52: Manhunter 2: San Francisco

Did I say Top 50?  I meant Top 52.  There’s two games I couldn’t leave off.

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Evryware
Year: 1989
Platform: DOS, Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh

Review: The Manhunter series is easily the most original idea that Sierra published.  The first game, Manhunter: New York, is not nearly as good as the sequel.  Unfortunately, you pretty much have to play it to understand anything that is going on in this game.

Aliens landed in 2002, setting up shop in New York (and then later, San Francisco). It took them less than three days to destroy the city, and less than a year to end the human resistance. Or so they thought. You have been assigned by the alien “orbs” to be a man hunter. Since some of the aliens’ technology is not as compatible with human beings as they thought it would be, you (along with many others) need to help them. You have no choice. You must investigate humans who are not obedient and report them to the aliens.

You are given a tracking device in which you can watch the perpetrator commit the crime. They are then tagged, and you can continue to watch where they go until the signal is lost (usually when they go under ground or die). You can also manually tag other humans near the perpetrator, and watch where they go, as they may be linked with the crime. You can then travel wherever they did and do some research.

Of course, you must help the resistance while you are supposed to be helping the aliens. Since the resistance cannot be overt, you must pick up clues and look for symbolism which will give you tips on what you need to do. Other man hunters will help, if they trust you. But gaining their trust takes effort.

Most of the game is merely going to places, picking up items, and manipulating them (which is fairly easy). There are also several arcade sequences. Some are easy, some are ridiculous, but only a couple add excitement to the game.  There is almost no typing needed and no mouse support.  You more or less move the cursor with the arrow keys until you land on something important. What makes this game challenging is the keen eye one must have to catch all of the symbolism and apply it to the situation at hand, or one further down the road. Definitely not a game for those who like to rush. The puzzles are long, difficult, and extremely satisfying to complete.

For the time, the music is scary enough and the graphics are well done, occasionally ribald and quite gory. Creepy for sure! Definitely not for the faint of heart. The atmosphere doesn’t quite approach scary, but there are definitely some tense moments.  One of the game’s charms is that real locations in San Francisco are used, such as Alcatraz, the Transamerica Building, Coit Tower, and the Bank of Canton.

While I can’t really recommend this game today to anyone but the hardcore adventure gamer (or those who love gory games), it holds a special place in my memory and deserves a mention on the countdown.  And frankly, so does this guy.

Contemporary RatingLow.  Controls were confusing, even in 1989, and requires playing the original (which I don’t recommend!).

Cruelty Rating:  Polite.  You can die and lose your progress, but dangerous situations are apparent. Saving your game at regular intervals prevents frustration.

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4 thoughts on “52: Manhunter 2: San Francisco

    • If I recall, you and I played this game together as kids and were wholly confused. Years later, I bought the first game for like fifty cents at a thrift store. It’s pretty terrible (lots of mazes!), but oh man the second game is so much better once I had an idea of what was happening.

    • Whatever you liked about New York, it’s better in San Fran. Not sure I’ve played it with DOSBox, though. I played it back in 2000 and I think at that time it still worked on Windows 98.

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