Is it good? Is it up to scratch? Is it still frustratingly difficult and often silly?
Find out in my SquareGo review, or read below the cut:
It’s been over 20 years since Jane Jensen’s seminal point ‘n click adventure, Gabriel Knight graced the bedroom PCs of a generation of gamers. A score of years which hasn’t been all too kind to the genre, and it’s really only in the last few years with the successes of Telltale Games and Kickstarters which have made the remaking of Gabriel Knight a possibility.
For those too young, or too disinterested in mid-90’s gaming to be au fait with the game, Gabriel Knight is the story of the eponymous Louisianan novelist-cum-bookstore owner, who is unexpectedly thrown into a world of Voodoo and demon hunting when his investigation of some local voodoo-based murders, and his own family history cross paths at the same time. With a little help from his Police buddy, Mosely, his despairing assistant Grace and the odd call from his obscure Uncle in Germany, Gabriel must delve into the origins of the local Voodoo honfour, unmask the killers, and reclaim his family’s birthright to become one of the fabled, Schattenjagers.
Given the changes in technology, the differences in the mechanical tastes of modern audiences, and the quality and extent of leftover material from the original production of the game; it’s not surprising that Jensen’s new company, Pinkerton Studios, decided to rebuild the game from the ground up.
Gone are the blocky dos-based screens of old, and tinny tunes and in place is a 3D slick and streamlined looking recreation of the original aesthetic. Particularly with the audio, the redux is so close that at times it’s difficult to believe that none of the original voice cast returned to re-record their lines. But despite eschewing the likes of Tim Curry, Mark Hamill, Michael Dorn and Leah Remini, the voice work is not only well performed, at times it’s nigh-on indistinguishable from the original cadences and accents of the characters.
In most other ways, the adaptation has been impressive, the re-imagined locations remind closely enough of the originals, but with a more sensible spacial awareness, as well as a few concessions to making play that little bit easier. While the story has for the most part been unchanged, as well as the dialogue and ingame text.
A bizarre side effect of this however is that a few wee mistakes have slipped the net, such as a previously female police dispatcher voice now being replaced with a deep male brogue and yet the responses still referring to him as “Molly”. Or that Gabriel’s character name and pen name have been muddled up in the close-up pictures of his novels
More surprising is the choice to streamline the game’s locations by date, only unlocking them as the story progresses, rather than the original game’s method of dropping them all one the player at once, then letting them muddle through them as they saw fit. The interface has also been redesigned, as well as the game having a time-unlocked hint system to prevent the serious issues of people getting stuck, for which the game was legendary. (What hidden lump of clay? -Ed)
The result is that old hands may well find themselved getting farther than they recall in one story thread than they expect to, before even beginning others that would previously have been all but complete. But will be safe in the knowledge that it’s all been planned out so that the story plays out in a manner that makes sense.
Despite the changes, and occasional flaws, the fact remains that Gabriel Knight is a solid adventure game, which aside from a slight logic and story fumble at the 3/4 mark stands heads above many other adventure games of the time and most of those that followed. It’s a fine game, and this new lick of paint does nothing to take away from the memories of the old game (which is still available elsewhere, if you are an ultimate purist) and while imperfect is well worth checking out if you missed out on it first time round.