"What can you tell me about...Voodoo?"
To start off, I think I should confess something. No itís not that bad! Well maybe depending on your point of viewÖIíve never really had any experience playing any of the Sierra Graphic Adventure titles, none at all. No Kingís Quest, Police Quest, Gabriel Knight, none of it. Back when I was younger I never had access to these games, the only types of Adventure games I did play were the LucasArts ones. I had played other Sierra titles like SWAT, and Lords of the Realm 2 but never their Adventure titles which seem to be what Sierra is better known for.
Itís usually around the end of the year I start getting kind of nostalgic and Iíll want to play some old PC games so this time I decided to play some stuff Iíve never played before. I decided Iíd go ahead and give Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers a shot, itís an Adventure Game that a lot of people have put over as one of the best of itís class for years since it came out and really the Adventure genre is one of my favorites so I figured Iíd give it a go. I remained kind of skeptical of just HOW good the game could be starting it up because Iíve heard that some of Sierraís Adventure games have some pretty stupid deaths in them and stuff but Iím happy to say that this game did not disappoint.
Iíll try to do a much better job of explaining the story without spoiling part of it, unlike the back of the game box! Seriously, if youíre looking at this game or for things about it donít look at the back of the package it contains plot spoilersÖgreat job marketing guys of 1993! You play as Gabriel Knight, who is a struggling horror novelist, slacker, and womanizer all rolled into one. Gabriel is relatable and easy going, a likeable protagonist in a narrative heavy kind of game is a good thing to have. Gabriel lives in New Orleans in the French Quarter and runs an old book store on Bourbon Street, currently heís working on a horror novel based around some murders taking place at the time termed ďThe Voodoo MurdersĒ.
Starting the game, you must take Gabriel around various parts of the French Quarter and other parts of New Orleans to learn as much as you can about Voodoo and The Voodoo Murders going on. The local Police are downplaying the Voodoo aspect of the murders and saying itís just faked but fairly soon, Gabriel discovers there is much more to the Voodoo angle of the murders than what the Police and others think. There, that was much better and spoiler free.
The gameís story has many twists and turns, makes you feel a whole gamut of emotions and is very involving. The part that stands out most is the quality of the script and writing all over the game. The narrative script that describes objects or other things is very detailed and thorough but feels practical and relatable not just like youíre analyzing something like a robot or computer. The humor and jokes in the game are also very sharp which I didnít expect from this kind of story or the game at all. I laughed out loud at things several times because there was good pay off to setups or some really good zingers that reminds me of banter I have with my own friends.
If I had any complaint about the story of this game it would be that I felt like there was more room for multiple endings. There are multiple endingsÖbut just two. But really thatís a very minor complaint to have in the face of everything else about the story. This game does have one of the best narratives for an old school Adventure game.
The gameplay in Gabriel Knight is one of the few places where it takes a hit. Nothing innovative or too interesting is really done to set it apart too much from other Adventure games of its own time. It has all the functions that most of those types of games do where you have a bank of actions you pick from and use on objects or people in the world around you except theyíre more intuitive in this game than in some others. You have Walk, Operate, Open, Move, Pick Up, Look, Question/Interrogate, and Interact. You keep a large stash of items on you and show people in the game your items to learn more about them or to advance the plot.
The most unique thing about the game is the Questioning/Interrogation of characters. You have extensive amounts of dialogue with characters in this game. A LOT more than in any other Iíve played. In fact Iíd be willing to say you spend at least half or more than half of your time in the game talking to people and learning as much as you can about whatever is that comes up in the plot at that point in time. Thatís fine though, because the dialogue is well written and scripted, and itís also well-acted if you have the ďtalkieĒ version of this game, which means it has voice acting. I recommend trying to seek out the talkie version of this game because itís so dialogue heavy, the voice acting helps to pull you further into whatís going on.
One thing Iíll give this game props for in terms of gameplay is how a lot of the puzzles are not too far out there in terms of finding out what the solutions are. A lot of the solutions to the puzzles are very logical and practical without you having the need to resort to a guide or help so much to get through. I only had to consult a FAQ a couple of times and most of the time it was related to a sequence of events type of thing that wasnít exactly a Puzzle where I was simply doing things out of order. Most Adventure games get a little ridiculous about Puzzles to the point of where you have no option but to just rub items on things until something happens and the genre has a stigma about it, but this game manages to elude this stigma in my opinion.
