REVIEW: Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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Telsa Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | oprainfall
Title Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure
Developer Big Finish Games
Publisher Atlus
Release Date May 7, 2014
Genre Adventure
Platform PC
Official Website

In Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure, Tex Murphy is back! A veteran of the point-and-click adventure genre, the Tex Murphy games have been loved by fans and critics alike. Now, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign (which raised $612,489 out of a proposed $450,000) and a helping hand from Atlus, a new chapter in the Tex Murphy saga has been released. Did fans get what they paid for, or should the developers hang their heads in shame?

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | Tex Murphy PI

The year is 2050. The place is New San Francisco. You are Tex Murphy, private eye (and, when that isn’t paying the bills, dance instructor). Tex wakes up on his stairwell, a little hazy, and aware that a kidnapping has been committed. As Tex asks some questions around town, he finds out that he can’t remember seven years of his life. If that weren’t enough, he finds that he became a radically different individual over those years. People living on Chandler Avenue — the street Tex calls home — are afraid of him. The last thing Tex remembers is that he and his girl were kidnapped and shot. Tex sets out to regain his memories, and find out what happened to his girl.

Fair warning: Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure serves to resolve the cliffhanger ending from the previous game, Tex Murphy: Overseer. That said, I have not played Tex Murphy: Overseer, and I was able to mostly follow along, thanks to helpful recap videos scattered throughout the game. After all, it’s been 16 years since Tex Murphy: Overseer was released. Even fans of the series might need a refresher on what happened.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure follows standard formula for an adventure game: talk to NPCs, collect doodads and use those doodads to solve puzzles. There are two modes, Casual and Gamer. I suggest that everyone use Casual. Casual mode offers a good hint system, and, as an added bonus, as you shine your flashlight around, items you need to pick up will shimmer. There are even puzzles you can skip entirely if you’re having problems solving them. There’s no penalty for playing on Casual, so, even if you don’t plan on using the hints, it may be worth your while to have them available anyway.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | Delightfully Odd Characters

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure is a full motion video (or FMV) game. It uses real human actors to portray its characters. And, through use of creative makeup, they’ve managed to cartoonishly exaggerate many of their actors. Just look at some of the results, shown above. Even normal-looking characters are unique and memorable. For instance, Holly Graham (lower right hand corner). She may look normal, but she’s a hologram fighting for hologram civil rights. Get it? Holly Graham? Yeah, it’s a bad pun, and the creators know it, so they make fun of it.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | Cutscene Controls

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure has some really good actors. Tex is a great lead. He’s got charm, and always has a comeback quip ready. Kudos to Chris Jones (also the game’s director) for doing such a good acting job. He really sells the “noir detective in the future” theme that the series is going for. And the rest of the actors do a good job, even when they’re covered in strange makeup. The performances here are the potential of FMV realized. And, in case you need a bathroom break during a cutscene, there’s a pause feature.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | The Big Finnish Detective

As in Big Finish, the studio who created the game.

In case you hadn’t guessed, humor is a huge part of the game. Tex has a way of making a joke out of anything. There are some “in” jokes, but there don’t seem to be any jokes that require an intimate knowledge of the series (and the one joke that does reference a previous game actually has a recap video associated with it, so everyone can get in on the joke). There is a lot of puns and jokes about adventure game design. I really got to know Tex over the course of the game, and it gave me a reason to care about the mystery I was supposed to solve.

Telsa Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | 3D World

Unlike FMV games of the past which used still frames and video transitions to simulate movement, Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure’s world is fully rendered in 3D. You can fully explore each area. You’ll move through the world using the keyboard to move and the mouse to look around, like a first-person shooter. Should you prefer gamepad controls, they would be well-implemented except for one fatal flaw: there is no way to move around with the gamepad. All the buttons are ready to go, and looking around with the control stick works pretty well. The controls are so close to functional I wouldn’t be surprised to see an update that patches them in.

There may be a snag for those of you with less powerful computers: I ran into some issues while I was playing. I consider my laptop mid-range (soon to be low-range, but that’s another topic), but even on Low settings, there were some frame rate problems. Additionally, in Chandler Avenue, I had problems with the sound repeating and cutting out, and since that’s where you spend a good portion of the game, that’s a big deal (though, oddly, all the other areas of the game are free from this issue). I was really annoyed at the end of the game, when what was supposed to be a thrilling climax stuttered all the way through. I wouldn’t consider it unplayable, but it did take me out of the experience. You may want to download the demo first. However, when the game works fine, the presentation really works. The graphics and music really sell the gritty, noir cyberpunk world the game is going for, so it’s a shame that the game isn’t well-optimized for less powerful computers. This game especially doesn’t need the most powerful hardware to be enjoyable.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure | Not Really Sure What These Do

There’s even some replay value here, if you want it. Over the course of the game, you’ll be given choices that can impact the narrative. There are three main narrative threads and five alternate endings. That’s great, but I had problems. There are times I was given dialogue options, and I had no clue what those options would do. Take those choices above: those made no more sense for me in context than they do to you right now. Now, it seems that the most important choices do make sense, but I’d have liked to see more thought go into the writing of some of these options.

Technical issues aside, I really enjoyed Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure. It’s a good story in an interesting world. Fans of the Tex Murphy series should really pick it up, but they probably already did when they backed it on Kickstarter. For new players? I don’t know. I enjoyed it, but maybe you’d get more out of it if you played the previous games. For what’s it’s worth, I put 10 to 12 hours into it, so with the multiple paths, you could easily sink 30 hours into this game. For $20, I’d say it’s worth it. I definitely recommend you play it, whether that’s now or a little further down the line. Either way, I hope this isn’t the last we hear from Tex Murphy.

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher.

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure is available on Amazon:

About Guy Rainey

I’m Guy Rainey. I’m a hardcore Nintendo fan, a PC enthusiast, and a Sony sympathizer. Also an amateur/aspiring game creator. I love any game that puts story as the main focus of the game, so that means JRPGs are my favorite genre almost by default.

  • sbenrap

    Great review!

    The new update to 1.3 resolves all the stuttering issues, so don’t let that put you off anymore.