Mean Streets

02 Jan
2 January 2010

 

Memento Review of Mean Streets

I  tracked down a copy of Mean Streets on Amazon.  When it arrived at the Robot offices, it touched off a fit of nostalgia with some of the designers.  Two days later, GOG offered it and Martian Memorandum for free, saving me the need to turn on my 486.

Mean Streets wasn’t the first PC game that I played but it was the first one that really hooked me.  We didn’t have a PC when I was growing up so I would buy games and read the manuals until I happened across a place where I could install them (Infocom games and the Ultimas were the best for this, as they had so many fascinating things in the box).  I made friends with the rich kid and allowed a girl whose parents had purchased her a PC for college think we were dating expressly to play this game.  I carried it around, unfinished, for years, advancing it in snippets when I was able to avoid detection at the CS labs or sneak into someone’s dorm room.  Fittingly, I finished it on the first PC I purchased myself (which, thanks to easy credit for college students, probably ultimately cost more than all the other PCs I have since purchased).

The game was released in 1989 and the contents of the box are telling of the different universe that was in use then:

  • The 5.25 labels have the street address and phone number for the developer on them.
  • “Computers with clock speeds greater than 6MHZ (such as Turbo)will tend to have slightly higher quality sound than slower machines.”
  • “6 Disks” listed on the box as a feature.
  • The manual repeatedly urges the player to “write things down” and “SPELL CORRECTLY”.

There was a bet that 15 minutes with the game today would shatter my rose tinted glasses.  I finished it in two days (I remembered most of the puzzles when I got to them).

Two design-related things I thought of while doing this:

  • The videophone is a really good device for this game.  Lee Chin serves as a cheat system.  So many games of this era had hard stops where you just couldn’t figure out what to do next.  This avoids that.
  • The entire game is a lesson in what you can accomplish with a fairly small number of systems.  Consider that, at the heart of this, the bulk of this game is navigating a chat tree.

The notes and images that follow are (per that bet) from my playthrough, so you probably want to read on only if you’re really interested in the game.

Oh, also, my favorite element of the vision for the future presented in the game — in 2033, we’re going to be so freaking advanced that you’ll have a fax machine in the dash of your car.

Preface

It is 2033.  I am a private detective Tex Murphy.  Sylvia Linsky has been sent to me by Detective Steve Clements.  Her father, Carl Linsky, a professor of neuropsychology at the University of San Francisco, has been killed.  She wants me to investigate.  He took a consulting contract eight months before his death and wouldn’t tell her who it was with.  SFPD has ruled his death suicide — he jumped off the Golden Gate.

She found a fax — Professor: You were right about these boys.  They play for keeps.  Watch your step.  S.F.

Linsky also had a fiancée — Delores Lightbody.

Into the Car

I’m trying to remember how my flying car works when a fax comes across from Vanessa.   I call her back and ask her to check out Delores Lightbody and Carl Linsky.

I call Lee Chin too but she wants cash for her information.  I’ll hold on to my 10k for now, hotpants.

Vanessa gets back to me with NCs for Carl and Delores.  I’m going to check out Carl’s office first.

Carl’s Office

This is awash.  I find nothing.  Nobody has been there in a while, which makes sense given the eight months time off.

Let’s visit Delores.

Delores

Delores is a real looker.  She confirms that Carl had been working on a project he would not talk about.  She thinks he had a lab somewhere in the city.  Also that his work was for the government because everything was top secret.

Delores did not get along with Sylvia.  Sylvia was upset when she talked to Peter Dull.  Insurance company will not pay $1M policy because of suicide.  Says Carl took out policy several months ago, worried about his health.

Let’s try Carl’s apartment.

Carl Linsky’s Apartment

There’s a note on his fax – “Looking forward to our date Saturday. Love, Sandra Larsen.”  He was killed on Sunday, so that’s interesting.  Looks like the SFPD really dug into this one.

There’s a bishop missing from chess set.

Find another note: I’m going to get you for failing me, Linsky.  That seems strange.

