by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
The Shadow Hunter is Back!
In 1993, Sierra released a point-and-click adventure game starring a down-on-his luck author, Gabriel Knight. Laced with humour and voodoo, the game became an instant classic and received two sequels and tie-in novels. Since it was a PC only title, many gamers of the day were left out of the fun and by the time PC had crushed the other gaming platforms, the game was several years old.
Although the current trend of making remakes of everything often produces soulless copies of past successes, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is not an example of such failures. Instead, Jane Jensen and her team have revived the joy of gaming that the players of the original must have had in the early 90s – and gives those of us who missed it the first time another chance to get to know Gabriel Knight’s story. The graphics and audio have been updated, puzzles have been added and the gameplay has been smoothed.
Sins of the Fathers is set mostly in New Orleans and it wonderfully showcases the unique aspects of the city. The St. Louis Cemetery, French Quarter and Jackson Square are all there, amongst other places. Gabriel is a local author and a bookstore owner, who has not had much luck in either venture. But what he lacks in business acumen and literary gifts, he compensates with his good looks and wonderful hair.
The city has suffered from murders that seem to have voodoo overtones. The media and police seem to think that the voodoo aspects are faked to throw off the investigators, but as Gabriel digs deeper into the mysteries – motivated by his desire to write another novel – he begins to realise that the murders are somehow connected with his family’s past and the nightmares that he has suffered from for his entire life. Along the way, Gabriel meets a beautiful woman who seems to be connected to the case, but he is drawn to her for very different reasons.
The gameplay has a classic style. You point at items with your mouse cursor and, if the item is somehow important, its name pops out and you can click it in order to see a menu of the actions that you can take with it. The first scene of the game taking place in Gabriel’s bookstore offers you enough of a crash course in this sort of mechanics and they quickly become second nature. And – to stop the game from becoming an exercise in pixel hunting – you can press spacebar to show all the labels for all the hotspots on the screen at the same time. This allows you to quickly check whether you found everything that you should have found. Mind you, some hotspots may not be immediately important and you have to return to them much later in the story. And remember mirrors: Wherever they may be found, they are always a great attraction to Gabriel.
Most of the puzzles can be solved by logic and some thought, but there are some that you have to solve by either hunting around for anything that you might have missed and by trying everything you can think of trying, or by resorting to the in-game hint system. The good thing about it is that it first offers you a slight hint that may direct you into the right direction and then – after a delay system – a more clear set of instructions of what to do next or what steps to take. I am not as patient a gamer as I was in my teens, so I resorted to the hint system quite often.
The story is divided into days and each day there is a certain number of tasks that you must perform. This basically involves visiting every new location that the investigation has brought up and chatting with all the characters that you meet. Only after you have performed all the obligatory tasks does the day end and the next one begin. This makes for a relatively linear story, but you still have a lot of freedom within each day to perform the tasks in whatever order you want – and revisiting locations again and again.
The remake’s graphics hearken back to the old days stylistically, although they have been technically brought to today’s standards. The cut-scenes involving dream sequences and certain important events have not – thankfully – been remade into quick time events, but allow you to sit back and simply enjoy the unfolding of events. The voice acting is for the most part very good, although I must admit a slight dislike towards the narrator’s voice in some lines that she delivers.
Sins of the Fathers is an excellent point-and-click adventure offering a strong and engaging story. It quickly takes a hold of you and keeps you coming back to the game until you have finished the game and seen how everything turns out. And, even then, there is the optional ending to experience... And the optional puzzles to find and solve... This is definitely a must for any fan of the adventure genre or good mystery stories in general.
Excellent story, good gameplay, avoidance of pixel hunting
Some of the puzzles may require you to rely on the hint system