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Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure.

TranscriptEdit

People talk about adventure games in the 90s; they'll usually talk about LucasArts putting out masterpieces whenever the fucking planets aligned like Leonardo da Vinci, and Sierra being prolific but largely producing uniform beige like a jobbing painter and decorator. But one can easily forget that it was a broad and competitive age of PC gaming with a number of artistic phases. The one we don't like to talk about is the FMV phase, because for some reason, everyone felt having live action video in a game immediately turned on the green light for explicit sex and violence from realms that even the least supervised fourteen-year-old boy would be loath to probe, and with video compression being what it was at the time, we ended up with something that looked like partly-cooked pancake batter being poured onto the floor of a ketchup factory.

One of the very few decent FMV franchises was the Tex Murphy series which has lain dormant for many years, but in this wonderful age of Kickstarter, that is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange aeons even entitled nerds in their mid-30s creak open their wallets.

Tesla Effect is a brand-new, successfully Kickstarted Tex Murphy adventure, boldly bringing its signature FMV style to an age of HD, although it does mean that a little lighthearted niche adventure game ends up clogging up 12 sodding gigabytes of space! But what else besides HD video could do justice to every line that Chris Jones's face has acquired since he last played Tex Murphy in 1998? Sorry, that was needless cruel. We can't help how we age, nor indeed can game mechanics. OHHHHHH, this paragraph's going well! This is explained in the plot with Tex having mysterious amnesia of the previous seven years. Yeah right, seven of those special extra long years, maybe.

What I liked about the Tex Murphy games is that as well as sidestepping the FMV pancake-batter torture porn thing, they were lighthearted, good-natured, pulpy adventures about a lovable bumbler in a dystopian post-nuclear future who, for reasons best known to himself, dresses and acts like a stereotypical 40s private eye, which might explain why it did so well on Kickstarter, the land of never moving on from the past, where there's a big statue in the capital city of a man staring up his own bumhole.

Uniquely in its day, the Tex Murphys were full 3D first-person adventure games, albeit with that 90'\s Doom-style 3D that's like real 3D after you let the air out and drown it in a swimming pool, but Tesla Effect is the glorious full-polygonal 3D world the series always dreamed of. Just try not to notice that human characters all mysteriously vanish when it switches from FMV to gameplay 'cos it turns out 3D modelling is actually really hard.

In keeping with the private-eye thing, the first-person gameplay lent itself to an investigative style where most of the work is gliding around the locations on your invisible roller skates, waiting for your puzzle senses to tingle, with the potential tedium of the process lessened by constant examine dialogues that subtly build the work and establish Tex's likability. The other half of it is reading out an ever-growing list of topics to every single NPC over and over again, so they can overact directly to camera as they claim to know bugger-all. Both of these processes are enhanced for the modern age, with, on the one hand, a flashlight that highlights important objects and, on the other, HD video so huge you'll think you're trapped inside a wardrobe with the actor as they claim to know bugger-all about it.

But the question of whether or not Tesla Effect is true to the original series is probably the wrong question to ask, because of course it fucking is; the fans bankrolled it! It wants to attract newcomers to the series like it wants to attract their stinky grandma at a family function. I'm not a newcomer and there were still moments when the game went, "Hey, remember this character?" and I was like, "No." "Well, fuck you, 'cos we're pressing on anyway bold as brass!"

The real question is whether or not Tex Murphy games still hold up. Tesla Effect kicks off with some really nice intrigue when you're freshly amnesia-fied and wandering the streets searching for your first thread to start pulling on as all your old friends talk to you like you're a different man, but as the case unravels, it fails to live up to the promise of the mystery. The plot threads pile up like a horrific car accident, and it gets harder and harder to tell which severed limbs belong to what cadavers. Okay, so that guy was working with these guys who hired another guy from a previous game we're just going to assume you know about, and this other person is secretly related to a character who doesn't appear in the game, but we're going to bring them up like they're important anyway just to fuck with your flowchart.

The problem is created by the game's nasty habit of jumping ahead of us and bridging the gap with a brief explanation blurted hastily out like a promise of undying love to someone on a speeding train. So we have a scene where the wife of a missing person reveals herself to be a spy impostor type and then the narration goes, "Oh, by the way, Tex knows this woman; they hooked up once, so she's gonna seduce him in a hotel room that you're in now for some reason; go get 'em, tiger!" and then you're left standing dazed in a bedroom, clutching a bottle of champagne and a small pamphlet of advice from your dad.

And sometimes you don't even get the narration, as tends to happen with deaths. I was on a roof; I tried to open a gate, but clicking on it just dumped me straight into the "Game Over" screen without explanation. I assumed it was electrified and only noticed after solving the puzzle that no, there was just a big scary dog behind the gate, on the roof, presumably having been parachuted in by the 117th Big Scary Dog Airborne Division, and which was apparently killing me the moment line-of-sight was established with his electrified Eukanuba farts.

I like the game when it's about hunting for clues or having to pursue a lead involving, say, Snickers bars and deducing, "Hey, we should probably go and interrogate Mr. Snickers who wears a modified Snickers wrapper as a jockstrap." I don't like it when it's making some cockeyed play for gameplay variance by adding obnoxious amounts of sliding-tile puzzles and the like, often alleged to be "security systems" designed solely to keep out people who've never filled in the back of a cereal box, not to mention stealth sections that, again, dump you to the Game Over screen if a patrolling guard enters your approximate post code. The low point of the game is a huge ruined facility where all the bugaboos come home to roost: multiple useless rooms with few dialogues, instant-death monsters patrolling for irritation sake alone, and then out of nowhere, a fucking maze full of spiders, which I guess the builders installed because it was cheaper than a daycare center!

On the whole, Tesla Effect doesn't so much reinvigorate a franchise as it does remind you that it existed. And while it has the charm of a game created by actual humans out of love, to err is human and love is blinding. That's why you should always aim your love away from the eye sockets, fellas.

AddendaEdit

  • A different kind of pee eye: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • If you're going to associate fedoras with neckbeards then at least learn the difference between a fedora and a trilby
  • Did you know 'FMV' used to stand for 'Fucking the Missus Violently'

ScreenshotsEdit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey

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