hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

Review: Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

6:00 PM on 05.09.2014 // Alasdair Duncan

Tex is back, older, but with a few new tricks up his sleeve

If there was one genre of game that really needed a Kickstarter shot in the arm, it was the Full Motion Video adventure game. Point-'n'-click adventure games were doing just fine, pre-Double Fine Adventure but the legacy of FMV games was a technological dead end. In the mid-1990s, the Tex Murphy series of adventure games were maybe the highpoint of the FMV craze, offering a good mix of point-and-click puzzle-solving and storytelling. 

After a successful Kickstarter campaign gave Chris Jones the chance to resolve the cliffhanger of the last game in the series, 1998's Tex Murphy: Overseer, fans are sure to lap up the chance to play along as Tex once again. Newcomers, however, might wonder what all the fuss was about. 

Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure (PC [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Big Finish Games
Publisher: Atlus
Released: May 7, 2014
MRSP: $19.99 / £14.99

Poor Tex Murphy; he's woken up after taking a bash on the head and found out he can't remember the last seven years. The last thing he can recall is being in a taxi with his love interest Chelsee Brando but she's now missing, presumed dead and apparently good ol' Tex has turned into a bit of a hard-nosed dickhead in the meantime.

Sure, at this point the amnesiac protagonist is a well-worn cliche but at least the gap helps to cover up the real 16-year gap between the last game in the series and Tesla Effect. There are plenty of nods and winks to the previous games in the series and small snippets of FMV footage Tex's previous adventures will pop up every now and again in an attempt to familiarize newcomers to the series. However, since most of these clips are presented without any context, or feature recurring characters, they fail to shed any new light on the story.

The majority of the game will take place on Chandler Avenue, a rundown part of New San Francisco. It's where Tex has his office and there's plenty of friendly locals in the area who can lend a hand; a lot of the game involves returning to Chandler Avenue and asking the residents questions that can usher you forward in the story. While Tesla Effect resembles an adventure game, it's a lot closer to the Westwood Blade Runner PC game from the late 1990s. There's not a lot of investigating to actually do; instead, Tex will be solving puzzles that will help him progress the story.

At the start of the game you'll get the option to pick either a Casual or Gamer mode; picking the Gamer mode turns off things like the in-game hint system and also prevents your flashlight from highlighting objects that can be picked up. The latter is really useful as you're exploring environments with plenty of objects and items within them, so it's handy to have something that can minimize clicking on every object until you find what you need.

The game also has a PI rating, which is something that can be increased by asking questions and finding clues; if you use the hint system or die, this will lower your score. At the start of the game, you're told that the PI score won't affect the ending you get, instead your choices will play into that. To the game's credit, these pivotal moments never stood out as points where the story could branch off, instead feeling like natural points where Tex was given some tough choices.

For most of the game, Tex has to solve a number of practical puzzles using commonly found objects. Since this is a game set in a futuristic world, you'll still need to find simple tools to solve most problems. Roughly about halfway through, Tex will find himself in a complex where he has to solve a number of puzzles in succession to proceed. Some of these are poorly explained so if you're playing on Casual, make use of the ability to skip them. None of the challenges in Telsa Effect use the kind of obtuse logic that can often blight adventure games but there's still some gamey-ness to them, like Tex carrying around an anvil in his inventory early in the game.

One of the main problems with Telsa Effect is the pacing; Tex spends most of his time in Chandler Avenue but he will travel to some other locations. However, sometimes you'll spend a few minutes there only to be back home and ready to ask the locals some more questions. Characters will pop up out of nowhere and move the story along but there's often periods where you have to fumble blindly looking for the one character that will give you the info you need. Tex's PDA "Smart Alex" will often nudge you in the right direction though and the hint system can be referred to if you just need an idea of what you need to do next, but an objective screen or quest log would have been useful. 

Overall, the game's visuals are a mixed bag. The FMV sequences look really sharp thanks to a 2K resolution and there's none of that mid-'90s era FMV compression that blighted the genre. However, the rest of the game looks like a game from the mid-2000s; Chandler Avenue looks like a slightly more polished version of Deux Ex (the original, not 2011's Human Revolution).

Considering the Kickstarter budget, it's understandably not the most polished-looking game on the market and it makes sense why there's only a few playable areas. Still, it's disappointing that the rest of the game looks uninspired compared to the excellent FMV parts. The character portrayals are a bit uneven, with Tex alternating between being a charming PI and a bumbling Clouseau-esque buffoon. Some of the make-up on the characters looks shoddy however, maybe due to the high resolution of the video; diner owner Louie has some big scars and teeth that aren't really convincing. 

