11/04/2019

๐Ÿ•น️๐Ÿ“™ Video Game Novelisation – The 7th Guest and Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive ๐Ÿ“™ ๐Ÿ•น️

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‘The 7Th Guest: A Novel ‘ by Matthew J Costello & Craig Shaw Gardner
‘The Pandora Directive (A Tex Murphy Novel )’ by Aaron Conners
It dawned on me a few weeks ago that I had never read a novelisation of a video game. The closest thing I can think of was how I voraciously inhaled Andrzej Sapkowski’s ‘The Witcher’ series, which whilst having a strong connection to the video game series I initially played (the games are based on the novels), are a separate canonical entity. With this in mind, I picked up a few books that were novelisations of games I had previously enjoyed playing and the first ones I spotted at a saucy price were the books mentioned in the title of this article.
My history with The 7th Guest video game goes way back to the release in 1993, I was ten years old and have strong memories of playing it on a family PC and it completely terrified me. Henry Stauf’s haunting, sneering (and occasionally demonic and thus teeth-chatteringly horrifying) voice, wonderfully evocative music by George ‘Fatman’ Sanger (Check out the soundtrack ‘7/11’ on Spotify by Team Fat, a compilation of this game and the sequel ‘The 11th Hour’) combined with the creepy tale and what were at the time cutting edge visuals and you have a multi-million selling combination, not to mention how it arguably popularised CD-ROM games on the PC platform. The game was not without its flaws, some puzzles were if not difficult than just pain tedious and the constant loading, pauses and slow pacing were to be expected due to the technical limitations of the time being pushed as they were. The game was one of my absolute favourites and my first step into more cerebral horror games with a dark tone.
Whilst the sequel, ‘The 11th Hour’ didn’t have the same impact on me, The 7th Guest always remained lodged in my mind and I quite often re-install it through Steam and play a couple of hours just to drink in the ambience, puzzles and glorious, glorious music.

Tex Murphy, however, has a more spotted personal history with me. I owned the original ‘Mean Streets’ in 1989 on my Amiga but was too young (6/7) to really make any sense of it beyond being impressed by the digitised speech, usage of videos and the ability to move around in your speeder, stopping at various locations to rifle through drawers. I probably didn’t even scratch the story but I played it for hours on end just enjoying being immersed in that cool game world. Over the years I picked up other games in the series and played them for brief periods of time (Martian Memorandum, Under a Killing Moon, The Pandora Directive and Tex Murphy: Overseer) but it wasn’t until the Kickstarter-backed Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure that I had a PC that could run the game adequately at the time (my home PCs were always woefully ancient and underpowered) and get into the story. Again, a flawed adventure that was clearly made with love for the Tex Murphy fanbase that delivered in mood and tone of the previous games in the series. I’m actually playing through it again now as I feel like I have more of a grasp on the canon following reading The Pandora Directive novel.
With my personal history with these two games now out of the way, let’s get onto the novels themselves.
The impetus for me writing this article was the sheer difference in quality between these two books, which I pretty much read back-to-back. The 7th Guest was, unfortunately, the one that came off worse. Having played the game so much I know the story and was hoping for a deeper insight into character motivations, histories and a general expanding on the tale itself. I’m not bothered if the stories diverge or even if they directly contradict each other as I quite like different takes on the same series in alternate mediums but the real issue with The 7th Guest was how it breezed through the events of the game with little to no additional information and, due to the thinness of the way in which the story is told, it comes across as flat and lifeless. This is more surprising in how two authors have worked on it, with Craig Shaw Gardner especially having done similar work on other novelisations of popular films such as Back to the Future. The narrative unfolded with less panache than a teen Point Horror book. The book was around 220 pages but the font size was so large that within 80 minutes or so, I was done with it and even then, the last fifty pages or so were a struggle as it so blandly described the events of the game with no insight.
The Pandora Directive then was a breath of fresh air. Having little to no understandings of the events and minor characters of the previous stories, Aaron Conners’ writing ensconced you in the post WW3 San Francisco setting and moved along at a fair pace without feeling rushed. The Tex Murphy character differs from the portrayal in the games as he is less prone to pratfalls and comedic acts, possibly due to how poorly visual gags would translate onto the written page. Aaron Conners is both the screenwriter of the games and also author of all of the Tex Murphy books and it’s clear to see he understands not just his creations but also how to best illustrate them in the chosen medium. Although the written take on Tex Murphy is less slapstick, it’s not to say that any humour is missing from the novel, it’s a drier, more wry Tex that takes us through the sci-fi/detective romp with a sense of coolness and self-deprecation that brings him to life.
I’ll see if I can pick up more books related to video games and I will definitely be completing my Tex Murphy of both games and books because they have a real charm about them that runs through the series. Obviously, the books will age better than the games as each was presented so differently due to the technical limitations of the time but Chris Jones’ portrayal of the Tex Murphy and his chocolatey drawl rang out in my head as I made my way through the book and felt like an old friend.  Will other game-related novels fare as well? I’ll find out when I next pick some up but if there was one piece of advice I had to give…don't read The 7th Guest, it’s not very good, guys?

Right, I’m off to start a Kickstarter for a novelisation of the mighty Dreamweb.

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