In the bar, I find a shoebox with papers, including one signed by S.F.  It mentions possible Nexus passwords to be decoded: ISBPHO (which I wager is BISHOP), UEQNE (ok, I see where this is headed), LASENTOLW, NODGAR, GNOP, NIKG, OORK, EHCETMACK, BMGTAI, ETSAELMAT,  SLCTAE, NIKTGH, CLBAK, TEWIH.

He also has a bottle of Jack, which I take.  As evidence.

Find a key on his desk chair.  In the trashcan is a lease for a space in the Bridgeview Warehouse (4675) rented to 10 months ago – his lab, perhaps?  Also a letter to Delores Lightbody breaking off their relationship (mentions Sandra Larsen).   There’s a 2 inch DAT in the desk.  Also find a grade sheet for psych course with the name Blaze Wiener circled – he got an E.  Play DAT in player on desk – They’re in my head!  They’re in my head!

Cabinet has a textbook written by Carl, page marked and safe combo – 37-3-16.  Also a file cabinet key.  Wall safe (of course) behind the picture with $1k — more evidence.

Let’s ask Vanessa about Sandra Larsen (finds address and faxes) and Blaze Wiener (she doesn’t know about him), then head back to Delores to ask her about Sandra.

Delores

She knows about Sandra – the tramp.  Nothing about NEXUS or Blaze.

Let’s talk to the medical examiner real quick.

John Richards

Confirms the suicide, Carl jumped from the bridge, and faxes me the autopsy report.  Doesn’t know much else.  Time of death  10-1130pm, 20 SEP 2033.  Report mentions a burr hole in his skull…recent surgery.  Hmmmm….  They’re in my head?

Go talk to detective Clements.

Steve Clements

Witness to Carl’s suicide is Bash Dagot.  He’s upset that Sylvia won’t let this go.  Carl is a suicide, he left a note and everything.  Bash is a lowlife.  Steve is scared by the Law and Order party but a lot of cops like it.  He didn’t know Carl had insurance policy (great work, detective).  Let’s go talk to that agent.

Peter Dull

VP, TransAmerica Insurance.  Carl took out his policy in July — 2 months ago.  Delores said he did this because he wanted to leave his daughter something and was worried about this health.  He would have been in the middle of this project.  Maybe it was getting dangerous at that point?  If so, suicide doesn’t make much sense as he’d have known they wouldn’t pay.  Sylvia upset about insurance payout.

Time to visit Sandra…

Sandra Larsen

She’s more like it.  A nice switch from Delores.  Started dating Carl two months ago.  Delores had a temper.  Sylvia can be wild.  Ask about Law and Order, she mentions MTC.  Says they’re hiring scientists.  Mentions something to do with Gideon.

Let’s go to Carl’s lab downtown.

Carl Linsky’s Lab

Holy shit, his lab is in an awful neighborhood.   I get attacked by an endless parade of goons armed with rifles that fire slow moving bullets.  Surviving this, I head inside and find a watch in his desk.  Check ledger there – deposit from MTC corp, a check to PI Sonny Fletcher.  Might be the SF initials from the note in his apartment.  Wonder why he hired a PI?  Blue NEXUS passcard in bandaid can in a cabinet.  Calendar with 3 OCT 2033 circled – DOOMSDAY.  Hmmm….  Only a few days from now….  There’s a file cabinet drawer that opens with the key I found at his apartment – list inside of scientists that might be working on OVERLORD – John Klaus, Maurice Gribble, and David Pope.  Newspaper with article circled on death of scientist Cal Davis.  Fax from Sonny Fletcher – Professor, they’re on to you, disappear fast.

He has a PC there — the blue passcard and “bishop” password works.  Notes from Linsky.  8/10 – Frustrated at not being able to find other scientists working on project.  Possibly had PI (Sonny Fletcher) looking for scientists working on OVERLORD. 9/1 – to stop project needs all passcards and passwords — so, trying to stop it. 9/10 – thinks once a scientist is done with his part, he is eliminated.  9/16 – completed his work, uneasy, going to see J. Saint Gideon, former president of Gideon and MTC.  9/20 severe headaches, doing things that make no sense to him.  That’s the day of his death.  Mind control?

