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Hard Evidence -
The Marilyn Monroe Files
Release date: 1995
Developer: Novell / T1 New Media
Publisher: BMG Interactive Entertainment (Bertelsmann Music Group)
Game language deutsch, many original documents in english
A review by slydos 06th August 2002
The 40th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's day of death is just some days ago. Yes - it's really that long ago and nevertheless everyone still knows her name, her films, her photos, the myth. "Hard Evidence - Marilyn Monroe Files" is dealing with the death of the screen goddess in a mixture of adventure and documentation with the emphasis on documentation.
On Sunday morning, 5th August 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom. Her housekeeper reported that she lay on her bed and was holding the telephone receiver. The press, the police and curious onlookers swarm to the house of the Monroe. Many theories about the cause of her death existed, but after a short investigation one determined: probably suicide.
Over 30 years later the headline "Investigation in Monroe case resumed" appeared in the L A. Times. Despite the fact that the blonde undertook several attempted suicides and had depressive phases before her death, still many questions remain inexplicable. Was Marilyn's suicide deliberate? Was it at all suicide? How was Marilyn's relationship with the Kennedys? Did she become unintentional guardian of a political secret? Did 20th Century Fox have an interest in her death? Was her death the result of a medical malpractice? Or the result of the original investigation was correct: Despite her fame as Hollywood goddess Marilyn Monroe, which was called with civil name Norma Jane Baker, was a haggardly abandoned girl, who tried her life long in vain, to find stability and love - and failed.
New proofs emerged, which support the different theories. Some people have an interest to the fact that the case is solved. Others again would not like to give away their knowledge (perhaps to protect themselves). The gamers's task is it to finally solve and close the case. One can select from four characters to investigate: Reporter, policeman, public prosecutor and forensic pathologist. They are all requested, by their boss (with different motives) to roll up the case again.
The game comes on 1 CDROM in a slim box together with the colored illustrated manual. "Hard Evidence" was conceived for Windows 3.1 and makes no problems under Windows 95 either. One must call the setup file on the CD, then can indicate the installation directory and everything is finished already. Less than 1 MB is installed on hard disk, the rest is done from CD.
The Intro is accompanied by dramatic music, first only single drum beats while you can see Los Angeles in a dark light, then more and more instruments join the theme, while we are watching a slide show of Marilyn's live up to a photomontage, where she lies dead on her bed, the telephone receiver in her hand, the empty tablet boxes on the night cabinet. The Intro can be stopped with space bar. We then arrive at the starting menu. Although the game is in German to the predominant part, we find English expressions in the starting menu: "New Player" or "Previous Player" - which is surprising, since the game was produced in Germany. We login as "New Player", so that we can continue after a game pause at approximately the same place, where we left it. It's not possible to store any savegame during the game!
After that we arrive at the character selection menu with the heads of our 4 investigators. In the center is the main archive, which won't yet give much information at the beginning, since we can look up there only facts, which we already discovered during the game.
After we selected a character, we can enter the game. But first we must still watch a video sequence of the respective boss (you can stop this later with a mouse click), who gives us our order. Then finally we arrive at the map of Los Angeles, where we now can select a location. A very long way, until we finally can intervene into the happenings! Particularly if we start the game umpteen times!
The game is exclusively mouse-controlled and we see the environment from 1st-person-perspective. We select a scene with left-click and are transported automatically e.g. into a bar or into the court house. The arrows show us that we can leave the scene and the hand-icon indicates that we can examine an object or speak with a person.
If the cursor is transformed into a hand, we can zoom into a close-up of the area, e.g. we can click the newspaper display in the bar and then see a magnified shot of the newspapers. Again we click and can look at different newspaper articles, clicking again successively and they are enlarged.
The main statements of the documents are mostly communicated to us by a professional speaker, at the same time the statements are made clear by animated arrows and underlinings in the document on screen. If a document has more than one page, and most of them have, you see the remaining pages in Adobe Acrobat-manner at the right side of the screen as clickable mini pages. Larger documents can be moved by clicking and dragging. There is also a whole set of picture- and video-documents, which are also in most cases commentated and translated by a professional speaker, e.g. Kennedy and the Cuba crisis or Jo Di Maggio and a baseball game.
