Full Moon in San Francisco

Review by Old Rooster
January 2003

Edmonton Has Long Winters

Full Moon in San Francisco is an adventure title from Alternative Games, a small development house in the frozen north of Alberta, Canada. The enthusiasm, energy and dedication of the team becomes evident when one visits the nicely designed and presented website. The promotion of Full Moon and the general game description is inviting and encouraging. Unfortunately, I'm compelled to say, the game itself is tragically subpar—characterized by a primitive interface, outdated graphics, horrible voice acting, simplistic puzzles, unfunny jokes, and a potentially interesting story muddied by an amateur script.

As we proceed from a smooth installation, the first peculiarity of concern rears its head. Full Moon demands the letter of your CD-ROM drive to proceed, does a search to verify your selection, then lets you hit a continue button. Okay, fine. But it does this every time you start or restart the game! The ensuing menu hints at the kind of humor to come, with selections such as, "New Game, New Pain," and "Laugh and Load."

Character Creation and Skill Selection

Does Full Moon have RPG-like components? Is there variability in how the game proceeds based on such selections? Are there even different outcomes depending on your choices? One may think so, but one would be quite wrong. Full Moon does offer the choice of playing a male or female lead, and there are 140 points to distribute among general ability, age, aim, strength, perception and magical energy. You can even pick a virtual, irrelevant and annoying popup pet—in my case a gorilla with a "radiant smile and sporty shorts." These popup visits, which you will quickly turn off, feature such side-splitting (a little sarcasm here) comments as, "Do you like coconuts as much as I do?" and "Guess what, I need to go to the washroom." Yet all of these selected attributes, except possibly for the money amount, do little or nothing to measurably affect the flow and outcome of a very linear game. Barely having the endurance to finish the title once, I tried another game, this time playing the female P.I. with other characteristics, finding nothing obviously different in gameplay.

"Where Are My Shoes; Where Did You Put Them?" —Tracy

You play the role of a private investigator, newly hired by the Copper Detective Agency (that's Copper, not Cooper, get it?) to locate a stolen painting. About a third of the way into the game, you are immersed in solving the mystery of the gruesome serial decapitator ("heads roll for a mile or so")—the Full Moon killer. The premise is interesting, as are some of the story components; but it's largely intended to be played for laughs and, I'm afraid, the laughs come very rarely in this game. There are oblique movie references, inside developer jokes, and such feeble attempted funny lines as these:

  • "I have a heart of gold but can't take it out to show you; I would die;"
  • "Beating Paranormal Butts Since 1980" (agency slogan);
  • "Be there or be square;"
  • "The officers [911 call] aren't available; they're watching T.V.";
  • "Look good every day" (an unreflective mirror);
  • "You scumbag; you're a jerk;"
  • "Freaking Far Avenue" (the most distant street on the map).

To top it all off, the developers suggest that the conversational spider system "offers a high degree of replayability and hundreds of jokes." Please, help us! This statement misleads, in that there are no differences in the linear gameplay progression—only more of the awful jokes! Not only that, but you can't skip through these conversations, which are virtually meaningless substance-wise.

Another gimmick the developers find funny is the "Full Moon Action Button." Occasionally available, this button allows such opportunities as hitting a vending machine three times to produce a drink, drawing a happy face on a wall, and taking a shower, which elicits the comment: "Now you smell good; people will enjoy talking to you." Retiring to your bed in the evening (alone) produces a "Yahoo!" and a "Mega-thud."

"Life Is a Puzzle and I Have to Unpuzzle It"

Full Moon's interface rolls from the bottom and right side of the game screen. Due to borders, the actual gameplay window comprises only two-thirds of the screen. The game uses a first-person view, point and click, with horizontal view and movement only. Hotspots are readily indicated, as are locked doors. Indeed, primary puzzle solving involves finding keys, letters, numbers, combinations, and opening locked doors. There's very little that's at all complex. The inventory is accessed by moving the mouse all the way to the right of the screen, and it easily slips away from your control, especially when needing to scroll to later pages. This frustrating feature could have been alleviated by using a simple "I" key access. You can save anywhere, any time, although the saves are arranged alphabetically, not chronologically. Perhaps the most interesting feature, and one that helps boost my rating a bit, is an "Objectives" button on the lower toolbar. This shows what you have to accomplish next, although not how.

Graphics are, to be kind, retro. They're colorful, 800x600 resolution, but the cartoon-like characters simply face you, with no other animation or movement except unsynched lip activity.

The voice acting is as bad as I've ever heard in a direct English adventure game (one not translated from German, for example). Unfortunately, the worst of this was "featured" with the male lead, the voice you hear the most. His ongoing ruminations, sounding as if spoken in a shower stall, are laughable, but not for the reasons intended. Most of the characters—some obviously playing different roles—also fall flat. They aren't helped by the inane script, to which even Russell Crowe would have trouble giving life and expression.

"Will You Be Part of Their Crazy Team?" —Invitation to the Agency

No, I'm afraid not; neither the Copper Agency nor this failed attempt at a tongue-in-cheek adventure game. Edmonton has long winters, and I'm sure these folks worked long and hard on their "baby," undoubtedly feeling pleased with and proud of their creation. But Full Moon just doesn't cut it as a commercially viable adventure title. Perhaps Canadian humour is different—what they find funny, we in the U.S. may not. Still, I found the game excruciatingly dull, hard to finish, and only groaningly funny on two occasions.

Adventure gamers are a patient lot, playing and reminiscing about the good old games, hoping for the next great, or even decent, title. We're willing to have "retro" graphics for the sake of good puzzles, an involving story, an entertaining script. Unfortunately, Full Moon fails to deliver in any respect, leading what some may call "campy" graphics or "deliberately over-the-top" voice acting to be revealed for what it is—dated, primitive and unprofessional.

To switch genres for a moment, RPG and action gamers don't accept the kind of game today they played ten years ago, and neither should we. Nor should we be so desperate or blinded as to welcome a game of this uneven design and quality. The Dark Falls and Tony Toughs are out there, and these are the kind of efforts we need to support. Full Moon may have been an interesting little shareware title, but I can neither recommend it for your purchase consideration or playing time. All of the major factors that make a game good are flawed—interface, graphics, script, acting, puzzles. The Edmonton group is planning a second Full Moon title. We wish them well in their efforts during their long winter, hoping that the outcome will not be "part two, deja vu," with all of the critical limitations we've examined here. The End

The Verdict

The Lowdown

Developer: Alternative Games
Publisher: Alternative Games
Release Date: October 2002

Available for: Windows

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System Requirements

PII 300
64 MB RAM
350 MB free HD space
12X CD-ROM drive

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