Let’s talk to Vanessa then go see Bash Dagot.  Hits on Maurice Gribble, David Pope, and Cal Davis.  Cal Davis found dead in his lab.  Professor U CAL  Davis, cyanide 631 overdose.  Smiley Monroe, police officer at Santa Barbara PD investigated.  Aaron Sternwood, friend who found him.  He mumbled a chess term before dying.  Saturday, day before Carl.

Bash Dagot

Attacked again when I get out of skycar.  Bash isn’t cooperative.  Some friendly punching helps.

He did see Carl jump, describes it as strange, zombie-like.  More ammo for that mind control theory.  Asked about Law and Order, he doesn’t want to talk, needs more punching.  Law and Order is the goon squad, wants to run the freaks out of town.  He knows Blaze Wiener — he’s a groundskeeper at Candlestick.

Let’s visit Blaze.

Blaze Wiener

Blaze was upset with his grade and sent the note I found at Carl’s apartment (the “I’m gonna get you”).  He admits it.  He’s having lunch when I visit — some red herring.  GET IT?

Let’s start digging in on the Overlord project.

Maurice Gribble

Dead end.  Been retired for years.

Next.

David Pope

Same as Maurice.

Let’s check on Cal’s case.  Cop first.

Smiley Monroe

Santa Barbara cop.  I have to bribe him.  Cal Davis appears to have killed himself, accidentally drinking cyanide instead of his coke.  Well, that sounds plausible.  Emergency call came in from Aaron Sternwood, a friend.  He did mumble something about chess.  No sign of foul play.  For another bribe, he tells me where I can find Aaron.

Let’s check Cal’s place.

Cal Davis

The police tape is still up at Cal’s.  The burglar alarm goes off as I enter.  Pretty sure the cops won’t be happy if they find me in there.  Move rat cage, find circuit box, kill the system.  Key in here.  Crazy lab.  Some insane animal in the cage — seems good not to allow him out.  Medical gear.  Doing something here.  Reminds me of the burr hole the ME said Carl had. “Control of Primate Behavior Through Microchip Technology” by Cal Davis.  Grab some loose microchips, find a file cabinet key.  Note in workbench drawer has September password for Cal.  Invoice in file cabinet, two days before Cal’s death, Precious Metal Inc., gallium arsenide bar for $2000 (for microchip development).

Cannot get box in cage, which probably has his card in it.  Will go see Aaron and ask about finding Cal, then back to follow up with all of this with Sylvia.

Aaron Sternwood

Claims good friend of Cal’s, going out that night.  What he said was “checkmate”.  Doesn’t think it was an accident.

Sylvia Linsky

Says she isn’t in it for the insurance.  Didn’t like Delores much, liked Sandra.  John Klaus and her father were friends years ago, had a falling out over Delores.

See Delores about John Klaus.  See if Chin knows Sonny Fletcher (for $1000).

Delores

Carl and Klaus were partners, she was dating John.  When she fell for Carl, John swore to never work with him again.  She has seen him recently.  He thinks he is in danger.  Hiding in Reno.

Let’s go see the PI first.

Sonny Fletecher

Sounds like he dropped the case because it got too dangerous.  Carl suspected Cal Davis was on Overlord, his death sounded suspicious.  Doesn’t know much about Overlord, suggests Wanda Peck at the Chronicle or J. Saint Gideon.   J. Saint Gideon lost presidency of his company to Frank Schimming.  Wants more cash to talk about MTC — it was a training center for Gideon, about a year ago, started hiring scientists.  Rumor was they were working on something called OVERLORD.  Law and Order is a fascist organization he thinks is involved with MTC and OVERLORD but couldn’t figure out how.

Let’s visit John Klaus.

John Klaus

Neuroscientist, feels his life is in danger because of MTC.   Was working on overlord.  His password is “pawn”. he gives me the green card.

