Mean Streets – Part 3

As ever in this game, I’m following leads around various locations in San Francisco starting out with Ron Morgans lab. I find some piranha food in here (by moving the fish tank if I recall correctly) which allows me to feed the fish and grab his passcard out of the tank. All the passwords are anagrams of chess terms which can be guessed if needed as I found a list of all of them early in the game. These two in combination can then be used to access the computer of whoever’s card it was. This isn’t strictly needed but does flesh out the story and confirm you have the password correct.

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To track down the next names on the list, I enlist Steve Clements help. Greg Call is yet another scientist who has supposedly committed suicide although it should be clear to any player by now that they have all been coerced by project Overlord, or outright murdered


Searching Greg Call’s lab yields a 10 foot pole which I can then use in Ron Morgan’s lab to get the box out of the cage with a gorilla in it and get another passcard.


Chasing up yet another scientist called Clark yields another lab complete with body this time. The most useful thing I find here is a pair of work gloves which I can use in Call’s lab to move some vines and get another passcard. There can’t be many of them left at this point.


 Another lead sends me to meet Lola Lovetoy who was employed by the head of MTC to keep Schimming busy. She gives me the location of the room they used. Searching this room yields a bus locker key and flying out to that gets the black passcard.


I break into the Law and Order offices next. I find a contract employing Big Jim Slade to bump off all these ex-scientists as well as yet another passcard and a clue to ask the security chief for the nav code to the computer facility.


I do just that and with a bit of coercion he coughs up the info. At this point, I realise that I’m still missing one card and going through all the screenshots I’ve made spot a name supplied by Arnold Dweeb that I forgot to add to my list.


All keycards in hand it’s off the secret facility on Alcatraz island. The moment I arrive I’m captured and thrown in a locked room after Mr Big spells out the whole scheme.




I have one last room to search. There is a neat touch here in that I can try all sorts of things that won’t work using items I’ve picked up throughout the game. e.g. unscrewing the grate on the floor. What I actually need to do is find the gas mask which was hidden somewhere in here, then open the monumentally large furnace using the console at the bottom right. This sets off the sprinklers and a robot comes in to close the furnace again. I have just enough time to leg it out of the open door ahead of the robot.


One more shooting section and we are into the end game.


To stop Overlord, I need to use all 8 passcards to activate the auto destruct on the satellite that controls it. To do this, I have to type all the correct passwords into the giant computer in the 60 seconds I’ve got. You’d better be a half decent typist if you plan on finishing this game.


As I’m entering passwords, the villain of the piece reveal themselves to be none other than J. Saint Gideon, the ex head of Gideon Enterprises. I really don’t have time to listen/read what he’s saying at the time if I’m gong to get these 8 passwords typed in fast enough.



The countdown begins, the satellite blows up and Tex is now a national hero even getting awarded a parade by president Michael. J. Fox. Tex flies off into the sunset with Sylvia whose hair apparently changes colour from one moment to another and the world is safe, at least until Martian Memorandum.




Mean Streets is a peculiar game that could probably only ever have been made by Access. It has something of an identity crisis and doesn’t appear to know quite what it wants to be, yet the end result is an intriguing enough mystery to maintain interest up until the conclusion. That feat is made easier by the conclusion coming all too quickly despite the padding of the flight sim. This is a really short game that could probably be completed in an hour or two on the first attempt without all that tedious autopiloting.

The main selling point of Mean Streets was clearly the graphics and sound which look quaint these days but if you compare what this looks like to most other 1989 adventure games, it is way ahead. In 1989 I would have been impressed just with them scanning in photos in the first place. There was enough to the game itself that I still kind of like it actually. Much like the sequels, it doesn’t take itself seriously and there is a lot of fun to be had meeting all the unlikely characters. I also enjoyed the adventure segments which play as much like a search simulation and different to any other adventure game I can think of. To an extent it really does feel like being a PI playing this, a PI with a really, really slow car.

Mean Streets is no classic but is original, quirky and certainly worth looking into for anyone who wants to see how the series started. It’s curious seeing a much younger Chris Jones playing the same role all those years back even if he didn’t get to speak in this instalment. I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who doesn’t already have an interest in the series but if you ever plan on playing through them all, this holds up well enough to be the place to start.

Mean Streets – Part 2

At the end of part 1, I’d just got some new leads on Carl Linksy’s suicide case which I needed to chase up. In no particular order, I start with Ron Meat who witnessed the suicide. He doesn’t cooperate until I use a little force but it certainly sounds like suicide once he starts talking. This isn’t good for my case.


With that avenue exhausted I try Carl’s employer and interview Frank Schimming who is the head of Gideon Enterprises. I learn that the company is involved with surveillance equipment. MTC is apparently their management training centre where employees are sent to get corporate decision making abilities. Schimming denies all knowledge of Overlord, something which is a common theme among Gideon employees.


