MANHUNTER: NEW YORK / Sierra / PC
The world of Manhunter was an atmospheric and interesting one, but unfortunately the games were dragged down by overly abstract puzzles, annoying mazes and irritating arcade sequences. The games are still somewhat more gentle than other Sierra adventures in that "Sierra hang-ups" are extremely rare and death simply kicks you back to the screen prior to the one you died on. Players of Manhunter: New York, however, will likely find themselves quitting before they reach the end anyway - even with a walkthrough handy - thanks to a long string of these irritants that just continues to get worse as the game goes on.
This game was released in '88 and takes place in the then-futuristic year of 2004. In 2002, an alien race called the Orbs descended on Earth en masse, shot the place up, and took over. Since the Orbs are basically just flying eyeballs with no apparent special powers, they accomplish their goals through the use of bitchin' spacecrafts, robots and other tools of high technology. They also employ turncoat humans to act as their police force - these "Manhunters" are mostly concerned with tracking down anti-Orb resistance activity and reporting it. The game begins with lucky you being selected to become a Manhunter.
The game is broken up into four days, each of which has a set of objectives you have to complete to end the day, but none of which are apparent to you at the start of each day. Each day, an Orb wakes you up at the crack of dawn and gives you some crime or another to investigate. This is done via your MAD computer, a sort of personal assistant that uses tracking chips implanted in all the humans to track the movement of people about the city. As each day begin you'll watch your suspect or suspects move about, then visit the locations they were at and search for clues.
You'll need this.
The designers claim on the box that you can choose to side with the Orbs or the humans, but really, the game forces you down a linear path and the only way you can really side with the Orbs is to shut the game off prior to Day 3 or 4. You may well end up taking the Orb side, however, as at about Day 3 the difficulty goes from "somewhat irritating" to "insufferable".
The three main points of contention I mentioned earlier are pretty manageable up to this point. There's three mazes that are a bit of a bear, but the game tosses you maps to two of them in-game if you're clever enough to recognize them and jot them down. The third is probably the worst puzzle of the game - you're expected to navigate a land-mine strewn Central Park by following the movements of suspects that you watch on the MAD, but their movements only give you the vaguest idea of what direction to go. Unless you use a walkthrough at this point brace yourself for plenty of try-and-die. There's a couple of arcade sequences that are also kind of tough, but should be more than doable for anyone with any sort of arcade or console game experience.
At Day 3, however, either the designers just got really thoughtless, or they purposefully decided to try to sell hint books. Twenty years after the fact, I STILL can't figure out how you're supposed to deduce the solutions to a number of these puzzles simply from information that the game gives you. You're virtually forced to use a walkthrough to get through Day 3, and then Day 4 is capped off by two really irritating arcade sequences.
The game uses the oldest version of Sierra's 16-color game engines, so the graphics are nothing to write home about and the music and sound consist mostly of annoying PC internal speaker (unless you have a Tandy 1000 with the 3-voice chip or some sort of emulation.) In spite of that, the dystopian version of New York it gives you is unique and intriguing enough to keep you suffering through the annoyances - I mean really, who else would have thought of alien eyeballs forcing humanity to wear monk robes and communicate only through writing and hand gestures? It's thus a shame that inconsiderate design handicaps the enjoyment of it.
* The Manhunter Shrine
* NAGI Emulator
* Old Trailer