbia. However, there
remained rumours that what was returned was not the complete
How do you play?
is not a point and click adventure in the conventional sense. Movement
is achieved by using the W (move forward), A (move left), S (move back),
and D (move forward) keys; you can hold down shift at the same time to
move a little more quickly. At the same time, you use the mouse to aim
where you're moving towards—with a little practice, you will get this
nicely coordinated. However, I'm not sure how easily this coordination
will work with a mouse-pad.
At all times, there's a cross-hair icon in the middle of
the screen. This changes into an eye, a speaking head, a hand, or an
opening lock icon depending upon what is in the centre of the screen.
You can left click to interact with the thing under the cross-hairs, or
hit the space button too. You'll look at, speak to, pick up or
manipulate, or open (in whatever sense is appropriate) the object or
person under the cross-hairs.
Your inventory, map and torch are available via the Smart
Alex (a kind of PDA), accessible with a right click, or the Q key. The
map is used for quick navigation between locations, though it's not
always available. You can use the torch in darkened locations (of which
there are many in TE: ATMA), and in the easier, Casual, game
mode, pointing the torch in the general direction of an object that you
can pick up results in visible sparkles above the object.
Speaking of game modes, there are two: Casual and Gamer.
Casual gives you the sparkles with the torch, provides access to a
built-in hint system, and allows puzzles to be skipped (right click and
click the exit button during the puzzle). Using hints and skipping
puzzles will cost you points in your P.I. Rating - your overall score.
You earn P.I. Rating points by thoroughly interrogating people,
examining everything completely, by finding all the extra hidden
collectibles, and solving all the puzzles without skipping them.
Puzzles in TE: ATMA are varied. Some are purely
inventory based: "get the key, open the door", some involve combinations
of two or more inventory items, there's a small maze, some are
mechanical (like the game of "Simon Says"), and some are timed,
particularly the last major puzzle, which took me several attempts to
even figure out what I was trying to do, let alone completing it. All
the interactive puzzles show up as a jigsaw puzzle in the cross-hairs,
so you know when you're coming up to one. They're all also completed
with the mouse. Some puzzles have clues nearby, others you just have to
figure out for yourself; or you can just skip them in Casual mode and
take the P.I. Rating hit.
Interacting with people in TE: ATMA is probably
the most enjoyable thing about this game. Every one has been filmed
using a real actor, and those video sequences are overlaid against the
in-game graphics. This game is one of those modern rarities: an FMV
game, or full-motion video. There must have been thousands of filmed
shots in TE: ATMA. There are certainly hours of video. Not to
mention the fully voiced descriptions of so many things in your
surroundings; not just the objects you can pick up or use.
Whilst we're in the area of speech, there are a lot of
conversations in this game. Tex has to do a lot of fast talking to get
around certain people. At every point where there are choices in a
conversation, you get three possibilities, however the way these choices
are expressed aren't with the complete dialog line, but with an
indication as to the approach Tex will take: perhaps "sarcastic come
back", "an intriguing suggestion", and "pull the other one". This is
either a fun way to avoid letting you know what will happen, or a
frustrating lack of clarity about the choices you're making. Either way,
these choices affect what's said, and in some cases will affect the
ending quite significantly, particularly as to whether Tex 'gets the
girl', or something else entirely. The central conspiracy in the story,
I believe, will always end in the same way, but the sub-plots don't all
lead to the same place; and there are several alternative endings.
has a tremendous sound track of jazz and rock. There is lots of
suspenseful atmospheric music. The chapter introductions are done in a
very film noir black-and-white style, where the double bass and
muted trumpet style comes right to the fore; very stylish and evocative.
The voice acting is also of a high standard. There are a few lesser
moments, or clunky lines, but the vast majority of it flows well, and
the actors "get it"; not something you can say of every game today. The
cast has recognizable returnees from previous games (remarkable, as the
last game was released 16 years ago!), as well as good additions to the
cast, some of whom you may even be able to identify under the make-up
One of the few let downs in the user interface of TE:
ATMA is that it is easy to skip puzzles in Casual mode without
realizing you're doing it, because there's no 'Are you sure you want to
skip this puzzle' question when you hit the exit button on a puzzle. Or
maybe I'm just a bit thick? (which would explain my mediocre P.I.
I also found it distressingly easy to die in this game.
Thankfully the game restores you to health not far short of your
critical error, but there are a lot of ways to die, some of which
come at you with such speed that it's very hard to avoid them, at least
the first few times! Dying also reduces your P.I. Rating. However, for
all the dying you do, there's no combat, and you don't do any of the
As a reviewer of adventure games, it's very hard to knock
Tesla Effect: a Tex Murphy adventure. A more generalist reviewer
might have opinions upon the revival of Tex Murphy or the use of the FMV
technique; in both cases I disagree, I think Tex is a great character,
and the production values displayed throughout TE: ATMA fully
justify the use of FMV.
So, overall, the characters and plot are involving, and
the storytelling is stylish and very evocative of the film noir
genre. The graphics (especially the video) are top notch, though the 3D
environments aren't quite up to the standard of the video. An excellent
return of a classic of adventure gaming. Bring on the next Kickstarter
campaign, Mr Jones!
What do you need to play it?
PC Minimum Requirements
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, or 8
Processor: 2 GHz Dual Core
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA 200 Series
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Hard Drive: 15 GB available space
Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c compatible
OS: 10.6.8 Snow Leopard (10.7.5 Lion
Processor: Intel Core 2 duo (Intel
Core i5 recommended)
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 320 M (Intel
HD Graphics 4000 recommended)
Hard Drive: 16 GB available space
(I used a home-built 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (SP1)
PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM,
and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with on-mother-board,
built-in sound card)
GameBoomers Review Guidelines