Under a Killing Moon (PC) – Retro Gaming Review

Under a Killing Moon (PC) – Retro Gaming Review

Hi, I’m Pam and I’m here to talk about
retro video games. I am a self-professed fan of FMV or Full Motion
Video games. I’ve reviewed a number of them on this channel, but none of them were that
good. So, it’s time to review one that I think is actually a good game rather than
just an interesting relic of gaming’s past. It’s Under a Killing Moon.
Under a Killing Moon was developed by Access Software and released for PC in 1994. It is
an FMV adventure game where you play the private investigator Tex Murphy who unwittingly gets
involved in stopping the crusade of a dangerous cult.
Right from the start the game has gravitas due in large part to the voice of James Earl
Jones, as the big PI in the sky, who bemoans that Tex is next in line to save
the world, and quotes some Poe for good measure. As we first meet Tex, he tells us that the
year is 2042. Nukes used in World War 3 had split the population into 2 classes – mutants,
who were affected by the radiation, and norms, who escaped unscathed. Tensions between the
two groups are rising. And Tex, well he’s down on his luck. Broke, hungover, jobless,
his first goal, and yours, is find a new case. As soon as you gain control of Tex, it’s
clear that this is not your typical adventure FMV game. While most FMV games around this
time, like Night Trap, Phantasmagoria, or Gabriel Knight 2, use set background that
can only be viewed from one angle, under a Killing Moon lets you roam around a 3d environment
in first person view. While in 2017 the textures leave something to be desired, it looked pretty
amazing in 1994. Especially, as this insert from the box will
tell you, if you had 16 Mb of Random Access Memory… Memory.
Moving through the world does feel a little awkward now, you move with your mouse (tip:
turn sensitivity way down) and look up and down with the arrow keys, or adjust your eye
level with shift and control. This isn’t the most usable layout and takes a little
getting used to. However, there are ways to get around having to move a lot in most areas
as the game features a great fast travel system that can take you where you want to go.
I’m a big fan of the game’s interface. While movement mode is done in full screen,
pressing space to switch to investigation mode changes things up considerably. Your
current view is in the top left, where you can interact with objects and people on the
screen with captions for dialogue underneath. You can see your inventory, or topics of conversation
in the top right, and commands in the bottom right. Everything you need is easily viewable
and accessible. So, while Under a Killing Moon touts itself
as an Interactive movie and there are certainly an abundance of cutscenes, there is also a
lot more player interaction and actual gameplay than a lot of other FMV games.
It doesn’t take long to find Tex a case – Rook’s Pawnshop has been robbed and a
pricey bracelet stolen. You have to look for physical evidence and question the people
of Chandler Avenue to crack the case. The residents include Chelsea, the streetwise
owner of the newsstand who always has the inside scoop, and Clint, who lives in a dumpster
and is nursing a wicked chocolate addiction. Once you’ve found enough information about
your culprit, you can plug it into your CrimeLink computer, a cool idea that is sadly never
used again, and set up a trap for the perpetrator. This first case really just eases you into
the game mechanics and Tex’s world. It’s on day 2 that things really open up after
Tex gets a new fax machine, which brings in a much more important and complicated case.
The vision of the future the game has is an interesting one. While there are off-Earth
saloons and flying cars, there are also fax machines and photographs that need to be developed
before you can see them. If we’re still using fax machines in 2042 I’m going to
be pissed. Tex’s new case introduces him to a wealthy
Countess who’s looking for her stolen property – a crystal statuette of a bird – much like
the one we saw being discovered by cultists in the game’s opening. Gee, I hope it won’t
be used for anything sinister (whisper: spoiler alert, it will).
It will From here, we’re off to the races. Tex has
to track down the statuette, break into a high security apartment, infiltrate a corporation
