For those who had the privilege to experience video games during the 80s and 90s (like yours truly), you probably noticed that the period between the late 80s and early 90s was probably the most prolific in terms of novelties.
Basically, developers back then threw every idea they had at the wall to see what stuck and what not. In other words, they weren’t afraid to experiment with new ideas and concepts, and creativity was the most valuable asset when creating new games. And sometimes, they came up with some interesting games like the one we’re about to review. I’m talking about Manhunter: New York.
Manhunter: New York is an adventure game developed by Evrywere and published by Sierra. It was originally released in 1988 for the Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Apple IIgs and DOS. The following year, it was ported to Macintosh by Fairfield Software.
The game was designed by Dave and Barry Murry and it was programmed using a modified AGI interpreter. It’s considered the 1st computer game by Sierra featuring a point-and-click interface.
But, as always, before we take a look at the game, let’s first look at the cover:
Talk about ominous covers! You can’t get much more ominous than this cover that depicts New York in shambles with some giant eyes above in a red background. Is somewhat reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. It gets you in the mood for the game’s dark and grim backstory, but not its animations as we’ll see next.
But it’s time to boot this sucker:
The game starts with an intro showing New York being invaded in 2002 by an alien race called the Orbs that are basically giant eyeballs (no, this is not a Doctor Who episode). 2 years later, the inhabitants of New York (and presumably the rest of the human race) live enslaved by the Orbs and some of these humans are selected to become manhunters (basically police officers), whose functions are to solve crimes and apprehend criminals and anyone who oppose the Orbs.
Our nameless protagonist is a rookie manhunter who’s 1st case is to solve an apparent simple murder but its investigation will lead them to a large conspiracy. To aid them in his task, he’s given a MAD (Manhunter Assignment Device) computer, where they can track the movements of any human (all the remaining humans carry a chip for localisation, cloaks and are forbidden to communicate with each other) and request any information from their targets.
The intro also features a nice music theme. When the game properly starts, the 1st thing you’ll notice is the lack of a text parser. Like I said before, the game uses a rudimentary point-and-click interface with some simple commands for various actions, like travelling or accessing your MAD computer, although using the mouse can be a bit troublesome as the cursor moves a bit slow and it can get stuck sometimes.
Another thing you’ll notice is a very distinct lack of text. Since humans aren’t allowed to communicate with each other, there isn’t any dialogue whatsoever and very little text and almost no exposition. Due to this, Manhunter is a purely visual game, with all the hints and story being shown visually (which makes the puzzles incredibly hard). And apart from the puzzles, you’ll also have arcade sequences throughout the game (which I personally think are a little easier than the puzzles) that get increasingly harder as you progress.
But at least, the game doesn’t have a proper game-over screen. Every time you die, the Murrys pop in, dressed in cloaks, to give you a hint to bypass where you died and the game restarts right before it. And the key to solving the harder arcade sequences is basically patience and luck because you’re going to die and restart a lot!
The game’s played in 1st-person perspective except in some cutscenes and the arcades sequences. And although the story is dark and grim, the animations in the cutscenes can be somewhat funny (and sometimes also weird), which creates a kind of a mood whiplash when compared with the game’s plot.
The game’s divided into 4 acts (or days, as is depicted) and you need to accomplish certain actions (or solve certain puzzles) to “finish” a day. When a day comes to an end, you’re contacted by the Orbs through your MAD computer, requesting the name of the suspect of your investigations. Then the protagonist simply returns home and the next morning, he’s contacted again to solve another seemingly unrelated crime.
The game features quite good graphics for the limited AGI engine it was made with and the animations might be a bit weird but at least they’re quite fluid. The game might not have a lot of music in it but what little there is, it’s good along with several musical cues every time your cursor passes over a hotspot (which reduces the pixel-hunting) but the sound effects are a bit poor. And like I said before, the point-and-click interface is very cumbersome with a very slow cursor on the screen and the keyboard controls during the arcade sequences could have been more responsive.
In conclusion, Manhunter: New York was a very ambitious game that is very limited by its game engine because you can see the concepts the Murrys wanted to bring to the table (like when trying to transverse the park in several directions). So personally, I’m kind of torn in this one: on one hand, we have a very interesting game with intriguing concepts and backstory, but on the other hand, those concepts are badly executed because the AGI engine wasn’t made for a point-and-click interface.
So, if you like games that go beyond the norm, you might want to give it a shot, but if you have little patience for hard games with limited mechanics and design, then I can’t really recommend it.
The Commodore Amiga version looks and plays just like the DOS version and the Apple IIgs version might be the superior version due to better sound and music (just like in all AGI titles).
Manhunter: New York had some critical acclaim although it didn’t have great commercial success, it had enough for a sequel (which we’ll also review at a later date).
With its concepts and backstory, I think this game it’s just ripe for a proper remake (although I think Activision has the rights for it). And if you want to experience it for yourself, then click here to play it in your own browser.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the review. I’d like to give a special shoutout to Florin9895, who recommended this game to me. Tell me what you think of the game by commenting below or on our social media.
Next week we have a very special occasion: our 2nd anniversary! And we’ve prepared a very special review depicting one of the best computer games ever made! So come and join us next week and until then keep on hunting and playing.