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2010 AD: New Arhus; a city tormented by every crime imaginable; murders, muggings, drug dealing and prostitution. Tim Machin, a reporter both underpaid and overworked, finds himself on the trail of a sinister force that appears to be connected to the crime and killing. Unable to ignore the evil events surrounding him, Tim finds himself drawn further adn further into a potentially fatal web of secrets that threatens the future of the city.

What is the significance of the disturbing visions that plague Machin's mind? What effect will they have on his sanity an what role will they play in protecting the future of New Arhus...?

  • A complex storyline with multiple endings generating over 50 hours of gameplay
  • Over 2 hours of full motion videro
  • More than 5 hours of digital sound and speech
  • A cast of over 70 professional actors
  • An original atmospheric musical score
  • 60 hand painted backgrounds
~ from the back of the box

What were you doing when you were 16? I was swanning around college pretending to be the next Quentin Tarantino, shirking off study time by playing the latest budget re-release of a LucasArts or Sierra adventure game. If you were New-York native Karthik Bala or his brother Guha, you were starting up gaming company Vicarious Visions so he could make and release his own point-and-click pet project Synnergist.

It took some years, a lot of effort and brazen gumption to get it made, beginning as an idea conceived over Spring break 1991. After years of teaching themselves programming with little to work with beyond some loaned text books, they managed to get funding in 1994. By now they were at University, their dorm rooms becoming their base of operations. It was 21st Century  Entertainment who took a punt on it and agreed to handle publishing duties, but the Bala brothers were now locked in to a contract and had to provide a finished product. They rang up Access Software out of the blue to see if they could licence the game engine used in Tex Murphy’s second adventure Martian Memorandum – and it worked.

The CD icon on the top left brings up the menu where you can save and load your game (left).
The top bar also brings up the inventory when you hover over it (right).

Juggling game production with their studies, they would often stay up ‘til the wee hours to film the many FMV sequences needed in the game. It was all new to them and not exactly old for the industry at the time, so they had to learn how to implement the footage keeping in the limited space while keeping it all in sync. With no guide or existing documentation, this was all coded through trial and error. The digitally duct-taped final product came out in 1996, but only in Europe. It got decent reviews, despite its aging visuals, but those who worked on it would never see it in their local gaming store. It unfortunately never saw a release in the US but despite this small start the company itself would go on from strength to strength. Vicarious Visions were becoming known in the industry for well-made ports, sequels and handheld spin-offs of big franchise games such as Spider-Man, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Spyro the Dragon before Activision absorbed them into their gaming black hole in 2007. The brothers now head up the innovative company Velan Studios.

As for Synnergist, well, it’s a little dated from a technical standpoint. The Martian Memorandum engine, previously used two years prior in Noctropolis, was showing its age. The FMV was choppy and low-resolution which couldn’t compare with the comparatively smooth video of the previous year’s Gabriel Knight 2 let alone the plethora of such games that came out in 1996. Even Tex Murphy had moved on with the exceptional The Pandora Directive.

It may look older than it is, but if you can look beyond that you will an entertaining neo-noir to sink your teeth into. Set in the future year of 2010 in the grimy metropolis of New Arhus City, you play as a downtrodden reporter named Tim Manchin working for a sleazy tabloid called the New Arhus Chronicle. He is to complete two articles in two days or else he is fired. A puff piece on local entrepreneur Victor Ambrose’ philanthropic activities and a posh restaurant review for which he has no reservation. It isn’t long before you’re embroiled in a series of murders and a conspiracy involving class cleansing and the systematic removal of those seemed undesirable.

Access all the locations of New Arhus using the subway map (left).
Hear Tim's thoughts about what's happening on each journey (right).

For a creative team so young, the story is a compelling one. The voiced narration of even the most mundane objects on the screen give you an insight to this world you’re exploring and the mind of Tim himself. No one else would look at a structural column in a police station and think “being both straight and a means of support, pillars often are used in training as the philosophy officers model themselves after”. Straight and supportive indeed. To get to each location, Tim has to travel on the subway. On each journey, he will recount his thoughts and recap events which provides further insight as pieces are put together. The only things that bellies the age of its creators are the noticeably youthful faces of friends and family playing the characters, and one flowery attempt at flirtation; “your eyes, they are so sensous (sic) I can see these soft reflections gazing out at me.” – bleugh.

