Release: May 2009
Developer: Big Finish Games
Available Platforms: PC
ESRB Rating: T
Website: Big Finish Games
Many of you will remember the days when full motion video games starring live “actors” took over the games industry. A lot of these games were of extremely poor quality but there were a few gems in the pack. Some of these were the Tex Murphy games – Under a Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive and Overseer. There was just something unique and fantastic about a Sam Spade-style private investigator solving cases in a mutant infested future.
Unique and fantastic is how I would also describe the creators of the Tex Murphy series new point-and-click game Three Cards to Midnight. The game centers around a girl named Jess. She has just turned 30 and has found herself trapped in a room with a man she has never met before holding tarot cards – it’s not what you think. Jess has no memory of how she got there and the man insists she choose a tarot card to help remember how she got to where she is.
The game is broken up into seven stages with three tarot cards to a stage. At the beginning of each stage you’ll be asked to pick one of the three cards. Each of the cards represents a location relevant to Jess’s memory for instance Jess’s apartment, her parents home and even a sleazy motel – no, seriously it’s not what you think. After you select a location the unidentified man then asks Jess to select some key words that remind her of that particular location. You then need to match the items at the location with the keywords.
For example, one of the locations is a restaurant where Jess’s boyfriend proposed to her – so one of the keywords is ring. On the table is a box (ring box), next to it is a gummy worm (ring worm) and on the wall is a telephone (telephone ring). There are also items on the screen that have no relevance to the keywords – select one of these and you’ll earn a miss. Get 10 misses and you’ll have to start the location again. If you get stuck on a keyword then you can also use a hint – although it’s not as much of a hint as it is blatantly highlighting one of them remaining items.
Once you’ve found all the items relevant to a keyword you’re rewarded with a cutscene that reveals one of Jess’s memories. When you’ve solved all the keywords for that location you’ll have one final puzzle before you can select another tarot card – these can be anything from reassembling a shredded document to card puzzles featuring blackjack.
Solving these puzzles also reveal more of Jess’s mysterious history, which is the biggest puzzle of the game. Because you have complete control over the way the story transpires, it is up to you to put all the pieces together.
It’s not for everyone though.
If you only interested in playing games with high end graphics then Three Cards to Midnight is not for you. The visuals are a little dated but they don’t take anything away from the game. The other aspect that may turn off players is that some of the items you need to select in order to progress aren’t as clearly illustrated as some of the other items. There was a whip that looked like rope, a pea that looks similar to a gobstopper and an onion slice that looked a little like a drink coaster. Sometimes you’re just going to have to guess but other times you can access one of the hints – but you are punished at the end of the chapter with a lower score ranking.
There are not a lot of games like this out there and it’s only $20. If you’re a fan of games with a great story then this is a highly recommended title but for everyone else they should probably check out the trailer on the website before they part with the cash.