Under a Killing Moon

1994 Access Software

Reviewed 1997 January 26

Rating +4 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance strong
Interface 1st 3D menu Real-time occasional

You are Tex Murphy, a Chandler style P.I., in a post-nuclear San Francisco filled with radiation and mutants. Digging up work, you stumble upon some suspicious activities by a race-purist organisation. It's up to you to uncover their plans and stop them.

Under a Killing Moon uses a 3D, first person, scrolling perspective, like Doom. You must change mode (spacebar) when you want to interact with the environment versus just walking around. There are many cut-scenes where you see Tex from a third person view. It all makes for an unusual interface, but it works well enough.

Although play is somewhat linear, you are not too obviously directed along the path. There's a good, strong plot to carry you through the challenges. There's also a good balance of humour: there are many amusing moments, but it's not overdone so that the story can still be effective when it needs to be serious. The restraint also keeps the gritty Chandleresque atmosphere believable.

One segment of the game had an annoying real-time problem. There's a security robot patrolling a building you must snoop around in, and you must evade or hide from the robot. The annoyance comes largely from the amount of time it takes the robot to do a sweep of the room when you're hiding: over a minute, during which nothing happens. Once per room -- so that you must find the appropriate hiding spots -- would have be fine, and the sweep itself should be truncated to 15 seconds or so.

I occassionally had problems with the dialogue trees. You don't choose exactly what Tex says, but instead are just given a description of the tone of the available comments. Some times I found the resulting comments quite different from the descriptions, and a few times I couldn't understand the descriptions at all.

These problems loom tiny when compared with the game's rich world. There are many interesting characters that are fun to chat with. While the challenges aren't difficult, they're usually not obvious either. It's one of the very few interactive movies that has both a movie calibre story and game calibre interactivity.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.