If you’ve played any other adventure, you’ll know what to expect with its gameplay. Interactions are simplified to two actions applied to the left and right mouse buttons. Left-click looks or moves while right-click interacts or talks. Looking will elicit those wordy descriptions, but don’t overlook its use. Often times a look will uncover new hotspots or unpack inventory items. There is an inventory, and all of the puzzles revolve around this. They are logical and fairly simple, though it is easy to miss an action or understand how to do it. For example, in the police department’s forensic laboratory you understand you have to leave a note for a lab technician. You have a notepad, but you can’t jot something on it anywhere such as his desk or work station; it has to be on the door. You can’t just write it either, you’ll have to stick it there with some sticky tape. Unlike other adventures that allow you to combine items in your inventory, the game will assume you mean to stick that note of the door when you use just the tape on it. This design philosophy will catch you out more than the puzzle and it can often lead to a game over or even unwinnable dead ends you won’t know about until much later in the game, and even then it’s not spelled out to you.

A large and youthful cast consist of Bala's friends, family and a few professionals.
The actor playing Tim Manchin (Jeff Baskin) went on to be a Fox 16 weather man.

In all honesty, the writing, the pleasingly pixelated background art (that awesome cover design was by Sandman artist Dave McKean no less) and entertainingly cheesy voice acting is doing a lot of the heavy lifting. Enough for a small yet not-insignificant fandom to arise since its release. Part of that is down to a fascinating urban legend that has only recently been proved true. A hidden ending or Easter egg was teased right when it was released with the promise of a “grand prize” offered to the first five people who found it. No-one ever did. At least not until 2021 when a group of dedicated enthusiast sleuthed around its code to figure it out.  This path is so convoluted (it includes  - among others things - tapping benign objects a specific number of times and entering / exiting doors in a specific order), there’s no way it could’ve been found by a layman dedicated to finding it while playing the game. It’s way too complicated to describe here, but I recommend Resulka’s YouTube video on it which also includes a fascinating interview with Karthik Bala himself.

There’s a lot going on with Synnergist. The inviting graphics, the deep story and dedicated design make it an adventure game fans of the genre can get lost in. I know I was. I played it many years ago after discovering it on an abandonware site and I remember the whispered hubbub around its secret path on adventure game forums back in the day. I did try to find it, but in all honesty put in little effort and just proceeded to play the game normally. Good thing too, ‘cos even following the guide is a mission in itself (though I do recommend it, the new scenes are rewarding and act like an interview with Bala). A most fascinating hidden gem in the genre.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses the DOSBox-X build of DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 323 Mb.  Install Size: 697 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


Synnergist is © Vicarious Visions
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

Like this? Try These...

https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2016/10/dark-seed-2.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2015/06/ripleys-believe-it-or-not-riddle-of.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.com/2017/08/kronolog-nazi-paradox-aka-red-hell.html


  1. I have trouble downloading.

  2. OK Not anymore, my apologies chum. I appreciate you downloading this game!

    1. No worries. Sometimes all it takes is a page refresh. Enjoy the game.

  3. This game has some cool hidden secrets which have finally been uncovered here:

    1. Wow, a very interesting read. I'll watch the video later. When it comes to secret content in games, there's hidden and then there's.. well, buried. It reminds me of the Crystalware adventure games of the '80s, that supposedly all had deeply-concealed mysteries and tantalised prizes for the solvers in their marketing:


    2. This whole saga is quite fascinating. SYNdy from this forum is the same person as Resulka as mentioned in my review. Her interview with Bala is a must watch.

  4. Hello there Biff!

    Very much enjoying this game so far though I might have run into a bug. When I attempt to use the letter knife on the box in the Ambrose Foundation lobby, the narration happens and the sound of the tape being cut goes fine but afterwards my mouse becomes frozen and even pressing escape won't return me to the menu. The music keeps playing so I sat for a few minutes to see if something would happen but so far, no luck.

    I hope that's enough information to help. If you need me to send a save I can do that too. Keep up the great work in introducing us to these lovely little gems!

    1. Hmm, that's quite early in the game and I can't say I'm able to replicate it. I do know (thanks Resulka's investigation detailed in her video) that this interaction - and one other later on in the game - has a weird inaudible audio cue that could cause issues on original hardware. Try disabling sound in the game menu for a short while and turn it back on after using the knife.

    2. That worked like a charm! I'm able to progress now so thank you kindly for your help. I'll keep this in mind if it happens in the later point too.

    3. Good to hear! In my testing, I did run into issues when playing around with cycles. I began with around 8000, but setting it at 6000 allowed me to complete the game with only the odd glitch that doesn't affect gameplay (YouTube longplays have this too). I must admit I didn't attempt the secret path though, or try all of the wrong turns you can find yourself in (such leaving the bar with Jessica or being late for the date with her).

  5. I think the strangest game I played from this era of engines and style of FMV was Psychotron.