that does genetic research, and uncovers a vast and evil conspiracy which aims to wipe
out all the mutants and leave the Earth to the genetically pure.
This is why you have to punch Nazis. Tonally, the game could have been a mess.
A crusade for genetic purity is a very heavy topic. There’s an obvious influence from
40s film noire, especially those featuring hardboiled detectives, and stories full of
murder, betrayal, and femme fatales. But at the same time, it’s rather funny. Tex has
an amusing quip about every object you can examine, and every person you can talk to.
There are also a lot of puns and jokes about pop culture. From 1994. . There are some cutscenes
which are downright goofy. Somehow it all comes together with a good balance of serious
moments and comic relief. Speaking of comedy, amusement in FMV games
is often, shall we say, unintentional? Bad acting, bad writing and silly action scenes
(husband from Phantasmagoria, blood draining in Night Trap) combine in a way that’s cringe
worthy and make us laugh at it, rather than with it. Under a Killing Moon features decent
writing and competent main actors. It’s not without a certain cheese factor, but it
demonstrates a lot of self awareness. You get the feeling that when it’s being corny,
it’s doing it on purpose. While the performances of smaller characters
differ in effectiveness, the game really relies on Tex, who is played by Chris Jones. The
same Chris Jones who directed the game, designed the game, along with Aaron Conners, and was
CFO of access software. A finance executive and game designer deciding
to star in his own game, what could possibly go wrong?… Nothing. Nothing went wrong,
he did good. The cast is bolstered by some more well known
actors. Brian Keith plays Tex’s estranged mentor, the Colonel. Russell Means plays the
Chameleon, a shapeshifter who’s also after the crystal statue, and Margot Kidder plays
a bartender in a sketchy saloon Tex finds himself in.
The game’s music is fantastic and really fits the mood of the game. The intro to each
day in particular is perfect. That jazz sax. In terms of difficulty, I think the challenge
the game provides is ideal. There are inventory puzzles which are fairly straightforward.
There’s not a whole lot of moon logic here. Even when we’re orbiting the moon. There
are also puzzles like reassembling torn up notes, code cracking and guessing passwords
to get into safes. There aren’t a ton of these, but the ones available are enjoyable.
There’s only one puzzle I thought was bad, and it involved reviving someone who had been
put in stasis. You have to deliver O2, different drugs and increase temperature in the correct
order to get the revival right. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, the only way
to do this is trial and error, which gets tedious.
There are also conversational puzzles. Conversation options are well done, rather than list out
exactly what Tex will say, the text option will give an idea of the attitude Tex will
display. You often need to choose the correct options in order to progress and get the information
you need, like when tricking a security systems expert into telling his secrets. Sometimes
failure isn’t a big deal, and you’ll get to try again, but sometimes it can result
in a game over, and being admonished by James Earl Jones for being foolish.
If you do get stuck, the game has a great hint system. You can get very specific, step
by step hints about what you should do next. It’s a great way to get a nudge in the right
direction without revealing the entire solution to something.
For me, the biggest source of difficulty was usually due to missing something I was supposed
to pick up. Though it never gets to the point where you need to pixel hunt, some items can
be difficult to see.Under a Killing Moon is a good FMV game
and a good adventure game. Though there could be more puzzles (and there are in the next
game in the series) the game is full of likable characters, funny quips and has an exciting
story. Tex is one of my favourite game detectives and I recommend this to any FMV or adventure
fan. This, along with all the other Tex games are available on GoG.
If you want more FMV check out my review of Phantasmagoria or if you want more cinematic
detective games, check out my review of Snatcher. Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next

