Mark T. Ross - A Private in Paris - Episode 1
First posted on 23 August 2012. Last updated on 23 August 2012.
A popular plotline in adventure games is that of a private investigator involving in what starts out as a simple case but eventually evolves into a complex and sinister conspiracy. Mark T. Ross - A Private in Paris is a new adventure game series from indie developer Space Asylum that tries to tackle this same theme. The series is also notable for its use of Full Motion Video (FMV), once popular in the 1990s but has since all but mostly disappeared. Mark T. Ross - A Private in Paris - Episode 1 in the first episode of this series.
The series introduces the protagonist Mark T. Ross, an American from Louisiana living in Paris since taking up an inheritance there from his family. Formerly a policeman, he now works as a private investigator. The episode begins when he receives a phone call from a wealthy but mysterious man wanting to hire him to search for the man's son who has been kidnapped. After meeting the man, now his client, who tells him that there has beem no demand for a ransom, Ross must use his detective intuitions and skills to uncover the truth about the kidnapping.
The game's interface is similar to those used in classic FMV games. You search the scene using the mouse until the cursor changes shape. A blue arrow indicates where Ross can go. A magnifying glass points to an area that needs a closer look. A blue hand signals an object which you can examine and interact with. Sometimes, a short video cut scene is played to show Ross performing the task at hand. There is a skip button that you can click on if you want to pass up watching the mundane actions in these cut scenes. I do not recommend doing this, in part because there will be times that you need to see the videos for clues on what needs to be done next.
There is no need to run an installer to install the game. You just click on the executable file to begin playing. Likewise, there is no need to run an uninstaller to uninstall the game. You simply delete the game folder to remove it completely. The game automatically saves your progress, so there is no need to worry about making manual saves periodically.
A feature in this game that puts a new twist to how FMV is used is the choice you can make on how Ross will act. Whenever he is speaking to another character, you can choose Ross to act friendly, professional, or aggressive. This choice gives the game a sort of replay value. For example, the game can be played through with Ross always being friendly (or, alternatively, professional or even aggressive) in his interactions with other characters. This, in turn, yields different reactions from the characters, making the game more intriguing. Of course, you can also mix up the way Ross interacts in the game, leading again to different reactions. Baptiste Boï has done a great job as the game's writer and director.
The FMV in the game is high quality, with the clarity of a television show. The actors who play the characters in the game are believable. Ivan Sellier is great playing the role of Ross, speaking with a Louisiana accent that befits his character. His acting is also natural and not over the top. The sights in and around Paris featured in the FMV will undoubtedly entice a few gamers to visit the city of lights for real someday.
The ambient music changes from location to location. Some of the tracks have a rich bass tone and are appropriately suspenseful. Kevin MacLeod is to be commended for composing the score for the game.
For gamers who get stuck in the game, the developer offers a complete walkthough of the game as a PDF that can be downloaded for free from its website. I have played the game to its completion without using the walkthrough.
Given that the game is meant to be episodic, it is quite short. Like serialized television shows and movies, this game ends on a cliffhanger. You are even told by the game to "stay tuned" for the next episode. I am somewhat disappointed that the game ends so quickly, but I am intrigued by the game's ending that makes me want more. I am a fan of movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s. This game, with its cliffhanger, brings back memories of those movie serials.
Unfortunately, I experienced a few glitches when playing this game. Several times the game crashed and exited unexpectedly. As the game saved my progress automatically, I was able to pick up where I had left off when I restarted the game. The game's fullscreen mode also did not work properly. However, the game was playable in windowed mode with a resolution of 720x404 pixels (720x304 pixels for the FMV).
In all, Mark T. Ross - A Private in Paris - Episode 1 marks a good return of FMV in adventure games. The game lasts only an hour or so of play. Still, being a budget title, the game offers good value. As a fan of FMV games, I am curious to see if Space Asylum will succeed in leading a revival of these games.