The next lead is Linsky’s ex colleague Cal Davis. When I get to his lab, I find police tape across the entry and a chalk outline on the floor. Things are definitely looking suspicious. I set off the alarm and have to find the switch hidden behind one of the lab rat cages to get out of here again before the police arrive. I don’t find much of use in truth although there is a cage with a box in it that I can’t get to because of the lethal looking gorilla in the way. I also find a book on control of primates through microchips which looks to have been the subject of research here. Odd line of enquiry for a surveillance company..


To confirm that I’m getting somewhere, I’m faxed a death threat when I return to my speeder. While I’m here I take my first look at the games inventory screen. Finding any particular item is a pain give just how much stuff you end up carrying. In truth the inventory can be entirely ignored if you like but it’s here that valuable items can be pawned off to provide the cash for bribes.


I need that cash as soon as I talk to Smiley Monroe who was investigating Cal Davis’ unfortunate demise as he doesn’t provide answers for free. Apparently Davis took a drink of cyanide instead of coke by accident. Aaron Sternwood who was the last person to see him alive isn’t buying this explanation.

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The next person I seek out is Linsky’s ex business partner John Klaus who has gone into hiding but Delores Lightbody provides me with his location. He was put to work on Overlord but found it wasn’t actually to do with enhancing executive performance and starting asking questions. He doesn’t know what Overlord was about in particular but does give me his computer passcard before I leave.


I’m out of leads at this point so it’s time to stump up the cash to ask my informant Lee about all the people I’ve not tracked down so far.


I start with Linsky’s PI Sonny Fletcher. He won’t talk for free so I attempt strongarm tactics which fail miserably. I return with cash and he tells me how he was hired to investigate MTC and to go and see Wanda Peck if I want to learn more.


Before I do that I pay a quick visit to J. Saint Gideon, the former owner of Gideon Enterprises who was ousted in something of a coup by Schimming.  He clearly doesn’t trust the guy but doesn’t have much useful to tell me.


Wanda Peck on the other hand is the first person who will actually tell me about Project Overlord. It’s based on some research that was intended to boost IQ but as a side effect made subjects extremely susceptible to suggestion. She also tells me that MTC really stands for Management Through Control


Next up, I meet with Larry Hammond who was employed by the head of MTC to work on Overlord. He confirms that Linsky was working on controlling human behaviour for MTC and describes how to defeat Overlord I will need to gather 8 computer passcards and their passwords in order to access the satellite and destroy it. He recommends various people in the accounting department as a place to start. I’ve already been collecting some of these as I’ve been playing and it will turn out to be the overall goal of the game from here on out.


First things first, I have a chat with Tom Griffith, head of MTC, who claims that Overlord is actually just about being able to monitor anyone from anywhere. He hints at links to the ultra right-wing Law and Order party whose leader Robert Knox is partnering with them on the project.


Most of the accounting department prove to be dead ends but Arnold Dweeb agrees to meet with me in the football stadium. He doesn’t want to offer information for free and once again threats prove to be a bad idea.


Once I’ve reloaded he gives me an extremely long list of people who have received cheques from MTC.


Starting at the top I head for Ron Morgans apartment. He is yet another scientist working for MTC. I don’t find too much in his home but there is a lead to a second home where he stores his computer equipment where I’ll start out in part 3.

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The plot has certainly thickened in part 2 with Tex being sent all over the San Francisco area chasing leads. The core gameplay of interviews and room searching is proving to be entertaining enough still, the flying sections less so. The longer I play the game, the further apart all of the locations I need to get to seem to be. I definitely suggest having a book to read or some other distraction while waiting to arrive at each location.

Mean Streets – Part 1

For some years, one of my favourite series of games has been the Tex Murphy adventure games. The series notched up five titles during the 80’s and 90’s before ending on a cliffhanger that would only be resolved in 2014 when a Kickstarter funded sequel called Tesla Effect finally arrived.

It’s a series that is famous for it’s copious use of FMV and coming on lots of CD’s as a result but the first two entries predated the CD revolution and were more modest affairs. I’ve wanted to play through the series again since playing Tesla Effect a couple of years back and thought I’d start now with the 1989 game Mean Streets.


In 1989 it was quite a big deal for a game to be in VGA and the box makes sure you don’t fail to notice this. It backs this up with loads of photos to emphasize the 1989 standard multimedia nature of the game. Access tried something similar with the box for their Narc rip-off Crime Wave which is famously cheesy, I hope deliberately.

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The box opens up to reveal the story of the game on the left and a whole heap of paperwork, including printed sheets to keep notes on as you play the game. The game came on a sizable 6 floppies and I remember playing this directly from those floppies back in the days before I had a hard disk. Plenty of disk swapping was involved as you might expect.


