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Martian Memorandum

Reviewed by  Wendy Mann


Introduction

Martian Memorandum is an old 1991 DOS game out of the same development stable as Countdown and Mean Streets.   Martian Memorandum is a quite enjoyable point-and-click adventure game, and it is the second game in the famous 'Tex Murphy' Detective Series (Mean Streets was the first).  But since it is an old DOS game, one needs to play it using the latest version of DOSBox (I used DOSBox 0.72).  However the controls are fairly easy, and mainly rely on the use of a mouse.

The game is good fun, but if you do not like a lot of interrogation-style questioning where you ask many people for their input about other people and places, then you may not enjoy Martian Memorandum.  And the story seems somewhat confusing at first, what with going to person after person, with some puzzles, etc, on the way.  But eventually the various threads start coming together and making sense, and then you realize that the story is really very cleverly designed.

The various hints/clues and subsequent actions/results are very logical and well designed and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction at figuring out the puzzles.  The puzzles are mainly inventory based or conversation/interrogation based, plus finding your way around in a few tricky places.  There is no overall map...  instead there is a 'Travel' icon/button that you click to call up a list of people and places that you can choose from to visit.

The quality of the game is good, and I can happily recommend it to any point-and-click adventure game fan.  It has quite a lot of depth, and the quality comes through well.  I personally enjoyed it despite having to make notes to keep track of who’s who in the game.  The game is designed well enough to keep calling you back to continue with it.

However, there are a few horrifically distorted scary-looking mutant characters in the game that might upset or frighten very young players, in my opinion.  The results of nuclear mutations of people have been made very graphic.

Story

Martian Memorandum takes place in the year 2039.  You play Tex Murphy, a classic hard boiled detective with an attitude, who is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young lady plus a mysterious 'something else', and to find and return them.  The investigation takes you through the deaths of a few characters, through nuclear devastation, and on to Mars, with intrigue...  plus the story of a massacre, with the reasons and consequences thereof.  So as you can see, the story is in fact very interesting, and covers many characters, including the aforementioned mutants and, of course, the obligatory mad scientist.

DOSBox Needed

If you play this old DOS game on a modern PC, you will need to use the latest version of DOSBox.  The game may appear to play okay without it, but you will probably come to some areas that are impossible without DOSBox, so rather use it from the start.

Interface

This is a 3rd person, 2D, point-and-click adventure, with the screen divided into a playing area at the top and a narrow control panel at the bottom.  The playing area is viewed from the side.

All actions are controlled by the mouse (talk, use, take, etc), and by using items that you acquire during the game.  Do not let the Load/Save Menu screen frustrate you...  if it seems to not respond, click the scroll bar arrows (up/down) or hit Enter and then do what you wanted to do (e.g. click SAVE, or whatever).

After you find it, you will have a 'com-link' (that is, a wrist computer/video link) to USE to talk to your secretary and ask about certain people or items.

Conversations consist of you traveling to someone and the person saying some things to you and, if there is nothing to block it, you are then able to ask that person about all of the characters and places opened up to you so far in the game.  Of course, in certain cases the 'asking' is blocked to you until you have accomplished something (e.g. the character may ask you to first accomplish something for them, etc).

There are plenty of Save Game 'slots'.  I used approximately 80.  However I am not sure if there is a maximum number available, preventing you from going beyond, say, 99.  You can die regularly, so make sure that you save regularly.

Graphics, Music, Sound Effects

The graphics are excellent for the era, given the age of the game.  Of course with the setting of a nuclear holocaust and of Mars, there is a predominance of reddish colors, but not to the detriment of the game.  Some of the screens are quite pretty, and the game is very atmospheric.

The music is fairly good for the time too, and it changes according to the area that you are in.  I never got irritated with it and quite enjoyed it.

Sound effects are fairly limited, but satisfying.  Speech was non-existent on my PC...  everything was conveyed via text/speech boxes.  But lack of audible speech did not detract from the game.  However the text descriptions at major location changes was somewhat hard to read (but not impossibly so) against the colorful backgrounds.  So I kept wishing that the designers had put reading comfort first.

Note:  Mr. Bill was able to get speech on his PC using Sound Blaster.  However he could not hear the music until he changed a setting in the configuration file (.cfg) per the manual.

Puzzles and Gameplay

The puzzles are typical of a point-and-click adventure game.  Some of them require fairly good reasoning, especially in putting together the various clues and threads from conversations and questioning.  There are excellent walkthroughs available, but it is more fun to try to work things out for yourself unless you get hopelessly confused as to what to do next.

The puzzles consist mainly of:

The challenge level / difficulty ranges from easy to medium, with only a couple of sequences possibly being of a high difficulty level.  And actually I thought they were more like ' fiddly '/ precision positioning instead of difficult.

You do not need keyboard gymnastics, just careful thinking and connecting of ideas.  Plus slow and careful negotiation of the quicksand on firm (vs. sinking) rocks, and careful, precise movement amongst the laser beams.  You are advised to save often at both of these places.  (Note:  you also have to return through the quicksand and through the laser beams.)

There is a time limit in the sequence that includes getting past the laser beams in both directions, but it is not terribly difficult.  I got it right on my third play through of the whole sequence.

Your reward in the game is in finding solutions, and in making progress through the game towards the goal of finding out what is really going on, and, of course, rescuing the 'damsel in distress'.

Longevity...  The game is relatively long for its era, and there are lots of enjoyable features, so it keeps 'calling you back' to continue with the game.  However you would probably only want to play it once, or maybe twice.

Bugs / Hiccups

I did not experience any technical hiccups or bugs.

The quicksand pit was not designed too well...  at times one needed to edge carefully almost off of a rock in order to be able to 'GOTO' the next rock.  This is accomplished by tapping the appropriate arrow key slowly and carefully and positioning yourself correctly (by trial and error), then clicking 'GOTO'.  If it does not work, reposition and try again.  Hence, save often here.

Conclusion

I personally recommend this game.  The game is good, the story is logical (eventually!), it is cleverly designed, the puzzles and connections are very logical, and it is very satisfying to play, especially when you solve a tricky puzzle.  Try to play it without the walkthrough, but eventually you may need to resort to the walkthrough at certain points.

I am a sucker for reasonably good science fiction, so this game’s story appealed to me a lot and satisfied my liking for unusual themes.

Martian Memorandum is indeed an interesting and enjoyable old DOS game.

©  March 2008  Wendy Mann



All Screenshots Above Are Full View


Developed (1991) and Published by  Access Software.


Not Rated !


Minimum System Requirements:  DOS


Where To Buy This Game:


Walkthroughs or Hints:

"Walkthrough" available here!

"Walkthrough" available here!


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