Review by Jen
A game based on an actual Raymond Chandler book? How could I
lose? Raymond Chandler is one of the greats in the detective novel
business, if only because he was one of the first. For those of
you who don't read detective fiction, Philip Marlowe, Chandler's
detective, is the prototype hard-boiled private detective, later
imitated by other greats such as Robert B. Parker in his line
of Spenser novels (and the resultant TV show). However, I was
in for a big disappointment.
When you start the game, you get a choice between the "original
plot" and the "alternate plot." I guess if you're
a huge Raymond Chandler fan, you wouldn't want to know the ending
ahead of time. I chose "original plot" because I read
all of the Philip Marlowe books about 15 or 20 years ago and forgot
what they were about. I did not try the "alternate plot"
and so cannot comment on any differences.
Your client, Orphamay Quest, appears in your office and asks
you to look for her missing brother, Orrin, who disappeared after
losing his job with an oil exploration company. You take a trip
through the seamier side of Hollywood life in the 1940s, talking
to police, mobsters, and would-be and has-been movie stars. You
bumble into several ice-pick murder scenes and bumble right out
again before the police arrive (how convenient for you!). You
get kissed a lot but never succumb to the womanly wiles of the
female characters, and they never seem too happy with you when
you spurn them. But you're a tough guy, you can take it.
The game developers basically just sliced up the book according
to venue and put various segments of the plot in each location.
You get more locations as you get deeper into the story, and each
location yields up one or two different scenarios. Using this
method, the developers managed to keep the story pretty linear,
and it felt pretty true to the original plot. The story was pretty
strong in this game, being based on a classic of detective fiction,
The Little Sister.
As to the gameplay, however, that is a whole 'nother story. This
is really more of an interactive novel than an actual game. Basically,
you click and watch, click and watch. Every once in a while, you
have to make a choice from two different courses of action that
you can take, but I suspect the end result is the same whichever
path you choose. When you have to decide where to go next, either
you get a very broad suggestion from the Philip Marlowe character
or you get a phone call telling you where to go.
This game was copyrighted in 1996, and that was only two years
ago, yet you have to switch your monitor to 256 colors before
you can even start the game. Then, after you start, the graphics
look like they only use about 16 colors. It is a cartoon-style
game, and cheap on the animation sequences, like an old Japanese
cartoon, where only the lips move. Some games manage to pull that
off, but not this onethe drawing style is just not appealing
to me, either. Some of the transition scenes are a little prettier
than the main parts of the game, but their graphics were still
The music was pretty good, kind of generic period swing/jazz,
but there was only one tune throughout, and the loop was not long
enough. At least it didn't play the whole time. The voice acting
was better than average, but there is a lot of Philip Marlowe
talking, and his monotone got on my nerves after a while. The
rest of the characters were just fine. I had a problem, though,
that I believe was related to the CDevery time a character
spoke, there was cheap-microphone hissing in the background.
Overall, quality is the element that is missing from this game.
It just seems like a slap-dash effort to try to bring something
to market. The whole thing only took about three hours to play
because there were no red herrings or wrong moves of any kind
and nothing to figure out. It was an audio book with cartoons
added. It was not fun, not even a little bit. Next time, I'll
just read the book.
Developer: Byron Preiss Multimedia Company
Release Date: 1996
Four Fat Chicks Links
486DX/66 MHz or higher
8 MB RAM
2 MB free hard disk space
SVGA graphics (256 colors with 640x480 resolution)
MPC-compatible sound card
Mouse or compatible pointing device
Windows 3.1 or later (Windows 95 compatible)