Time to see what Wanda Peck knows…

Wanda Peck

Larry Hammond wanted her to do research on Overlord.  Developed 50 years ago in England.  Attempt to boost mental energy by hooking brain to computer.  Worked but also made them susceptible to suggestion.  Hmmmmm….

MTC stands for Management Through Control ,the “Management Training Center” is a front for Overlord.  Larry Hammond is a computer specialist who has done some work for MTC.  Ask Ron Meat where to find him.

Ping Vanessa on Frank Schimming and Robert Knott (cannot find a location), ask Chin about Ron Meat.

Let’s go see Gideon…

J. Saint Gideon

I find him studying a chess board, which seems to keep with the theme.  He was with British Intelligence.  MTC was to train managers.  Schimming didn’t like it so he is surprised it is still around.  Heard strange things are happening.

Ron Meat

Gives me a location for Larry Hammond and not much else.

Larry Hammond

Overlord is the continuation of a project started 50 years ago in England.  That attempt failed.  Goal is to control actions of an individual with microchips and satellites.  Tom Griffith, VP of MTC, hired him to build computer for Overlord, also 8 terminals.  Friend Cal Davis told him he had been hired to research controlling human behavior with direct brain stimulation.  When Cal died / was killed, Larry went into hiding.  He built a safety into Overlord.  To stop Overlord, I need to get to main computer and destroy the sat.  Need 8 cards and passwords for this.  His grey passcard was stolen by members of Law and Order party (his password is KING).

Other than Cal Davis, he doesn’t know any other scientists working on project.  Suggests I start with accounting people at Gideon: Jerome Milbourne, Ed Bradley, Arnold Dweeb.

Thinks Law and Order thugs are getting ready to move against the mutants, says the freaks will take the whole town with them if they do.

Thinks Tom Griffith is more responsible for what is going on than Schimming.  Has seen Robert Knott (Law and Order party) and Frank Schimming together while he was at MTC.

I’ll get Vanessa on our new mystery people.  Nothing on Tom Griffith or Arnold Dweeb but, has a line on Jerome Milbourne.

Let’s go see Schimming and dig into Gideon Enterprises….

Frank Schimming

He doesn’t seem happy to see me.  Carl Linsky was a suicide.  MTC is a place where new managers are trained, he thinks it’s a waste of time.  Gideon Enterprises makes surveillance gear.  He replaced J. Saint Gideon a year ago, JSG was senile.  Tom Griffith is in charge of MTC and would like to be in charge of the company.  The name “overlord” means nothing to him…

After I visit, I get a fax threatening me.  Ok, accountants…

Jerome Milbourne

Not at his place.  Neighbor says he went on vacation and won’t be back for weeks.

I get another threat fax…

Ed Bradley

Says he has nothing to do with accounting between Gideon and MTC and that Arnold Dweeb is my man.

Lee has a line on Arnold Dweeb for $500.

Arnold Dweeb

Agrees to meet me at the Oakland Coliseum 50 yard line…ok….  Wants to sell information.  Takes $3000 to get a list of people who got checks from MTC: Carl Linsky, Ron Morgan, Jorge Valdez, Brenda Perry, Greg Call, Cal Davis, Big Jim Slade, Tom Griffith, John Klaus, Bosworth Clark, Sandra Larsen, Della Lang, Sam Jones, Larry Hammond.

Interesting to see Sandra Larsen on there….

For another $1000 he tells me Gideon Enterprises is at 4650 (thanks).  He knows more.  I don’t have the cash to buy other info.

Another threat fax.

Get Vanessa on some of the mysteries and head over to see Sandra Larsen.

Sandra Larsen

She worked at MTC.  Arnold Dweeb gave her leering looks while at MTC.  She knows something about Overlord.  Doesn’t like Tom Griffith.

Let’s go see Tom.

Tom Griffith

Attacked on way to his house.

