Martian Memorandum, Tex Murphy's second detective adventure, is truly a sequel to Mean Streets in every sense of the word, boasting many of the same weaknesses and the same major strength: an excellently plotted and well-written story that will interest you enough to complete the game. Thankfully, this time around Access fixed some of the major weaknesses of the first game and, while far from being the "great interactive movie" that it was touted as, Martian Memorandum is still a very enjoyable detective game.
The story begins as Marshall Alexander, a billionaire tycoon, asks you to find his daughter Alexis, who has been kidnapped by...well, who knows. He gives you three or four leads, and from there you're off. Most of the game is basically asking every character every question you can, and then proceeding to the new leads that they give you. Although there are more "puzzles" then were found in Mean Streets, this game is still a far cry from Police Quest. One of the most annoying things in the game, to me at least, is the inability to walk diagonally. It sounds petty, but it bugged the heck out of me, just as it did in Mean Streets and Access' Amazon: Guardians of Eden (a true classic). Being forced to move either up/down or left/right makes movement a real chore, especially if you're controlling with the mouse.
Thankfully Access realized the dreadful mistake that they made with the speeder sim in Mean Streets. Now, as it should have been in the first game, it's just a matter of clicking on the name of the place you want to go and you're there. This is very convenient considering how often you'll find yourself going from place to place rapidly looking for new clues.
The story for Martian Memorandum is set in the future, and involves plenty of aliens, some of them absolutely disgusting in appearance. A bit less than half of the game is actually spent on the planet Mars, interviewing everyone from very normal humans to revolting mutants with their brains actually growing outside of their head. Eek. Anyway, the story is very well written. As a good detective story should be, all is nothing like what it seems in the very beginning. More and more sinister players are revealed, and you realize how many secrets are being kept from you. Like an orange, you'll slowly peel layers off of the story until you finally get to the truth behind Alexis' abduction, and you'll enjoy getting there.
Martian Memorandum, unlike Mean Streets (which made the same claim), is a game that was ahead of its time with its well-digitized graphics and excellent digitized voices. I don't remember any game from this era (1992) that had nearly as much digitized voice as Martian Memorandum, and it all fits the character it belongs to very well. Of course, we don't get to hear Tex's voice, but that leaves the door open for the gamer to do their best hard-boiled detective impersonation.
Another improvement this game makes on its predecessor is that it understands that it is an adventure game and not an action/adventure. As stated earlier, the speeder sim is thankfully adios, and the sequences manuevering through the waves of gangsters are also gone. There is a rather pointless crawlspace sequence a la Space Quest 5, but other than that this is a purist's adventure.
Thankfully there aren't nearly as many negative things to say about this game as there were about Mean Streets; it's altogether a solid adventure game. The story is sometimes a bit confusing and not quite as excellent as that in the first game, but it's still miles ahead of most adventure game plots. The graphics and sound are very decent, and the game as a whole is much easier and less frustrating to play than Martian Memorandum. It's not Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes by any stretch of the imagination, but it's still a pretty good detective game that fans and even non-fans of Tex should take a look at.