75 thoughts on “Under a Killing Moon (PC) – Retro Gaming Review

  1. Great review Pam. Hadn't heard of this one before. To be honest, you had me at "James Earl Jones being the great PI in the sky".

  2. I really need to play this now. Damn you. Damn you to hell! 😛 Haha but seriously awesome review. I will need to really try this out though. 😀

  3. Would you say that Spycraft: The Great Game on the PC qualifies as an FMV? Also, the guy at the beginning sounds like Smithers from The Simpsons. 🙂

  4. I remember the disc swapping was a kind of a pain in the ass. Glad the whole series is available for download now, eliminating the need for CD's. Love this series.

  5. Cool to see Margot Kidder (Lois Lane) featuring as the bar tender! These 90's PC games had a real charm – I wish I had played more of them like this one, but unfortunately my experience didn't go much beyond Dark Forces and Duke Nukem 3D :(. Cool review Pam. Video quality seems improved too.

  6. Great review. I am a fan of FMV games, i got this One from GOG, but did not played yet. Will give it a try. I have the original discs of this Game, but could not make it Work anymore on The modern systems. If possible please do a review of Ripper, the Game with Christopher Walken. Thanks and great video

  7. This looks like my kind of game Pam I'm really big in to the detective mystery shit …off subject have you ever played titanic adventure out of time on pc ? It was mid 90s but damn good game 🙂

  8. Awesome Pam thank you for reviewing another FMV! 😀 I actually just played this for the first time over the holidays and it was a blast, really entertaining and addictive (never get tired of that new chapter theme!) I spent the whole game wondering when Rita was going to show up at the meter, didn't realize it was a pop culture reference XD It's from the Beatles song Lovely Rita?

  9. As much as I like this game, and I really do like it, I personally thought it became a bit too goofy at points, with the sequel, Pandora Directive, being more consistent and striking a better balance between goofy & serious.

  10. I liked seeing Planescape: Torment on your shelf.

    As for the game, i haven't played it, but i love those old FMV cutscenes.

  11. I LOVE the Tex Murphy games… I have all of them but the 2nd: Martian Memorandum. Need to find that one. Great video!

  12. Pam, you buying a Switch?? I am! Just pre-ordered the over priced 'Pro Controller'. Kinda sucks that it cost more than a second game. Would have got the new Bomber Man, but I don't know how gimmicky the Joy-Con controllers may be. Don't want to ruin Zelda.
    Why is Link right handed again though??!

  13. Tex Murphy is such a fantastic series. Under a Killing Moon rates as one of my personal favorites ever made in the FMV genre.

  14. I watched Game Informer play a full play through of this recently. It is so dated but in a good way. I really thought FMV was the future back in the 90s, probably best that i was wrong.

  15. You know, I actually agree with you on this one. Under a Killing Moon is one of the very few FMV games that are actually good.I could name a few here but, another time.

  16. very interesting game… its sourprising what thigs they could do with the old pcs at that time. i will try the game. very good choice for the episode. regards from spain!!

  17. Awesome review, Pam. Can't say I've played Under A Killing Moon (heard of it, wanna try it) but I played another Access adventure game which I think is pretty cool; Countdown. May wanna check it out. 🙂
    -Mad Wolf

  18. Hey there soulmate xD haha! I loved this and so many fmv titles back then from the box, to the booklets, their gameplay and stories. Gabriel Knight had an entire comic included that added backstory! Seeing this game run it's 3D on our 486 blew my mind, I was completely absorbed and played through it at 12yrs-old. Awesome memories 🙂

  19. Man, do I ever want to play this again now. I forgot Margot Kidder was in this! I wish I still had the box. Still have the jewel but I threw the rest out when we were moving.

  20. Ever played L.A Noire? If not check it out its a long winded detective story but has that dark noire setting to it

  21. Under a Killing Moon is a bit cheesier in some ways than the later Tex games, but charming still. Have you played Pandora Directive, Overseer, or the new Tesla Effect one? Would be interested to hear your thoughts on the later ones.

  22. whispers it will…

    It's those little bits that keep having me watch these videos even if it's not a game I'm interested in knowing anything about.

  23. I originally had the demo of this many years ago, always annoyed when i hit the basketball court, it would time out and show screenshots!. 15 years later, i finally own it :D. Will be playing this shortly once again. One of my favourite in the Tex Murphy series. I've not played the others or the new one, but will do shortly.

  24. I was curious about Tex Murphy and this video definitely helped inform me on what i'd be getting into.

  25. That was one of my first bought pc games in 94 if not the first. Loved it to death. I bought the sequel pandora directive, more advanced technically but i prefered the first one

  26. Lady you are so nerdy, I just love it! I have played video games my entire life and most girls were looking at me like "who the hell are you?". Tex Murphy is prob my favorite FMV ever. I prefer The Pandora Directive but UAKM is amazing as well. Cheers from AB!!

  27. Its awesome!!! And why do I think this pulls me in more than modern games???? No exchange for real life actors…FMV died much to soon…

  28. Old games, because of their technical limits, made you involve yourself much more in the atmospheric process. You could not count on everything to be there…you had to want to bin "in"…?

  29. LOL, I did sometimes remember scenes of the game. But never remembered the exact name until today, when on radio they played a song with the name «Under a Killing Moon». Thank you for the review. It was fun then and perhaps I will give it a try again.

  30. I remember getting this game when it first came out. It was the first CD Rom PC game that I beat. Loved it. I need to replay it one of these days, plus it'd be nice to see it with higher textures as at the time, I only had 4MB of ram in my PC and had to use the low settings.

  31. One shortcoming of these old FMV games is that they must have stationary camera shots: no panning, no tracking, no movement at all. That hindered the already limited film-making potential of the genre. The sequel to this, "The Pandora Directive," is much better and is believed to be the best in the series, mainly because it had a much better director, Adrian Carr, which was able to make the most of the limitations. His FMVs are better-acted and shot, and overall more enjoyable to watch. Carr went on to direct two more Tex Murphy sequels, Overseer (1998) and Tesla Effect (2014).

  32. There is only one good acting performance in the game, by actor Michail Bailey who voices the arch-villain Lowell Percival. He has that long monologue that is actually compelling to listen to. We only hear his voice, so we don't know what the actor looks like. And IMDb lists this game as his only credit. Other than that, the game is a sea of bad acting. Some actors are clearly inexperienced and out of their league, including Chris Jones himself who plays the lead. Brian Keith and Margot Kidder are not special either. The later Tex Murphy games are much better performed, probably due to a better director.

  33. Not many adventure games let you freely navigate in a first-person virtual world. Another notable series of games that do this are those Sherlock Holmes games by Frogwares. Have you played those? My favorite is Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper, from 2009. In fact, these games let you switch between 1st person and traditional 3rd person view. Frogwares has made other nice adventure games too, such as Dracula: Origin.

  34. Tex's lady friend Chelsee is a fan favorite and is in every Tex Murphy FMV game. But boy, she must be the most loved game character that has the least amount of screen time. In the first game, she is confined to a newsstand and only appears early in the game. In the 2nd game, she is not in the story at all and disappears mid-game. The 3rd game, Overseer, she is only a spectator in the linking FMV scenes. In the 4th game, Tesla Effect, you don't even see her if you pick certain paths in the game. It is credit to actress Suzanne Barnes that her character resonates with us even with limited screen time. She has to make us believe that she is the love of Tex's life.

  35. Aaron Conners, the co-designer of this game, said in an interview with the Adventure-Treff website: "One of the best memories was getting James Earl Jones to do the voice of the 'Great P.I. in the Sky'. After I wrote the part, we were all sitting around talking about who we should get to do the voice and someone suggested James Earl Jones. After we all stopped laughing, I said, 'Well, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.' We contacted his agent and, it turned out, Mr. Jones’ son knew all about UKM being in development and was totally pumped about his dad doing a cameo in it. So we got this A-list talent to be in our game for scale (actors’ minimum) wages."

  36. And i want to see a scanner darkly version of this

    Or man in the high castle of full movition video game now

    Or total recall or miniorty report or next or paycheck

  37. love FMV'S ..and love this channel! and do you know Pam, if there are still fmv's being made nowadays? anyways keep up the good work! 🙂

  38. Also, there are novels of the same titles in the series. I bought all three novels, including the latest game in the series Tesla Effect. I wrote Aaron Conners and state I have Under a Killing Moon Novel that has never been read. I scanned the UPC code and found the original copy is with some $

  39. I just found your channel recently and I've been loving your videos and I didn't know you covered this one. This is one of my faves from my childhood. The whole Tex Murphy series is so good. I picked up a copy of Mean Streets back around '92 or '93 from the discount bin at Software Etc., and my proclivity for Film Noir had me hooked immediately.

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