Part of the problem with Telsa Effect is that it's clearly been made for Tex Murphy fans, people who have played the previous games. The mix of hardboiled sleuthing and slapstick humor is often jarring but it's something the series is famous for. Tex is the hero who saves the day and defeats hardened killers but he also hits his head a lot and makes corny jokes about everything he sees.

When reviewing a game that found life via Kickstarter, there's a temptation to write off a lot of criticisms one may have of the game because it's obviously being made for the people who have backed the project. Still, it means that newcomers will have to stick with Tesla Effect just to familiarize themselves with what's going on. While there's some nice attempts to somehow flesh Tex's origins out a bit more (why is a guy going around behaving like a 1920s PI in 2050, anyway?), the story overall can feel a bit muddled.

Telsa Effect is clearly a labor of love to a series that was so tied to the FMV fad of the mid-'90s that it's heartening to see it get another chance in 2014. The game features plenty of nods and winks to the classic noir detectives and there's some good performances too from Jodi Russel as Taylor and Steve Valentine as The Translator.

The humor doesn't always work and the puzzle design is still rooted in the series' 1990s adventure game roots, meaning it feels archaic in spots, but there are some welcome concessions to modern design with the flashlight and hint system. Tex Murphy might be alive in 2014 but he'll need to learn a few more tricks if he's to stay around for another adventure. 



Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure - Reviewed by Alasdair Duncan
Amicable - A presentable but unmemorable time. Focusing on the bright spots helps, and I appreciate the effort, but I won't be playing this repeatedly.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Alasdair Duncan, Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure Full_of_hornets Tips
Alasdair Duncan is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming that is not Fraser Brown. A long time Destructoid community member and forum moderator, he covers adventure, puzzle, F... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our community fisters, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding * to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

Status updates from C-bloggers

ChrisHannard avatarChrisHannard
Glory to The Many. The Many sings to us.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
Daily VGM #22 (Witcher 2) - Pam Pa Ram (The Witcher 3) [youtube][/youtube] Instant classic 10/10. It's a travesty it wasn't included in the soundtrack. Maybe CDPR is preparing for a special second disc release? I sure hope
Oh, look at that, the rough draft I choose not to delete of this paper I need to do! I can keep adding to that instead of starting over and getting frustrated and quitting. What a novel concept!
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Boys & Girls Whatcha doing ? Have you watched Shimoneta ? GO SEE IT [img][/img]
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
And speaking of Yo-Kai Watch, it sounds like the demo's out!
El Dango avatarEl Dango
Hello, Thomas. I see you're looking at our fine selection of quickposts. Do they please you?
OrochiLeona avatarOrochiLeona
Overwatch Beta livestreaming Thursday. All aboard the AWESOME train. CHOO! CHOO!
PSISomething avatarPSISomething
EXTREMELY SPOOPY TRAILER [youtube][/youtube]
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
I'm coming to realize my time off from blogging has made the progress I made at being succinct fade away into nothingness, as the world will see in about an hour. I also made Valkyrie Drive's boobs even more boring at Japanator last night! Somehow.
Apparently, Kero Blaster got an update... Neat.
Barry Kelly avatarBarry Kelly
[url=""]Deus Ex: Revision is now a thing that's on Steam for free [img][/img][/url]
Mike Martin avatarMike Martin
Wasteland 2 DC is out!
Torchman avatarTorchman
Just a reminder: If you game doesn't have a dancing murderer, or a dancing little girl, your not a GOTY contender.
Rudorlf avatarRudorlf
Season 2 of Fargo is out, and of course Fargo isn't Fargo without dumbass criminals, tragedy and black comedy mixed into one package. BTW, the Organic Mechanic is in this season.
PSISomething avatarPSISomething
Nintendo of America released a YouTube video promo for Fatal Frame 5. They used the 'word' "spoopy."
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Had the brilliant idea of watching the original Alien last night before bed. Totally didn't have crazy dreams afterward. Also, Bilbo Baggins was a total jerk in that movie. [img][/img]
gajknight avatargajknight
Sure Niero's all powerful, but does he have lips? Woah...
ShadeOfLight avatarShadeOfLight
Finished playing the fan localization for Ace Investigations 2. These guys did a fantastic job, despite this game having the single most convoluted plot in the entire series. Here's hoping that somehow, someday, Great Ace Attorney will get this treatment.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
Okay internet you done it... Playboy will not get nude girls anymore , too much competition. [img][/img]
more quickposts


destructoid's previous coverage:
Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure

  Apr 03

Tex Murphy: Tesla Effect is now available for pre-order

Celebrate by watching poor old Tex get beaten up

  Jan 28

Telsa Effect is old school point & click Tex Murphy

I just noir I remember seeing him somewhere...

View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:

Please contact Crave Online, thanks!


Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme

Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo

Back to Top

We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -