The first Gabriel Knight game was released during the golden age of point and click adventures, slotting in between games like Day of the Tentacle and Beneath a Steel Sky, which meant that it came on a whole lot of floppy disks. It was the dawn of the CD-ROM era as well though, so I have a CD version to play instead, filled with voices and video sequences and such like. The music's definitely still midi though, judging from the theme: youtube link.
I've already mentioned about spoilers in the box over on the right hand side of the site, but seeing as this is a very story and puzzle driven kind of game I'll say it again: I'm gonna be spoilin' the shit out of the first hour or so of gameplay and any plot developments contained within.
Taken as it is the dream doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I imagine I'll eventually discover the significance of each element as the game progresses.
It turns out that 300 years ago in South Carolina, our protagonist's ancestor was working as a witch hunter, investigating a series of ritual murders. Unfortunately for everyone involved he soon found that he had fallen in love with the enemy, and on the day that she was caught and burned at the stake he had an attack of conscience and combined his witch hunter talisman powers with her evil god powers to save her.
What happened next leads me to believe that this move was likely one of those 'sins of the fathers' mentioned in the subtitle.
300 YEARS LATER, NEW ORLEANS.
And it turns out that it is... not. I am actually surprised.
The woman is revealed to be an employee of Gabriel Knight's rare book shop called Grace Nakimura, who is responsible for doing his accounting, minding the shop, and telling women that phone up after him that he's a lout and that they could do better. The two have a friendly antagonism going where he continually hits on her and she continually points out his flaws.
Aside from the low-fi sound quality Grace's voice acting is very good, but Gabriel is performed by Tim Curry putting on a New Orleans accent and he comes off sounding like he's either Bill or Ted. I mean for all I know his accent could be a dead on perfect imitation of one of the dialects from the area, but his 'Californian surfer dude' tone feels a little off target to me.
I've got a whole lot of commands in this, accessible either by cycling through them with the right mouse button, or clicking the icons on this drop down menu, but I'm not really seeing this abundance of choice as a good thing. Especially as cycling through eight icons takes long enough to be a pain in the ass. At least they had the sense to stop before adding things like 'wear' and 'insert'.
You might have noticed the two pictures don't quite line up right; that's because the high res version stretches the backgrounds to a little further than double their height, throwing in extra lines to compensate. It gives the art a jittery look, which is a little off-putting.
I guess I'll start in the traditional adventure game fashion, by grabbing everything I can.
I selected 'Messages' and learned that some guy from Germany wants Gabriel to call him back, Detective Mosely has some photos for him to pick up from the police station, and his grandmother wants him to look through his dead father's things. Lots of stuff to do.
There's actually two dialogue commands in this: ASK, which brings up this list of topics, and TALK, which makes the characters chat between each other for a second. I'm not really sure what the point of the second one is, except to give me one extra cursor to cycle past whenever I want to look at something.
Okay so my goals right now are:
- Research gruesome Voodoo Murders.
- Talk to some guy in Germany.
- Look through Gabriel's father's things.
- Pick up photos from the police station.
Hey it's just occurred to me that this is a real map of New Orleans, so I could go to Google Maps right now and virtually drive down Gabriel's road in Street View. I can't help but notice that his grandmother's house isn't marked here though.
LATER, AT GRANDMA'S HOUSE.
- Research Voodoo Murders.
Talk to guy in Germany.FAILED.
Look through his father's things.POINTLESS.
- Pick up photos.
- Visit family tomb.
SOON, AT LOUIS CEMETARY #1.
It's also got me wondering if they'll update his tech in the 20th Anniversary remake they're working on. I mean Google Glass was practically invented for this kind of privacy invasion.
Right, next I'll trying collecting the photos from the station.
I'm here at the station to pick up the photos from Gabriel's friend, but there's been another murder so Detective Mosely isn't around right now and no amount of begging will get the desk sergeant to break his sacred oath to the department and tell me where he's gone.
Right now I have a photo of a dead guy and a photo of Mosely taken during his graduation from the police academy in my inventory. I'm not sure how this helps me much to be honest.
The game could really use more of a definite goal to work towards, because 'research Voodoo Murders' is way too vague and it's not exactly the kind of thing I can be excited to be working towards. I mean look at The Secret of Monkey Island, it starts out by giving you one very specific goal (become a pirate) and then immediately tells you what three tasks you need to complete to achieve this goal.
In this on the other hand Gabriel's goal is to write a novel, with the Voodoo Murders just being something he's using for inspiration, and 'get inspiration' ain't exactly a task I can break into logical steps.
DIXIELAND DRUG STORE.
It doesn't help me at all, but I can do it.
HISTORICAL VOODOO MUSEUM.
I tried doing my adventure game thing here and went messing around with everything in the room, but all that got me was a telling off. I came really close to agitating a snake enough to make it break out of its glass box though. I've no idea how that would help me at all, but it's something to do at least.
Well I'm stuck. Wait, there's still one last person I can go pay a visit to.
|Not actually a screenshot from Gabriel Knight, just so you know.|
I suppose I should go visit the other places on my map and see if there's any puzzles to solve. Maybe using the tweezers at St. Louis Cathedral or showing Detective Mosely's graduation photo to everyone in the park will give me the missing clue I need.
The game made damn sure I was aware of his presence by forcing me to watch him following people around, so I'm pretty sure he's actually important, but so far all I've managed to do is lure him over to those rotoscoped musicians to annoy them instead.
Okay, the musicians lure the mime away from following me, so logically that means that the challenge here is to get him to follow me past all of them, which would leave me standing next to that bike cop on the far end of the park. The only reason I'd want to bring a mime to the cop is to lure him away from his bike, so from that I deduce that my goal here must be to do something with his motorcycle while he's not around.
You know, I'm not sure an adventure game is working right when I can only identify puzzles by figuring out solutions first and then working backwards.
LATER, AT THE SCENE OF THE CRIME.
And just like that the cops all pack up and go home, leaving me standing here all alone. I suppose this is my cue to find the one clue they overlooked then.
I guess I've exhausted all my options here then, for now anyway. I guess I could always go back to the museum and harass the snake again. Actually I'll go see if Mosely's back in his office at the station now.
SOON, AT THE STATION.
Well I'm here in an office, chatting to Detective Mosely, surrounded by stuff that may or may not be part of some puzzle. I managed to trick him into leaving the room once but I couldn't find anything to do before he came back, so... I don't know
Here's one thing I've learned though: Mosely is voiced by prolific voice actor Mark Hamill, in his first ever video game appearance.
Baldur's Gate, Alfred from Batman: The Animated Series, Sheila Broflovski from South Park, and Worf (son of Mogh).
The Hollywood Reporter claimed that this is "the first time an all-Hollywood cast of name actors has been assembled for an interactive movie" which might be stretching it, but they're certainly up to the task. Interactive movie though? C'mon, this is an interactive graphic novel at best.
It's not as bad as the tag-line on the box though, which describes the game as being "A Supernatural Psycho-Thriller". Sorry box art text guy, but this is actually a pretty goofy game. Check out the music for this police station for instance: YouTube link.
Of course it turned out that there's nothing out there, nothing I can find anyway. So that was a waste of time.
If only there was some way I could lure her away long enough to get those files and make a copy for myself...
Yep again I've managed to accidentally solve a puzzle before getting up to it, and got another item I don't know what to do with as a reward. I guess I could go back and pester the Voodoo shop guy again. Actually wait, there is something I forgot to do... look up that address of that rich woman who drove past the crime scene.
As point and click adventure games go, Gabriel Knight doesn't seem all that bad at all. It hasn't thrown any batshit crazy "glue cat hair to your upper lip so you can pretend you have a moustache" puzzles at me yet at least, but then it hasn't really given me much to work out at all so far. Half my time in the game has been spent going through all my dialogue options and the other half has been spent walking painfully slowly across each room and then pressing right mouse button seven times to look at something because I'm too lazy to move the mouse up to the bar at the top and click on a command instead. The areas don't even scroll across like in most adventure games, you're locked to just the screen you're in unless you find an exit to another area, or more likely the map. Makes the game feel kind of small really.
Visually it's aged really well for a game released 21 years ago, it's just a shame that the art is in such a low resolution. Especially the videos, which could almost fit on a Game Boy screen. Plus the voice work rivals LucasArts games of the era, even if the sound quality isn't all that awesome. I liked the music too for the most part, though it goes to some weird places tonally for a game that claims to be a 'psycho-thriller'. Like most point and click adventures of the time, the game leans more towards comedy overall, with the narrator coming up with smart-assed comments about everything you click on and Tim Curry doing his best to make sure you can never take a thing Gabriel says seriously.
Do I want to keep playing it though? Nah, not really. I'm curious about where the story's going, but as a game it's missing a hook to get me invested and I was rarely left with a clear idea where I had to go next after solving a puzzle. So I might as well go off to some other game instead.
Well I'm done inflicting my opinion of Gabriel Knight on you, so now it's your turn to tell the world what you think about the game, my humble article, my equally humble website and so on using the comment box below.