Under A Killing Moon is a PC adventure game developed and published by Access Software. It was released in 1994 on 4 CD-ROM's for MS-DOS and was the third game from the developer to feature Tex Murphy as the lead character. Previous titles in the series include Mean Streets and Martian Memorandum. The game uses full motion video and 3D environments to create a cinematic and interactive experience.
Under A Killing Moon's universe takes elements from the pulp science fiction genre and film noir crime drama. The year is 2042, and in post-World War III San Francisco nuclear fallout has created a new racial divide on Earth - between those unaffected by the radiation, known as "norms," and the unfortunate mutants who bear physical defects from the aftermath. Tex Murphy is a down on his luck Private Investigator and a norm who prefers to live in the old part of town with the mutants. He wears a trench coat and a fedora, drinks bourbon, and fancies himself a throwback to the hard boiled P.I.'s of the early 20th century despite his bumbling nature.
A bracelet robbery at Rook's local pawn shop finally gives Tex some real detective work to do, and some notoriety. Soon after solving the case he is summoned by a mysterious Countess Renier; impressed by his location tactics, she tasks Tex with retrieving a crystal dove statuette for a large sum of money. Tex manages to recover the artifact from a highly secured penthouse apartment but it's promptly stolen by an unknown assailant in his office.
Meanwhile, Tex's mentor The Colonel is stabbed within an inch of his life after asking one too many questions about the wrong people. All of Tex's misfortunes are traced back to a shape shifting mutant called The Chameleon, who also played the role of the mysterious Countess. A hardened Native American hitman, he is the muscle for The Brotherhood of Purity - a known cult bent on destroying life on Earth while privileged norms watch safely from a utopian space station called the Moon Child. And Tex just handed over the last piece needed to fulfill their doomsday prophecy. Not to mention he's out of bourbon.
Tex picks up where The Colonel left off, tasked with infiltrating the cult and stopping their genocidal plan along with their leader, the enigmatic Lowell Percival. He learns of the shadowy government organization C.A.P.R.I.C.O.R.N. who developed a virus meant to destroy the Moon Child from within and The Colonel's involvement with them. With the assigned agent captured by The Brotherhood, Tex locates and arms the Winter Chip virus himself and finally tracks down The Chameleon, whom he kills with a poisoned cigarette. This leads Tex to be taken prisoner aboard the Moon Child itself with little time to spare. Once inside the station he frees C.A.P.R.I.C.O.R.N. agent Eva Shanzee and together they upload the virus, escape the Moon Child, and save the world.
Unfortunately Tex doesn't get the girl in the end, but he does get a slice of Louie's famous chocolate pie and a glass of bourbon to wash it down over at the Brew 'n' Stew.
The game features first person navigation in 3D environments that can be paused at any time for point and click interaction. The player switches between the two modes on the fly using the space bar. Players are rewarded for their exploration, triggering dialogue and gags for even mundane background objects. The game also features many traditional adventure elements including collecting objects, combining and using inventory items, uncovering new locations, a variety of puzzles to solve, and branching dialog trees with a large cast of characters.
The dialog system allows Tex three distinct options to say at any given time, with conversations branching off into different directions depending on what mood the player conveys. Some conversations will require Tex to present evidence or select correct responses, lest he be spurned away or worse, killed. Items and topics of interest can be presented for comment as well.
There is a detailed hint system available in Under A Killing Moon which serves as a built in, spoiler free walkthrough. Points are also given to the player depending on how much of the game is seen and completed, with hints detracting from the overall score. If the player dies Tex is brought before "The Big P.I. in the Sky" who lets him know what went wrong before sending him back to complete the mission. This faceless character is voiced by actor James Earl Jones.
Acting and Audio
Under a Killing Moon's B-Movie sensibilities come from an offbeat script written by Aaron Conners of Amped 3 fame and the primarily amateur cast that delivers the lines. The cast includes many Access employees including series co-creator Chris Jones as Tex Murphy. Film and TV actors with prominent roles include Brian Keith as The Colonel, Margot Kidder as a cult bartender, Russell Means as The Chameleon and the aforementioned James Earl Jones as The Big P.I. in the Sky.
The soundtrack features a collection of jazz and blues MIDI compositions, with a memorable live saxophone riff that plays at the open of each chapter.
Reaction and Legacy
Under A Killing Moon received positive reviews from websites that covered the Adventure genre upon release and mixed reviews from mainstream outlets. It sold well enough to spawn two new titles in the series, The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer, which would go on to refine the cinematic adventure formula established in UAKM and build upon the fiction and characters. A novelization of the game was published by Prima and released in 1996, written by Aaron Conners. Access Software was purchased by Microsoft on April 19, 1999 and the rights to all characters and properties related to Under A Killing Moon were transferred over.
In 2009, Aaron Conners and Chris Jones were able to secure the rights to the Tex Murphy franchise for their independent studio, Big Finish Games. Under A Killing Moon was released digitally on Good Old Games later that year, with the rest of the series following shortly after. Six episodes of Tex Murphy Radio Theater were also produced with a story that continues where Overseer left off.
After focusing on smaller scale projects, A Kickstarter campaign was launched in March of 2012 to raise funding for a full FMV production from Big Finish with many of the original cast and crew members. The set goal of $450,000 was met and surpassed, resulting in the unlikely return of Tex Murphy in 2014 with the release of Tesla Effect.