The Pandora Directive
Irring You Glad Tidings, Remember Under A Killing Moon? If you're not familiar with it or if you didn't like it. then shame on you. I thought it was fantastic: a thoroughly entertaining mixture of 30 exploration, point-and-click adventuring, and (brace yourselves) 'interactive movie'.
The player had to guide private detective Tex Murphy through a series of trials and tribulations revolving around some kind of murderous cult. Strong on gameplay (I couldn't drag myself away until I'd completed it), it also featured a genuinely amusing script. Okay, so the plot didn't exactly flow that smoothly, but hey! The dialogue! Tex managed to drawl a smart ass comment about just about everything he came across. Some of his insulting, sarcastic replies during the conversation sequences really did make me laugh out loud. No, really.
Anyway. I suppose I'd better staple my sides shut in case they burst again during The Pandora Directive which, in case you haven't guessed, is the sequel to Killing Moon. And based on the current evidence, it looks like being a reassuring example of Bigger! Better! Faster! More!
The Tex Files
This latest exploit finds Tex investigating some devious jiggery-pokery involving the famous 'Roswell Incident' of 1947. Legend has it that in that year a bona fide UFO crash-landed in New Mexico, catching the US Air Force unawares. Early news reports of the time quoted a USAF spokesman saying that the wreckage of an alien spacecraft had been recovered (cue the sounds of jaws dropping worldwide). A few days later and. hey whaddya know? The military guys changed their story. "Shucks.'' they said, "we were mistaken. It was only a weather balloon.'' Yeah? Chinny reckon.
And if all that isn't enough to set any Forteans out there drooling by the gallon, the storyline also manages to wrap itself around another thorny mystery - the strange disappearance of the ancient Mayan civilisation who. if I remember correctly, are rumoured to have been suspiciously technically advanced (judging by all the archaeological evidence available) for their time. Blimey. Whatever next? Telekinetic Bigfoots walking through wails? Access have also provided a lot more variety en route to the final solution, by including three different 'paths' to the story, and a whopping seven completely different endings. Which path leads you to which ending is. naturally, dependent upon which decisions you make during the game. Soooo... technically speaking, you could go back and play the game seven times over. Well, that's probably what they'll print on the back of the box at any rate.
All's well that Roswell
If you've never read one of our Blueprints before, you won't experience a dizzying sense of dejd vu when I tell you that this sequel contains a great many technical improvements over its predecessor. The entire interface has been considerably jazzed up. leaving the whole looking even more polished than it did before.
The movie segments have been given a good hard jazzing, too. First, there's a proper movie director at the helm (er... who was also responsible for the pilot episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers) and second, the cast includes a few more recognisable faces: Tanya Roberts (former Charlie's Angel and View To A Kill Bond Girl). Barry Corbin (of Northern l-xposurc fame), Kevin McCarthy (star of the fabulous original version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers), and John Agar. Eh? Hang on a minute... John who?
John Agar, you idiot. Star of some of the most gloriously dunderheaded 1950's Z-grade sci-fi movies of all time (including The Amazing Colossal Man). Hoorah. The one thing that I felt let it down was that the all-too familiar 'blue outline' effect (that plagues every single chroma-key production in existence) is still in evidence here. Hey. but whaddya want? Perfection?
The basic structure of the game is still about the same. Tex has a startlingly detailed 'Virtual World' to explore in the familiar Doom style - all of it realtime 3D (no pre-rendered 'pseudo movement' here, folks). As in any adventure, there's a vast array of objects to fiddle about with and collect. If you strike up a conversation with any of the various characters you meet the action switches to FMV-based 'movie' bits, in which you get to choose what sort of conversational tone Tex should adopt throughout the sequence. As in the previous game, the vast majority of his replies are bluntly sarcastic, or wincingly insensitive, which adds to the laughs no end.
Puzzles come in many forms - aside from the overtly The 7th Guest-style ones (which somehow never came across as annoying in the first Tex title), further obstacles include choosing the right choice of words during the 'talkie' segments, to finding small scraps of paper stuck on the underside of desks, etc. during the 'movement' bits. Oh - and if you really hate The 7th Guest-type puzzles, don't worry, as there are two modes of play, one of which allows you to bypass those bits completely.
Potential fun overload
Hopefully, The Pandora Directive should be even more fun than the original game - which could very possibly result in a dangerous 'total fun overload' situation, during which your entire body could swell to treble its normal size, spin around in the air, emit a high-pitched whine, and then explode. Or something like that. Who knows? For the meantime at least, you may sleep soundly in your pods, safe in the knowledge that as soon as we can get our ham-sized fists on a finished copy, we'll play it for ages and ages and then tell you about it. using an incredibly cunning combination of 'words', and 'pictures', printed upon 'paper', collectively referred to as a 'full review'. And here endeth my entry into the 1996 'Most Pointless and Padded Final Paragraph' Championship Cup. Here's hoping I come first. Fingers crossed. Touch wood. Cake. Visit your sick grandmother. Mares eat oats and Does eat oats, and little lambs eat Ivy. Donkey Kong Junior. Superkalifradgilistic-expealidocious. Ping. Pong. Poo.