MTC will soon be more than management training.  Working on new surveillance equipment that will revolutionize the industry. He doesn’t like Larry Hammond.  Law and Order party is working with them on the new device, which will be used against “enemies”….  Says Overlord is a sat surveillance project.  J. Saint Gideon is a good friend of his?  Sam Jones too?  John Klaus wasn’t happy at MTC…they’d like to find him.

Let’s pull the thread and see if any of the lowbies will talk.

Jorge Valdez

Says everything is top secret at MTC.  Has seen Law and Order types in the office.  He knows something is up but not what it is.

Brenda Perry

She just started at MTC a few weeks ago and doesn’t know much.

Della Lang

Gideon hired her as an outside consultant to study their procedures.  Tom Griffith is a pain, stalls when asked about MTC, tries to ask her out.  She likes Schimming.  Heard J Saint say he’d get even with Schimming.  Has dated Ron Morgan and tells me about his cabin.  Doesn’t know about Nexus or Overlord or other people working at MTC / Gideon.

Ron Morgan

I get to his cabin, the one Della Lang told me about.  Find a fax (from Della) in the trash.  Near the desk and under the rug I find a loose floorboard which reveals a locked compartment.  Newspaper with article about Linsky’s death.  Handcuff key and nylons in couch.  Key in ashtray.  Another hidden in compartment on TV.

Wadded paper in fireplace, probably the torn off fax – professor, I have moved your gear to the beach house.  Find a deed for a place at 1710 in the lockbox…?  Desk drawer has a mortgage book for the beach house.

Ron Morgan

Beach house.  The door slams shut behind me and the alarm goes off.  I have 5 minutes to shut it down.  Luckily, it’s a switch on the coffee table.  Also, some cash there in a safe.  Passcard in fishtank, filled with piranha.  Watch in desk.  Answering machine message from Della.  Chess book with memo on shelf, note about his September password (STALEMATE).  Find fish food near the lamp, feed them and grab the card after they are full.

Morgan’s personal log says whoever hired him is a lunatic and he’s getting out of town.   I imagine he’s at the mystery address from the cabin.

Head for 1710

Ron Morgan

Nope.  Nothing on the property at 1710.

Time to check in with Wanda, see if any of the new names ring a bell for her.  Should see John Klaus again too.

Wanda Peck

Says Robert Knott wants to run things behind the scenes.  Afraid to talk about Law and Order party but will for bribe.  Larry Hammond can fill me in on them.  (I’ve already seen him.)  Not much else for her.

John Klaus

Tom Griffith threatened him.  Sam Jones is an “arrogant old Nazi” who works Vegas.  He’s faithful to Law and Order party.  He won’t cooperate.  Sounds like a friend of Tom Griffith.

Let’s go see him…

Sam Jones

Attacked on arrival.  I break into his lab.  Have to threaten him.  Claims Overlord is surveillance and almost operational.  MTC is going to grow, control the destiny of the world.  Working with “affiliate” Law and Order party.  Threaten and get his password (queen) and card (yellow).

Back to J Saint to check new names.

J. Saint Gideon

Ask about Tom Griffith — he hired him and they had an understanding about how to run things.  Would have liked him to be president instead of Frank Schimming.

Asking Lee about Greg Call, Big Jim Slade, and Bosworth Clark.

See Steve Clements about Greg Call and Big Jim Slade.  Peter Dull wrote a policy for Bosworth and might know how to find him.

Steve Clements

I’m no longer popular.  They aren’t supposed to give out info on the case to me.  Word from the chief.  I guess the Law and Order party is heavily connected.  Greg Call committed suicide in his apartment.  Law and Order goons had gone through his place.  Big Jim Slade is a hired gun, probably in town on contracts.  Ron Meat might know where he is.

Peter Dull

Did write policy for Bosworth Clark (Dr.) who he considers eccentric.  Lab in Death Valley.  Works with satellites try: 9932.

Ron Meat

Saw Slade a week ago, throwing money around.  Says he has been busy.  That means people are being murdered.  Doesn’t know where he is but will tell me if he hears anything.

Greg Call

Attacked on way in.  Find map that the Law and Order guys must have missed – 8911 NC (lab).

