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Martin Mystere: Operation Dorian Gray

Developer:  Artematica Entertainment
Publisher:  GMX Media

Preview by Rosemary Young (March, 2005)

I haven't read the comics on which this Martin Mystere game is based, so in sampling the first part the journey I've just met the man himself. He's an investigator who specialises in weird and wonderful phenomena. Just look around his house and you'll find it crammed with artefacts from all kinds of exotic locations ... ritual masks and carvings, urns, statuettes, framed copies of Chinese writing, and books by the dozen.

He's a bit like Gabriel Knight or Indiana Jones with his penchant for delving into the strange and obscure, but Martin has some peculiarities of his own. He has that comic book, square-jawed, square-shouldered hero look, that screams out he'll take no nonsense from anything or anyone. Well he seems to have met his match in his wife, Diana, because 'God, forbid', he wouldn't dare mess with Diana's personal belongings. There are some things 'out of bounds' to Martin in his household.

Ring, ring
As the game opens Martin is awakened from another nightmare by the telephone. He learns about the shooting of an eminent scholar at MIT and is called to the murder scene. No further explanation is forthcoming, Martin will deal with that later, the immediate problem is getting out of the house. Alas, he is 'grounded' and to this end Diana has extended the 'out of bounds' territory of the household. She's confiscated the key to his 'fortified' wardrobe so he can't get dressed. Even if the wardrobe was 'breakable' I suspect Diana might be displeased with any scratches. Added to this, the car's in the garage for maintenance and where did he put the mechanics telephone number?

It's a light-hearted start, with a promise of an intriguing investigation. Nothing too much is given away regarding the background of the crime, but looking around the house gives plenty of clues as to what Martin usually gets up to. The graphics are excellent. There is a myriad of things to poke into; you can admire the exotic artefacts that adorn the walls of the living room and the study, saving the kitchen for inspecting more familiar every-day objects. You can look at almost everything for a description and get a feel for Martin's world. In the kitchen he might have something say about Diana's organisational skills, and sometimes you will get a potted history of various carvings or other exotic decorations.

Tantalising
Not only are the graphics clear and intricate but Martin's shadow changes with the light source in every room and there's some easy-going mood music in the background. Doors click as they open and close, the tap drips, truly annoyingly, and the mixer will grind if Martin turns it on. Of course, not everything is interactive but the degree of interactivity means high involvement in the game world.

Finding that telephone number isn't a mammoth task, and nor is getting into the wardrobe, so the problems are fairly fathomable. But at the same time they do require some careful searching and a little imagination. Locating Martin's mobile phone puzzled me for a while, but I don't own one so I have an excuse. Besides the good amount of feedback, there is also guidance in the game when Martin refuses to leave home when you don't have all you need, and he also makes some notes so you've got an idea of what's to be done.

Simplicity
Everything is done with a simple mouse click so the interface is extremely intuitive. There are four cursors, one for indicating exits and the other three for look, use/take and talk. Just click the right mouse button to cycle through choices of action. The inventory appears below the game window where you can look at inventory items to get a comment from Martin. Newly acquired items are highlighted with a green box to remind you to inspect them.

The voice acting is just fine, and very clear. I had only one conversation with Java, a man of many grunts, but he conveyed his meaning eloquently. In the options menu you can enable subtitles but, at least for this demo, a lot of the descriptions of objects are text only. So Martin doesn't speak every word which would have been nice, but this is made up for by the sheer volume of feedback. You can even skip through the dialogue or the text if you get impatient.

In short, Martin Mystere: Operation Dorian Gray looks good, sounds good and feels good. From this short teaser it's looking like a gentle game with gentle humour, but I have no doubt that later on solving enigmatic mysteries will mean a bit more work than finding phones. It's a return to the classic adventuring fare that many are so fond of, so if you have a hankering for a bit of fun solving a mystery then you will surely be in for a pleasant surprise with Martin Mystere. I particularly appreciated the amount of interaction built into the gameworld, something that is lacking in a lot of recent games. It heightens involvement and makes exploration even more enjoyable.

You can buy Martin Mystere from GMX Media.

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2005. All rights reserved.