Martian Memorandum

Posted by Ilia Kushnir.
First posted on 07 January 1998. Last updated on 21 May 2014.
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Martian Memorandum
Tex's humble beginning starts in his office.
Martian Memorandum
The Terraform Corp is where Tex starts his investigation.
Martian Memorandum
What is Marshall hiding from Tex? What is the secret of Martian Memorandum?
Martian Memorandum
Time to scout some information from the locals!

The year is 2039 and things cannot be any worse. It starts off as a simple search for a daughter of a millionaire. Soon enough, you find out that this is not the usual crime and this is not the usual kidnapping at all. The more truth you unravel the more confusing and dangerous the case becomes. Has the ex-wife of the millionaire something to do with it? Or has that junky boyfriend? Why does no one know anything about the millionaire's past? Everything seems to point to Mars. As you head to red planet, you cannot get rid of a feeling that something big is behind all this.

In Martian Memorandum, you play Tex Murphy—a handsome but hardboiled private investigator who is down on his luck. His old-fashioned habits and a no-nonsense attitude sometimes get him into a lot of troubles. The year has not been kind to Tex, and he is drinking himself silly after a rough case when he is called up by Marshall Alexander, the owner of Terraform Corp and a respectable millionaire. To Tex's surprise, Alexander actually hires him to find his so claimed kidnapped daughter Alexis. Tex takes the case (with as much hesitation as a dog has when being offered a loaf of meat) and the chase begins. Soon enough Tex finds himself looking deep into Alexander's past, dealing with scumbags all over San Francisco, and exploring the jungle in his free time! Eventually, Tex ends up on Mars where Terraform Corp is preparing the planet suitable for inhabitants of Earth. While on the red planet, Tex must find out the secret of Martian Memorandum and how Alexander gets all his money. Time is pressing, more and more people want to get their hands on Tex and Alexis' life may be in real danger!

The story of Martian Memorandum follows that of Mean Streets. It is set in the post World War III apocalyptic San Francisco, which has since been divided into two. The rundown Old San Francisco is inhabited by people called Mutants who have suffered genetic mutation from the radiation of the war and the sun. The glitzy New San Francisco, on the other hand, is inhabited by all the Norms who have developed a natural immunity to the radiation. For years, the Norms have discriminated against the Mutants. Tex is a Norm, but he chooses to live among the Mutants instead.

The game Martian Memorandum uses a simple game engine that is common to most adventure games of its time. You control Tex using a mouse or, if you do not have one, a keyboard. The action is seen from the side in 2D just like in its predecessor. Controls are simple and not time based except in a couple of places. Furthermore, this game is the first title to ever feature 256 colors and digitized voices for characters. The graphics may not be as gorgeous as in the sequel Under A Killing Moon, but that should not distract a true mystery lover. Finally, for those who have trouble passing through the game, there is a very convenient built-in hint system.

In Martian Memorandum, you will not find the annoying fighting sequences or the flight simulation. You pick up objects along the way and use them later to solve puzzles. There are a lot of interesting but somewhat repulsive characters to interact. When talking to a character you have the option of adopting a certain attitude (usually sarcastic) rather then just choosing one of several phrases proposed in a dialog tree.

Probably the most impressive element about Martian Memorandum is the story. It is simply absorbing and definitely a la Tex style. As the game progresses, you find out more about Tex's philosophy of life and his inner self. The controls are simple enough to be able to navigate within the game without getting frustrated. The characters you meet are all interesting and help to develop the storyline like in a paperback murder mystery novel. The built-in hint system is very convenient. The music is appropriate and the scarce sound effects are well done. You even meet some of his friends that later appear in the sequel! My favorite character is Mac Malden, the police chief. The ending of the game is quite surprising and adds more to the overall satisfaction of playing this adventure.

There are a few noticeable flaws in this game. Firstly, there are several dreaded "pixel hunting" puzzles where you have to look, pixel by pixel, for an object or a door. There is also a labyrinth type of puzzle that is quite hard. Fortunately, there is a way to bypass the latter puzzle which makes it more bearable. Some of the voice acting may not be quite professional, but what can you expect from the first adventure game ever to incorporate it!

Martian Memorandum is an enticing adventure game. If you are a mystery fan, you should check this game out. If you enjoy playing Under A Killing Moon or The Pandora Directive that are the sequels of this title, this game should bring back a sense of nostalgia.

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