Greg Call

Lab is well hidden, cut into mountain.  Find a map of CA with Lost Dutchman Diamond mine (NC1700) circled.  Use mechanical arm to get key out of sealed gas chamber.  While fooling around, I trigger security – doors slam shut and I have five minutes to live.  Luckily, I find the button under a stalactite.  Recover a pole, which will allow me to get box from gorilla in Cal Davis’s lab.

Cal Davis’s Lab

Get orange card (and some cash) out of cage with pole.  Login on his machine.  6/10 – achieved control of chimp by drilling burr hole in skull and implanting chip (like Carl L.).  6/22 – able to control physical movement of the animal.  7/10 – able to insert into optical cortex, control visual images.  7/26 – starts to question intended use of research based on experiments being asked to perform.  8/10 – instructed to test on humans, informs them he will have no part of that, does not think they have been honest about use.  Also find screwdriver in one of the rat cages.

Lost Dutchman Mine

Nothing.

Bosworth Clark

Someone got to Clark before me – he’s dead on the floor.  The place has been torn apart.  Have seen Camel cigarette butts at several of the places now.  Big Surf Hotel on matchbook – 5162.  List titled “caged rats” with names of some of the biz and political leaders of the state.  Clark dead around 18 hours.  Garrote around throat.  Possibly difficult to make that look like a suicide.  Address book with “call Frank Schimming” note.  Find gloves.  These will allow me to move those vines at Greg Call’s lab.

Greg Call

Get purple passcard from shelf cut into vine covered stalagmite.  Guess his password.  Notes on his machine indicate he knew they were building something nefarious.

Big Surf Hotel

Big Jim Slade was staying here but checked out.  The room hasn’t been cleaned yet.  I search it and find a fax instructing him to add Lola Lovetoy to his list, she knows too much.  It is signed by RK.  (Robert Knott?)

I ask Vanessa to look into Lola Lovetoy – she’s at her club 4603

Frank Schimming

Need to ask him about Bosworth Clark.  Says he got a call from a man by that name a few days ago, wanted to talk about something important.  Hasn’t called since.  Has been with Lola Lovetoy.

Lola Lovetoy

Introduced to Frank Schimming by Tom Griffith.  Griffith paid her to keep an eye on Frank.  Gave her a key to an apartment (4605).  Tom Griffith and Law and Order were working on a project and didn’t want Schimming to know about it.

Lola’s Apt

Attacked on way in.  Find suitcase with Big Jim Slade tag.  Guess he moved here from the hotel.  Note in suitcase with LA airbus NC 5194.  Find a Law and Order binder with NC 5037 on it.

LA Airbus Station

Find the black passcard in a locker along with a note – KORO (ROOK).

Law and Order Offices

Attacked by security.  Gotta move quick.  Kill alarm.  Safe combo in closet jacket pocket, safe behind picture holds cash and grey card — Larry Hammond’s stolen card.  Plans in toolbox for remodeling work at a secret location and “see security chief for NC to secret location”.  Letter suggesting 5 OCT be first holiday since it will be the day they take over the world.

Minutes from last meeting, in attendance are Robert Knott (president), Bazil Mallory (VP), Melba Wiedbush (secretary), Stanford Demille (attorney).

Message on answering machine from Slade “Clark has been taken care of”.  Memo in cabinet arranging payment to Slade for this.

Get Vanessa to work on new names…

Stanford Demille

Their lawyer.  I decide he isn’t worth talking to.

Melba Weidbush

She’s an idiot.  Also not worth talking to.

Check with Lee on Bazil Mallory.  Sends me to Sonny.

Sonny Fletcher

Ask about Bazil Mallory – he’s at 2713

Bazil Mallory

Attacked by his body guards.  Mallory is hiding in a closet.  Secret lab is on Alcatraz – 4550.  They’re going to take over the world.  Law and Order is security for MTC.

Alcatraz

Endgame.  I get to the terminal and (after two tries) enter in all the cards and codes fast enough.  Turns out J. Saint Gideon was behind it all the time.

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