Publisher: Pinkerton Road Studio Developer: Phoenix Online Studios, Pinkerton Road Studio Year: 2014 Platform: Windows, Mac, iPad, Android
Many classic 90’s adventures have received a remake in the past decade, though Sins of the Fathers probably received the largest overhaul, not just to the graphics and sounds, but also to the interface, story, and puzzles. Because the story and main beats are mostly unchanged, this remains a strong adventure. But Jane Jensen and Co. swung and missed on most of the changes.
When I reviewed the original, I bemoaned the slow pace, extensive backtracking, and endless pixel-hunting. Thankfully, these issues were all improved. Gabriel moves much faster here. Puzzles are a bit more streamlined, requiring less travel. Objects are generally easier to find (including the ability to hit the space bar to highlight all clickable areas). There’s an optional, gradual in-game hint system. And they slashed the amount of icons necessary to interact with the world. In other words, they made the game more modern, more playable. Unfortunately, in making these changes a lot of soul was sucked from the experience.
Publisher: Sierra Developer: Sierra Year: 1999 Platform: Windows
Once again Jane Jensen and Sierra decide to completely overhaul the game’s design for the third adventure in this popular series. This time around we are given 3-D rendered graphics and gameplay from the first person perspective, and an increased difficulty level that doesn’t rely solely on finding the correct hotspot to click.
Publisher:Sierra Developer: Sierra Year: 1993 Platform: DOS; Windows; Macintosh
Review: Near the height of Sierra’s peak in the gaming industry they were releasing copious amounts of sequels to the games that made them famous. But in 1993, Jane Jensen began a new series, and in this author’s opinion, created the best game Sierra developed.
You play Gabriel Knight, a New Orleans writer and owner of a failing bookstore. “Employing” a young post-grad, Grace Nakamura, to run the shop while you grimace with writer’s block, there is little to look forward to in life except philandering. The headlines are barraged with stories regarding the “Voodoo Murders,” a series of mutilations that appear to be a part of ritualistic cult. Your friend Detective Mosely lets you in on parts of the case to help you write your new book about Voodoo, and even reluctantly turns a blind eye to your own personal investigation of the murders the NOPD cannot solve.
While the game includes a comic book prelude to the plot, it gives away very little of the gaming experience. The pacing is brilliant, with a believable timeline and healthy doses of tension and humour. Gabriel’s relationships with his family and friends are genuine and deep, even though he has difficulty coping with his emotions. The story itself is fascinating, with several plot twists (mostly acceptable), and rich in detail and culture. I practically wanted to visit New Orleans after completing the game.
Sins Of The Fathers executes Sierra’s best implementation of the point’n’click system. Rather than four icons at Gabriel’s disposal, you now have eight, all with distinct and purposeful functions. The game differentiates between merely talking to a person and interrogating them about certain topics. Thankfully, you don’t have to take notes as the game saves all conversations for you. Unfortunately, the interrogation process can be painful; you are given a list of topics you can speak to each character about, and as you learn more in the game, more topics become available. What this leads to is revisiting the same places dozens of times to see if a topic subject has appeared on the approved list.
What makes this whole process tolerable is the excellent voice acting by the game’s many characters. Tim Curry plays Gabriel. At first, I was turned off by his cocky drawl, but the longer I played the game, the more I became addicted to the personality Curry gives Gabriel. Michael Dorn also does a fine job as a Voodoo store clerk, and Mark Hamill gives a believable performance as Detective Mosely.
The game’s puzzles can be contrived at times, but usually fit seamlessly into the plot anyway. A few are also pointlessly difficult. What, if anything, holds this game back is the precise order you must complete all of your tasks in. While the game employs Sierra’s time advance system, cutting things nicely into several days of action, it rarely allows the player to differentiate from the predetermined path. This creates stagnancy when the player is stuck on one minor puzzle, which a game should never do if the focus is on story and atmosphere.
To wrap up, the graphics and sound are brilliant, and the series of events that lead to the end of the game are superbly written and pack a wallop of intensity. Any serious fan of adventure games must play Sins Of The Fathers.
Contemporary Rating: Medium. The constant revisiting of the same places annoyed me, so I’m sure it would annoy modern gamers.
Cruelty Rating: Polite. Yeah, a Sierra game that isn’t cruel! The few times you can die, it should be pretty obvious to save before hand.
Publisher: Sierra Developer: Sierra Year: 1995 Platform: DOS, Windows, Macintosh
Review: Sierra took a risk by taking a successful game (Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers) and completely changing the interface for its sequel. The second game in the Gabriel Knight series is strictly full-motion video, with real actors attempting to bring the story to life. Compared to other FMV games, The Beast Within is a rip-roaring success; but the nature of the beast unnecessarily hurts the series.
This time, the game takes place entirely in Germany. The local town is need of Gabriel’s “powers” to help rid themselves of what they believe are werewolves. As he is once again experiencing writer’s block (after his successful book based on the last game!), Gabriel reluctantly agrees. What follows is a six-chapter series that slowly dishes out an engaging plot, only a little more predictably than before. This time around, the player alternates between playing Gabriel and Grace (his employee from the first game), as they both must research the problem and risk their lives to fulfill their destinies.
The game is fairly easy, with a faithful dose of hotspot clicking to advance the plot. However, there are still many inventory puzzles, and quite a few are entertaining to solve, including one that involves splicing tape recordings. What really holds the game back is the same problem with its predecessor, multiplied threefold. At more than one occasion, Grace must nail every hotspot in a handful of rooms, merely for information gathering, with no indication that it is necessary.
The other disappointment, frankly, is the acting, especially that of the two main characters. In Sins Of The Fathers, Gabriel was a hunk and a cocky sonofabitch, with layers of depth and sensitivity buried underneath the tough exterior. Here, he is pretty much a wuss, and not at all attractive. Grace is not any better, overreacting to nearly every situation while being passive-aggressive with everyone she meets (again, unlike the previous game, where Grace is cool, with a cutting wit). Thankfully, the supporting cast puts in top-notch performances, especially Peter Lucas, Wolf Muser, and Fredrich Solms.
While the writing at times leaves a bit to be desired (including humour, which is almost non-existent), the story and characters are enough to draw the player in through to the end, which like the previous game, is well-developed and thoroughly intense. The only major beef I had with the plot was that even though I discovered who the antagonist was well before game’s end, I couldn’t do anything about it because Gabriel didn’t know (and he should have). Instead of simply implementing mutliple endings and/or plot branches, I was squeezed through a painfully linear endgame. Thankfully, the final puzzle is pretty damn good, leading to a satisfying ending.
Overall, this game was a success, widely considered the adventure game of the year. It is a worthy play, but probably only to fans of the series.
Contemporary Rating: Medium. Very easy to play, but the insane amount of pixel-hunting at times would drive modern gamers batty.
Cruelty Rating: Polite. There are a couple of situations where you can die and must save before hand just in case, but the situations are very obvious.