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Alex Remington

Alex Remington

Posted: November 16, 2009 02:00 AM

Gabriel Knight 1: A Game This Good Should Live Forever

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Christy Marx was one of their developers, and she made two terrific games for them, Conquests of Camelot (rating: 75) and Conquests of the Longbow (rating: 90). Jane Jensen was another, and she cowrote King's Quest 6 (rating: 93) and the Gabriel Knight series. The first in the series, 1993's Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, is a true classic and as fun today as it was then. Unlike films or novels, few people regard computer games as being worth revisiting decades after their creation -- but in my opinion, the best will always remain worthwhile.

Gabriel Knight is a voodoo murder mystery set in the pre-Katrina French Quarter. The main character is a rakishly handsome novelist digging up leads on a multiple homicide for his new book who quickly gets in over his head. Long on dialogue, with eloquent Creole touches, it plays like a novel, and indeed Jensen published novelizations of each of the first two games in the series. Though its 2D graphics and MIDI score (with multiple versions of "When the Saints Go Marching In") are less impressive by today's standards, both still do a good job of atmospherics. The game makes good use of cutscenes, split screens, and lighting to get the most out of its pixilated images.

The game is divided into ten days, providing hours of gameplay. The days advance the plot, and the sequence is fairly straightforward, but but don't prevent you from going back and doing things as needed there are enough locations, enough characters and a long enough timeline for the plot that it never feels forced.

It's a point-and-click adventure game, as was Sierra's house style back then. You can try to WALK, OPEN, PICK UP, TALK, or OPERATE anything on the screen; you can go to your inventory and use any of the improbably high number of items that you've picked up. The game generally doesn't trip you up or trap you: there aren't too many times at which you can do something that will irrevocably prevent you from winning the game, but several of the puzzles are so hard that you may want to Google a walkthrough. (16 years ago, you'd have had to buy a hint book or call a 1-900 hint line!)

With each successive day the game gets more intense with bodies and blood and voodoo mythology, and more ways to die. It's intensely creepy, a thriller with touches of horror. The strength of the game is its characterization and writing, and both hold up brilliantly to this day. Find a copy however you can, and play it.

Rating: 90

Crossposted at Remingtonstein.

 

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