Full Moon in San Francisco Review

I had been following the progress of this game for several months and had been anticipating its release with the hopes of playing it. So it was a very pleasant surprise when Canadian game developer, Alternative Games, sent me a free review copy of Full Moon in San Francisco in the mail.

In the accompanying letter, Jools Knight of the AG Team wrote, "We have tried to create a game original and entertaining, while at the same time providing characters' depth and story line... Please note that the game has not been designed to provide exceptional graphics or stunning special effects, although we are working on improving this aspect considerably in Adventure II, but simply to offer players the opportunity to have a good time with a story that is both fun and exciting." Let's see if the "AG Team" succeeded with their goals.

The back of the game box tells you the basic story. You are young and unemployed -- and have always wanted to be a private investigator. You have an appointment for an interview with one of San Francisco's finest investigative agencies, Copper & McIntosh. Just making it to the interview on time is a challenging experience. After talking with the owner, Mel Copper, you are hired! Solve the case and the job is yours permanently. You play in first person but will meet and converse with over 30 characters, pick up objects, solve puzzles, and use magic. Sounds intriguing!

The game ships on one CD-ROM. Installation went without a hitch, although it took a little long to copy the many files. Starting a new game brings up the "Character Generation" screen, a different aspect in an adventure game. The choices you make on this screen determine the situations presented to you in the game and the attributes assigned to strength, aim, magic abilities, etc. Choose whether to play as a male or female, your age, and how much money to start with. You even get to pick a pet!

Full Moon is divided into days and begins, naturally, with Day 1. The beginning background story is a bit long, but humorous just the same, and it can be skipped through by clicking on the "Continue" button. When the game starts, you can see what Jools was talking about regarding the graphics. They are simple, hand-drawn and cartoon-like, lacking the dimensional depth present in other games. But at the same time, they are clean, colorful, and original.

The interface has been creatively designed and is refreshingly different from other games I have played. The main game play screen is a window centered on your screen with a colorful border around the edge. Pointing your mouse cursor to the absolute edges of the screen gives you access to your inventory, audio options, saving and loading, your "P.I. Notebook" and statistics. In-game hints are provided by clicking on the "Goals" button, which will tell you what you need to do -- but not how to do it. Movement arrows can be found at the edges of the screen to lead you forward, left, and right. A magnifying glass appears when you can look at an area or object more closely. When you can add an object to inventory, a "fist" cursor is used.

I prefer knowing what I'm picking up before I do it by viewing a small description. In this game, the only way to know what you have acquired is to go into your inventory and examine it. And speaking of inventory, it too is unique. To look at an object more closely in the inventory window, click and drag a magnifying glass to it. A new window pops-up for viewing. None of the objects can be moved, turned, opened or closed, and no description is provided. When it is possible to use an object in the play area, click and drag it from inventory to the spot for interaction.

The game includes a completely original musical score which adds to the lighthearted feeling of the game. There are various soundtracks included for different scenes or locations, and all of them enhanced my enjoyment. The sound effects were well done also, and some were downright comical!

Voice acting was done extremely well and lip-sync with the simply-drawn characters was realistic enough for my taste. I liked the voice of the male main character much better than the female, who sounded slurred sometimes. The only criticism I have about the game's audio is the fluctuation of the voice volume between characters. Some spoke softly while others were much louder. It seemed that I was constantly turning my speaker volume up and down to compensate.

There is quite a bit of listening, and reading, to do in the game -- all of which is full of tongue-in-cheek comedy. Although you may want to skip through parts of the conversation, you must go through the whole sequence once you start. This is necessary in order to trigger other events. Although the dialog is mostly "canned," you do some have choices that directly effect the responses you receive. It is possible to make mistakes while talking to others. For that reason, it was nice to be able to save my game in the middle of conversations. I also liked the ability to open up my Notebook (for taking notes) and adjust Audio Settings during dialogs.

The number of saved games is only limited by your hard disk space. You can name it whatever you like and include a description. When electing to load a saved game, the file names are ordered alphabetically. If you have saved many games, it may take you a bit longer than normal to find your latest save. I found myself having to be creative with the names of my save files to keep them more organized (i.e. beginning each one with the Day number). It helped that my description and the date of the save were also recorded and viewable when loading. I would have liked to be able to view a list of my previous save game files while saving a new one.

As in most other adventure games, you must explore each area very carefully to uncover interactive spots. The little magnifying glass can be illusive. You must remember to patiently and carefully scan each screen with your mouse to be sure you didn't miss anything.

Puzzles are very much like those you would find in everyday life. You will be finding passwords for several computers and using e-mail, working with telephones, unlocking doors, talking with characters, and using items from inventory. Some of those puzzles will have you scratching your head while others are fairly easy. I would consider the overall difficulty of the game to be about middle-range -- not too easy or too hard.

In summary, Full Moon In San Francisco will keep you smiling (and laughing) all the way through. Embedded in the game are hundreds of situation comedies that have no bearing on "solving the case" but that add to the humor (making prank phone calls for instance). Playing the game twice, choosing to be male instead of female or visa versa, will give you a different character voice, different conversation replies, situations, and a new set of jokes.

In my opinion, Jools and his AG Team have succeeded in achieving their goals. The characters have a decent amount of depth, the story is a good one and will keep you interested. As you get farther into the game, the plot does get exciting. And, most of all, the game is fun to play. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys adventure games, especially those who do not judge the quality of a game merely by the look of its graphics.

-- Jeanne Muse