Sometimes the gameís puzzle solutions can even be TOO practical. If youíre a veteran adventure gamer you can sometimes overthink a solution to a puzzle when itís actually something as simple as literally turning on a light switch. Again, thatís not a bad thing though, itís nice to come back down to earth a little. There were a couple of interesting Puzzles that had to do with translating a type of code and translating writing system and using it to write out your own coded message that were neat but otherwise this game is very much like itís contemporaries except for games like Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis which tried to push the envelope in terms of Adventure game design in my estimation.
Graphically this game is in the top class for 1993. The backdrops are highly detailed and look lived in and natural, it astounds me sometimes how great the artwork is for these types of games. Thereís always a certain amount of richness in the backdrops and each area has a very specific type of personality, a lot like how in real life you can learn a lot about someone just by looking around the room they primarily live in or whatever. The character art is also quite good in the game world, the sprites are pretty expressive and thereís some real smooth animation. Youíll never have much of a problem identifying things in the game world because the sprites are undetailed or too small.
Sometimes in the game there are comic book styled cut-scenes that take place with high quality 2D sprite work. Itís used sparsely through the game unfortunately but itís always great to see. Sometimes there are cut-scenes that use some limited pre-rendered 3D artwork and itís good, but you get the impression if they overdid that specific trick it would get old and its weakness would get exposedÖso it was probably a good idea that they used the pre-rendered stuff rarely. Overall you can see that a lot of work and attention to detail went into the art design and graphical drafting of the game.
Getting utilities out of the way first, sound effects are all of fairly high quality, clear and match up with whatever action youíre doing or seeing. The Sound Engineer did a good job. The standouts of this gameís sound are the voice acting and music. The voice acting is very well done for an early video game featuring actors, itís really the best Iíve heard in an adventure game. There are a couple of bit parts though have kind of goofy or wooden delivery but come on, itís í93 all the characters that you see pretty frequently are very well done and really itís kind of an all-star cast.
Gabriel Knight is played by Tim Curry! Tim Curry! I didnít even know Tim Curry had a part in a video game before Red Alert 3. But thatís not all, youíve also got Mark Hammil, Michael Dorn who played Worf from Star Trek the Next Generation, Efrem Zimbalist Jr who played Alfred from Batman The Animated Series, Jim Cummings whoís done a lot of animation work, and many others who do a great job but I admit Iím not familiar with. All in all though this is pretty much Tim Curryís show, he takes the ball and runs with it doing an excellent job.
The gameís soundtrack is very well done. Each track for a backdrop conveys a very specific feeling and the arrangements are memorable. You hear ďWhen The Saints Go Marching InĒ being played throughout certain parts in New Orleans, specifically in Jackson Square where there are three different types of street bands playing the song in different genres of music. Itís kind of neat to hear, but other tracks the game will stick with you as well. For instance eventually you take a trip to Gabrielís Grandmotherís house, the track there is something that would make you think of grandparents fondly or brings up a lot of memories of when you were younger, a place that feels safe and secure.
Another track is of a Voodoo curio shop called ďDixieland DrugstoreĒ and the track gives you the feeling that this place isnít what it seems or something is kind of slinking around in the background giving you a feeling of unease. Throughout the soundtrack there is heavy usage of a piano or synth piano and itís all just very well done. The soundtrack is memorable and sticks with you a while after youíve beaten the game.
The only spot where Gabriel Knight pretty much drops the ball is replay value, which is unfortunate. As I said above, there are two endings to the game but the point to where youíre able to affect the ending is at the very end of the game so thereís no need to go back and do things differently in a second playthrough. There arenít branching paths or things youíll probably miss either, youíll probably do almost everything there is to do in your first playthrough. The way to tell is the game basically keeps a score of the solutions you get from puzzles or speaking to people on the main interface. Itís similar to the IQ feature in Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis, but the max is 348 I believe and when I finished the game I had something like 336.
Itís an excellent game though and it will be enjoyable to play through it again a long time down the road Iím sure but like so many other games, the only reason youíll come back is to experience the story again long after youíve beaten it.
Gabriel Knight ended up surprising me in several ways, itís a very well done example of a classic Adventure game, one of the best Iíve played too. The general presentation is very well executed and incredibly polished. It doesnít edge Fate of Atlantis out as my favorite by it definitely takes 2nd place for me. Iíll say this though, as my first Sierra Adventure game experience I really enjoyed it and Iím looking forward to trying out the rest of their back catalogue.
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