There is a paper map included. I’m always a fan of this sort of thing in my PC game boxes but it’s not the most interesting it has to be said and won’t be needed at all when playing the game.

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On starting the game, there is a brief credits sequence with digitized VGA graphics looking far better than much else I’d played in 1989. Coupled up with this was Access’ patented Realsound software which managed to coax low fidelity digitised samples from a PC speaker before we all had sound cards. This sounded way better than it had any right to and there were even instructions in the manual on how to hotwire a proper speaker system to your PC in place of the beeper. Soundcards would kill this technology off but Access used it in plenty of games around the time.

In the intro sequence, the Realsound means we get actual music. OK, it’s made up of 3 sections lasting about 4 seconds each that get looped but it was a lot better than the usual beeps. This is just as well as it will be the only music used throughout the entire game. I gather the music was stolen from a TV commercial but have no idea what the commercial was.

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On starting the game, Tex walks to his speeder and the aim of the game is spelled out. Tex is a PI working out of post world war 3 San Francisco in the not too distant future. Nuclear fallout has mutated much of the population and these mutants tend to form the lower rungs of society. Tex is lucky enough to be immune but still lives among the mutants due to his career choice.

Tex has been hired by Sylvia Linsky to find out what happened to her father who apparently committed suicide by jumping off the golden gate bridge. She doesn’t believe he would ever have done this and it’s up to Tex to find out the truth.

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In what may well be a unique combination, Mean Streets is a hybrid flight sim and adventure game. I can’t offer any explanation for this concept other than Access already having developed other games in both genres and someone must have thought it would be fun to join them together. I should be surprised we didn’t get Links 386 thrown in somewhere as well. A golf sim was promised in Tesla Effect but never happened.


Before I get to any flying around, I’m able to call 2 people from the speeder using a video phone. One is Tex’s secretary Vanessa and the other a shady informant known as Lee. I’m able to type in topics to ask either of them about with the only difference being that Lee will charge me for her services. Both have limited speech which impressed the hell out of me when I first played this.


Whatever topic I pick, the information is faxed to me a minute later. Yes, in the future they not only still use faxes but you will have one in your car!


The main information you need from people in this game is nav codes. You key these in to the speeders nav computer and it tells you where to fly to either manually or on auto pilot. I’ll be sticking to autopilot throughout. Having been supplied with a pile of these codes by Vanessa I head off to follow my first lead.


The flight sim in this game is rudimentary at best. The speeder can hover, take off vertically and is indestructible as far as I can tell. This part of the game mainly serves to slow the player down but it was sort of impressive at the time. You can speed things up marginally by spamming the warp drive key when the auto pilot shuts it off too early but expect to spend half your time waiting to get places when playing Mean Streets.


The first location is Carl Linsky’s apartment. I have to carefully search this by walkin NJg around the room to various hotspots and navigate the text menu tree options to look at, move, open and switch every object I can find. The best bet here is methodically working through all available options.

The hotspots are huge covering whole swathes of the room so the walking around part isn’t as critical as a Sierra game. This is just as well given the way Tex shuffles slowly around the screen.

Each location needs to be scrupulously searched so it does feel quite like the detective game it purports to be in these sections and it’s the most successful part of Mean Streets. There are extra little puzzles to find objects that can be pawned to raise cash for paying bribes. Any objects found are used automatically whenever needed. These sort of inventory puzzles tend to only be used for the optional puzzles.

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The next locations emphasise the other main gameplay element which is interrogating people. This consists of typing in people or subjects just like in Ultima 4. Sometimes people may need to be bribed before they will talk using a primitive bartering system. All the people are shown in cheesy digitised photos. There is a strong sense of humour in these depictions and the designers clearly didn’t take things too seriously.


I talk to my client Sylvia, Steve Clements who was investigating the case, Carl Linsky’s fiancée and his bit on the side Sandra Larsen. I learn that Carl had an insurance policy which won’t pay out to Sylvia in the case of suicide. This would explain why she hired me and this could be a short case.


On the other hand, when I try to get to Linsky’s warehouse there is an endless supply of goons trying to gun me down so I may be on to something.

These arcade sections sometimes appear before the adventure or interrogation sections. The bullets move quite slowly and I have to duck to avoid being hit and pop up to shoot back over cover. When I get the chance I have to get to the right of the screen when there is room between shots. It’s all about timing and shouldn’t delay progress much once you’ve played these sections a couple of times.


Carl’s warehouse leads me to clues about his employer Gideon enterprises, some of his old colleagues and a mysterious project called overlord which is linked to MTC corporation.


Vanessa gives me some more nav codes when I ask about these clues and I’ll see where they lead me to in part 2.