If we drive the mouse to the bottom of the screen, a head-icon of our investigator appears. If we click on it a menu bar with several icons opens. You click on the exit icon for leaving the game. Besides there is a question mark, providing a help screen for game controls. The map-icon leads directly to the city map, another icon directly to the character menu, in order to go on with another character. Depending upon the game character you will find keys or code cards in the inventory, which are clickable and usable, to enter certain areas. Behind the typewriter you'll find a notepad. Yoiu can write down your own notes and also print them out.
Inventory manipulations are very rare, only if you use a key or a code card. If you drive the mouse over the upper display area, again the head of our character becomes visible. Here we find the advancement index of our search for each investigator in per cent bars.
The controls are relatively simple and clear, however I would have wished myself in some places a possibility to stop video sequences which one can only pause or let run. Likewise disturbing were the long credits, that couldn't be aborted.
The graphics are mainly photo screens with some cut in videos of our interlocutors and/or historical scenes from the news. Both actors and very familiar sounding off-speakers are selected very well and add, beside the partial dramatic partial bluesy music titles of Jörg Janos Jäger, quality and atmosphere to the game. Quiet sounds e.g. on the airport or the Walk of Fame, steps on the corridor, rustling of paper etc. animate the otherwise somewhat statical game.
Each of the four investigator-types is to collect facts for two possible death theories. In the long run these must be presented to their superiors by submitting them correctly in the home computer. In addition an enormous quantity of documents (partial original documents) must be searched, many picture- and video-watching is necessary, until we can find all answers and enter them into the PC. Some scenes can only be visited by certain characters, e.g. only the Coroner can enter the forensic medicine. We can use the airport to visit other cities and investigate there.
If we have determined the investigations of a character, we get a complete picture/video sequence about the respective theory. We as players can form our opinion however from the many theories, facts, statements and indications only if we played all 8 death theories completely to the end. Only then we are rewarded by a final picture/video sequence.
Marilyn Monroe's death will surely remain a mystery, however with such accuracy a quantity of so far unknown documents were gathered here, statements were compared and life stories brought in connection, that even Monroe connoisseurs will surely experience still new and surprising things. E.g. it was for me surprising to find also a name from the gaming scene in connection with the Monroe affaire: namely Daryl F. Gates. It was not only him, who had to quit as a police head of Los Angeles after the incident with Rodney King and the following race riots and afterwards provides his knowledge to Sierra for the adventure game "Police Quest 4 - Open Season", it was also him, who kept the police documents closed (which then finally disappeared) during renewed rolling up of the Monroe case.
"Hard Evidence" is not an adventure in the usual sense, it is more an unusual suspenseful documentation of a mysterious death with adventure elements. We must, as in each adventure, solve tasks, which partly cannot be cracked so easy at all, but besides we have the possibility of finding our own conclusions to the death of the Monroe, which is moving people even after 40 years. Of course I found my very own theory due to the game, and it doesn't correspond exactly to one of the 8 solutions... But enough of that. The game is recommendable to all Monroe fans and also all, who are interested in a piece of contemporary history.
Total Rating: 76%
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 3.1 or higher
- 486/SX 33 MHz or higher
- Videocard and monitor with 256 colours
- 4 MB RAM
- MPC-compatible 16-bit sound card and speakers
- 2x CDROM-drive or faster
- Windows 95
- PII 233 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 4 MB graphic card
- 16bit sound card
- 24x CDROM-drive
Selecting a Character
The Chief Editor of the Chronicle wants a top story from you
Los Angeles in the overview- you can select here several locations
In the Chinese Theatre you'll find a complete Marilyn-Filmography
The documents are commentated by professionell speakers, e.g. news reader Jo Brauner
Questioning the barkeeper
Every object tells a long story
Many original documents, here Marilyn's telephone bill
Many video documents show background information
At last you can look at all the files of the main archive
Your progress in per cent
What happened to the involved persons?