From the July 1996 issue of CD-ROM Today

The Pandora Directive

By David English

It may have the same lead actor and the same basic interface as Under a Killing Moon, but The Pandora Directive is not just the next installment of the Tex Murphy series. This as close as a CD-ROM has come to being a truly interactive movie. While other video-based adventure games grind to a halt each time the interactive portions of the game are introduced, Pandora seamlessly integrates its story and interaction.

As Tex Murphy, private detective, your mission is to interrogate a host of mischievous characters and try to solve the complex mystery surrounding the Roswell Incident. You can choose from three distinct narrative paths that branch to seven endings. You must also select the tone of your character's dialogue at 80 different points in the story. These choices determine your success and how the other characters react to you. You can be selfish, completely unselfish, or somewhere in between. Play in a selfish manner, and the other characters respond in kind. Continue to show no concern for others, and you move from a bright, Hollywood-like resolution to a dark, murky conclusion.

A character-based story isn't worth the discs it's mastered on without credible acting, an interesting plot, and an easy-to-use interface. Fortunately, Access has succeeded on all counts. As with Under a Killing Moon, Pandora's cast includes a few film and television actors such as Barry Corbin (Northern Exposure), Tanya Roberts (the last angel on Charlie's Angels), Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and John Agar (Fort Apache). Access' own Chris Jones continues to work well as the wise-cracking Tex. And while some of the minor roles are overplayed, the acting is better than you'll find in other interactive movies.

The plot includes elements of detective, adventure, and science-fiction films (roughly equal parts of The Maltese Falcon, Indiana Jones, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Thanks to Hollywood director and editor, Adrian Carr (The Man from Snowy River), the action moves along well, with the various plot elements coming together at the game's conclusion.

The game's interface is nearly identical to the one in Under a Killing Moon. It lets you navigate through the 3D rendered sets with 360-degree movements. You can use the space key to easily switch between the movement and action controls.

Unfortunately, not all of the game's scenes include interaction with other characters. Practical reasons may explain this absence; additional character interaction would have required more than the six discs the game currently uses.

The Pandora Directive is a state-of-the-art interactive movie that features a story, acting, and an interface a cut above similar CD-ROMs. By successfully linking the main character's actions to the development of other characters and the various endings, this disc demonstrates the kind of approach that will propel the interactive movie into a 21st-century art form.

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