Review by Jen
On more than one occasion I've wished that adventure developers
would dare attempt a new idea, even if it were only a small change
to what we've all become accustomed to. Well, Microids has done
just that with Post Mortem.
Here we have a straight adventure game, pure first-person point-and-click,
with a fairly straight progression through a story from start
to finish, only this time the player can take one of two or three
possible approaches to many of the puzzles and dialogues, with
real differences in gameplay resulting from these choices.
For instance, one of the first puzzles involves gaining access
to the murder scene, a hotel room. When you talk to the hotel's
desk man, you can either piss him off, requiring you to find another
way in, or sweet-talk him into giving you access. If you do the
former, which I did, then you are faced with another choice, how
to go about gaining entrance, which will affect yet another part
of the game further down the road a bit.
All you RPG and action players probably view this as old hat,
but this is a pretty revolutionary concept with regard to adventure
games. Even if it had been a complete bust, my hat would've been
off to Microids for making the attempt. But a failure it wasn't;
in fact Post Mortem was a treat to play.
At first I was overly concerned with making the right choices
as they were presented, but then after I realized there were no
wrong moves, I relaxed and started doing whatever struck my fancy.
Before too long I was progressing at a pretty good clip, utterly
As the game opens, a couple is brutally murdered in a room at
the Hotel Orphee. Their decapitated heads are found with ancient
gold coins in their mouths. Post Mortem definitely is not
a game for the squeamish; this scene plays out in split-second
flashes in full gory glory, setting the stage for the rest of
You play as Gustave MacPherson, a struggling American painter
in 1920s Paris who has left his former career as a New York Pinkerton
detective to pursue his dream of making it in the art world. Sultry,
sensuous fellow American Sophia Blake shows up on his, or rather
your, doorstep and persuades you with cold, hard francs to come
out of your self-imposed detecting retirement long enough to investigate
the murdersthe victims, she says, were her vacationing sister
and her husband, and she, Sophia, does not trust the French police.
She also is concerned about the disappearance of a treasured family
heirloom that should have been but was not found at the murder
Little do you realize you have just signed up for a dinner date
with the black widow at the center of a web of deceit and lies.
All is not what it seems, and as you are trying to make sense
of the whole mystery, the killer strikes again. And again. Who
will become the next victim? What lies behind these ritualistic
decapitation murders? What is the "family heirloom"
that everybody wants? Who controls the secretive Brotherhood of
the Rosy Cross? Can you trust the shiftless police captain LeBrun?
Is your client all that she seems?
Much of the puzzling is conversationalyou must talk with
the various characters to pick up clues to new locations, news
of others who might know more, or be given new inventory items
or documents. An unfortunate side effect of the various paths
through is that sometimes the conversations will seem disjointed,
and sometimes you will find yourself learning about something
that you already know. Never, though, do you hear about something
The remainder of the puzzling is inventory-related, with the
exception of a couple of manipulation puzzles. The inventory puzzles
are pretty straightforward; however, due to the multiple paths
through the game, you wind up with a lot of useless items that
might have come into play had you chosen a different course. And
they are there to stayI found myself wishing more than once
that there was somewhere to discard all of these extraneous items.
The inventory is brought up by a right mouse click. You can view
five items at once and must scroll through them until you see
the one you seek. Invariably and infallibly, the one I wanted
was the farthest away, and I got sore tired of cycling through
upwards of 20 or 25 items.
Conversations are logged in your notebook, which too is accessible
with the right mouse click. You may view the notebook at any time,
not only to view transcripts of your interviews but also to access
game options, to save your game, or to read the documents you
have in your inventory. Next to the notebook is the map; all travel
between locations is accomplished by viewing this map and selecting
Two or three of the puzzles are not very well realized. For instance,
in one puzzle you must draw a sketch of the suspect based on a
witness's description. You call up your sketchbook (remember,
you are an artist!) and must cycle through and apply various preset
facial features, similar to a modern-day Identikit. However, there
are several features in many of the categories that fit the description
equally well, which leads to an inordinate number of appropriate
combinations. You must then commit your choices to paper and show
the finished product to another witness to obtain his yea or nay.
Or really a seemingly neverending stream of "Nah"s.
This puzzle was an exercise in excruciating tediumI probably
showed the guy 75 different mug shots before I finally hit paydirt.
Another reason why this particular puzzle was so painful is that
there is no skipping dialogue even if already heard. I had to
give my three-sentence request for him to view the picture those
same 75 times.
There was one puzzle that was just plain unfair in my opinionon
the left side of the screen was the clue required to solve the
puzzle on the right side of the screen, but the printing was too
indistinct, on my 19-inch monitor, even with my glasses on, to
make out the diagram. A little visual clarity here would have
Other than that, most of Post Mortem's puzzles were of
medium difficultyall were fair in that you can obtain all
of the clues you need to solve them and it is a mere matter of
putting together the information properly. There was one puzzle
involving alchemy that really tickled my fancyit was perplexing
but so very satisfying when I finally hit on the solution. I had
to resort to a walkthrough twice, once for an item overlooked
due to insufficient cursoring and the second to look up what the
figures in the illegible diagram were.
There are no mazes, there is no dying, there are no timed puzzles,
there are no sliding tile puzzles. There are only a couple of
instances of insane pixel hunting ... I think that's about it
for the usual suspects among the adventure gaming uglies.
Between me and Skinny Minnie, who finished the game shortly before
I began, we came up with three different endings. I only got two
because of a bad choice I made about halfway through the game,
but Minnie was able to see all three. The pivotal point is just
before the finale, so you can restore your last save and see all
of the endings yourself with only minimal repetition.
Cutscenes and backgrounds are beautiful. They are in color but
muted enough to lend a noirish feel in keeping with the dark themes.
The 3D characters, on the other hand, aren't the greatesttheir
movements are repetitive, their appearance frequently is blocky,
and many times they have distinct lines in their necks between
where their bodies stay still as their heads are moving about.
They're by no means terrible, but I do wish the designers had
taken a little bit more time with them to bring them up to the
same level of quality as the rest of the visuals.
The music by Robert Marchand was very authentic-sounding for
the game's settingit was mainly smooth, light, understated
jazzy stuffbut the loops were too short. There was one piece
in particular that drove me to distraction; it was a regular sort
of soundtrack but with periodic bursts of something that sounded
like statical swing straight from some 1930s radio broadcast.
About three-quarters of the way through the game, I finally had
enough and turned off the music altogether. In fact it was so
jarring that I wondered whether it was a bug in the music programming.
Voice acting is sometimes very good and sometimes sort of flat.
Your character, Gus MacPherson, is so low-key as to seemingly
lack personality. The actor who plays the character Hellouin is
a pleasure to hear, as is the police inspector LeBrun, but the
actors playing a couple of the more insignificant characters sound
as if they're reading. There is an option for subtitles.
All in all, though, Post Mortem is a far cry from an experiment
gone awrywhile there were some ideas that could stand some
serious rethinking, they were more than compensated for by the
parts that were exquisitely realized. I always appreciate it when
a game treats its players as if they were intelligent adults,
and Post Mortem does that in spades. The experimental multipath,
multiple-solution aspects, on balance, worked surprisingly well
and could certainly be refined by the developers into something
magnificent for their next game.
I played on my 733 MHz PIII with a full install under Windows
2000 with no trouble whatsoever.
For all that it is and for all that it tries to be, I give Post
Mortem a Gold Star. It certainly is not for everyone, but
it certainly was for me! It is one of those rare games that will
remain in my consciousness for a long time, like a good book.