Roswell, New Mexico - rumored to be home to aliens, a secret government base, and a national conspiracy. One man risks everything to discover the truth. Is it Independence Day? An episode of the X-Files? No it's The Pandora Directive, the latest Tex Murphy interactive movie from Access Software. Chris Jones returns as Tex in this sequel to Under the Killing Moon. The plot is complicated, the music is good, and the acting well, the acting tends to vary in quality. The story is based on a novel by Aaron Connors, and turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining experience. The biggest problem with most interactive movies is that they tend to be one or the other. Promising movie sequences can be derailed by an exasperating interface. An enticing plot can be destroyed by acting from the William Shatner School of Drama. The Pandora Directive manages to avoid both of these pitfalls with style and originality. The Virtual World interface implemented by Access works toward immersing you in the world of Tex Murphy. You can walk where you like, take what isn't nailed down, and generally roam the surroundings at your leisure. Control and point-of-view are similar to those of the billion existing games that resemble Doom. A couple of clicks of the mouse activate GET, TALK, LOOK, and other player actions. Toggling between movement and control is as simple as clicking a middle mouse button. The graphics are very good considering the genre. Characters look, move, and speak like real people - one advantage to using experienced actors. Unfortunately the backgrounds frequently look as if they were pasted behind the characters in the cinematic sequences. As you perform certain actions, you may trigger fixed sequences. The plot is driven by these sequences, which open up new possibilities. You may choose to play in one of two modes: Entertainment, which makes hints available and offers 1,500 total points; or Game-Players, which eliminates the hints while offering more points, puzzles, and scenes. Either way, the game should keep players intrigued for many days.
The Pandora Directive is good, but it isn't perfect. If you simply move the mouse around the screen, options besides LOOK will light up over objects with which you can interact. Patience is rewarded as you simply act on any object that you can grasp. The game also divides the scenes into days of action. Trigger events are required to advance the plot from one day to the next. But these small problems aside, the game is pretty entertaining. Seven possible endings, a few Star Trek jokes, and a main character that seems like a cross between Inspector Clouseau and Frank Drebin (of Police Squad) make this worth a look.