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Reviewed: Crime Stories: From the Files of Martin Mystere
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: April 12th, 2006
Page: 2
Over in Europe, Crime Stories was released as Martin Mystere: Operation Dorian Grey. Mystere is a relatively popular comic book character from Alfredo Castelli, and fans of older literature and/or the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic book series will recognize the name of the long-lived Mr. Grey - although he's never actually referenced in the game itself.

The Good

Before I get into beating this title up, I should give it fair treatment, and there are a few redeeming qualities. Graphically, despite the limited resolution  the game's gorgeous and sports amazingly well-detailed environments as well as highly detailed character models. Conversations play out with mostly in comic book-like panels, focusing on the speaking character. If the designers had been in a contest to construct environments for a game to be produced within, they'd have had a hard time not winning.

The interface is the same one many adventure titles have begun using lately; a "widescreen" display with black borders on the top and bottome of the screen, reserved for inventory items, interaction cues, and subtitles to appear. It's a solid technique and does a good job of extending screen real estate, though players with widescreen monitors will either play it incredibly stretched out, or sacrifice black bars on the side as well.

Musically, they've got it down as well,

Get used to words like "Pfu."
 You'll see them frequently.
Welcome to the bedroom.
 They spent a lot of time on detail.
Most of the conversations happen
 in pseudo-comic-book windows.

The Bad

Regretfully, those are about the only good sides to the game. The character models are all caricatures; whether this is in keeping with the comic book I'm not sure, but Mystere's wife Diana looks less like a woman and more like a barbie doll, his assistant Java like an prehistoric caveman, and Mystere's got the proverbial chin which could sink the Titanic. The dialogue recordings are equally atrocious, and my ability to play the game was only saved by the fact that I turned off my PC speakers, slammed some music into the CD player, and read the dialogue entirely through the game's subtitles.

To get an idea of what I'm talking about for the voice acting and game translation, imagine someone doing their best (or worst) William Shatner impression, refusing to read their dialogue until the subtitles for it pops up rather than letting it flow naturally. Words like "uh", "pfu", and "meh" appear often and without warning; "Meh" seems to be Mystere's catch-all phrase for not understanding quite what the player is trying to do. Java communicates in grunts, cementing his prehistoric image, although for some reason Mystere has the ability to translate his gruntings perfectly.

If Java were a border collie named Lassie, this would actually be more believable.

The Indifferent

The rest of the game's mechanics are fairly common and straightforward. The game's designers seem to have played one too many games where every item's got a purpose, and so threw in a good many that don't except to be played around with; items can be combined as well. Luckily, inventory is infinite, so collecting everything is recommended.

The game's only got eight save slots, too, but unless you're sharing the game with a family of people, eight ought to be plenty.

Bottom line: If you're a serious adventure game player, and are willing to turn the sound off and enjoy without it (or are blissfully deaf and don't care about the sound), Crime Stories might be for you. The rest of the gaming community should give this one a wide berth.

Added:  Thursday, April 13, 2006
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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