Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
Sierra S Adventure games have been of three types: the remorselessly twee (Kings Quest), the tough cops (Police Quest) and the vaguely role-playing (Quest for Glory). Gabriel Knight is more in the Police Quest mould. You have to track down a gang of killers, and the violence is fairly graphic. Gabriel Knight scores by being a very good game. In fact, it's brilliant.
You play the eponymous hero, a failed author who runs a book shop in New Orleans. A spate of Voodoo murders is terrifying the w city: useful, because you are researching a book on the subject. But there is another reason why you are drawn in, hinted at in your gruesome nightmares and given full treatment in the graphic novel (comic book). Many years ago an ancestor of yours came to America from Germany to purge a town of evil. He found that devilry was afoot and set a trap for the idolators. Meanwhile he had fallen in love with a beautiful slave girl, Tetelo. The coven falls into the trap but the high priestess turns out to be none other then Tetelo. Torn between love and duty he frees her and she and her murderous gang wreak bloody havoc on the town he had promised to protect.
Is the slave, in some strange way, still alive? And will you undo the mischief of your great great grandfather? Fate is conspiring to bring the two blood lines together and for a while you seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. It is all exciting stuff. In the early part of Gabriel Knight you are just trying to get your bearings and find out about the threat, yourself and your family history. Your assistant, Grace, helps you with research and fends off your attempts at sexual harassment. She gets sniffy when you start sleeping with Malia, but that's women for you, I guess.
Got a Black Magic Woman
From day four, the bodies start piling up - including your own if you're not careful. People start leaving gentle hints, like a dismembered cockerel, that your researches are unwelcome. Your allies become few and far between. The case gets closed and your friend Inspector Mosely is transferred and then killed. You have already compromised yourself with a sexual liaison with Malia Gedde who looks like a strong candidate for an incarnation of the slave Tetelo.
In a magnificent sequence on the seventh day you are cleansed of your sins and emerge a Schatttenjagger, shadow hunter. Now you are ready to do battle against the forces of evil. The action moves from New Orleans to Germany to Benin and back again. Gabriel Knight is atmospheric with background music and sound used to good effect. The various music traditions of New Orleans - jazz, Creole and blues - provide the accompaniment to your walks in the park (an essential part of every day). The general background music is of the sort that you find yourself whistling in the bath.
The music can be turned off from the game control panel. From here you can also alter the sound volume, ear level of detail, text scroll speed and game speed. The last is useful in the arcade sections.
There are eight 'action' icons: walk, look, question, speak, pick up, open, operate and push. A simple click will perform the action, although if you've chosen the wrong one the person might actually walk away and you'll have to catch up with them in order to try again. The graphics and animation are very good. Better than its nearest rival. Shadow Of The Comet.
Fingers and thumbs
Objects that you can pick up or use stand out slightly from the background and there is no limit on what you can carry. I picked up everything in the bedroom on day one, although half of it wasn't needed until three days later.
The inventory can be called up at any time and objects can be used on each other or on the outside world. On the first day you are given a tape recorder which enables you to play back conversations. The general idea is to talk to everyone you meet about everything. Global topics are in one colour, new topics in another and topics special to the person you are talking to in a third. You should also show everyone you meet all you have collected so far. If there is something you shouldn't display (like the snake scale to Dr John) the program will tell you and save your embarrassment.
There are a few special tasks you must perform. These include translating tomb inscriptions and drum messages. All the tools are available to you. Gabriel Knight is not a linear adventure. You do not need to restore at frequent intervals. If there are a number of tasks to be completed in a day, then that day won't 'end' until you've done them. Within the limits of the plot, actions can be done in almost any order. You can pick up the snake scale as late as day five, if you wish.
The puzzles are challenging but not impossible; a mix of logic and lateral thinking. If you investigate your surroundings thoroughly you should have no problems - for instance, if you noticed the effect of the air conditioner on the snake in day one or two, you should survive the attack in day five.
The problem comes with the arcade sequences. There ar$ two really bad ones; in the snake mound on day nine and the final fight on day ten. They not only demand fast reflexes and perfect timing; they also have Sierra's pixel-perfect interface so that unless you click at exactly the right place at the right time, you're dead. I'm not bad at arcade games but I - and about half the people on CompuServe - found the mummies in day nine almost impossible. I think the record for completing it was three days. And you can't skip them as you could in Indiana Jones. This has to be remedied.
It's all in the game
That is not the only thing that should have been remedied. I got the full boxed version of the game, manuals, storybook and the rest. Yet it wouldn't restore saved games. This should have been caught at the testing stage. This couple of minor, technical faults is the only thing that detract from the game - and I hope they will be sorted in the next release. The actual game is addictive, highly playable and downright creepy. Gabriel Knight is one of the few games that approaches the skill of the cinema in transporting you to another world. What more could you ask for?
In Voodoo every object is ruled by a spirit and can be controlled by dealing with that specific spirit. The gods of Voodoo (loas) number over three hundred, and include figures from the Dahomney, Nigerian and Congolese pantheons as well as a few surprised Catholic saints. The gods are of two sorts, the Rada and Petro loas. In general terms, the Rada are benevolent and the Petro loas more destructive. This doesn't mean that the Petro loas are evil - their destructive power was harnessed in the Haitian revolution. Voodoo has its priests called the houngan if male and mambo if female. Voodoo had the ordination of women some time before the Anglican communion.
Download Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Gabriel Knight was reviewed back in Issue 12. Its an atmospheric thriller from Jane Jensen, who wrote Kings Quest 6. The cd version has smoother animation but its main selling point is that all the text is now spoken... and spoken by real, competent actors. Tim Curry plays the eponymous hero in a louche, almost camp, style. Knight is a bookshop owner and failed author investigating a series of Voodoo murders in New Orleans. But the more he finds out about the present, the more he unravels of his own past. The sinister Dr John is played by Michael Dorn (the Klingon Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation) and the redoubtable Efrem Zimbalist Jr plays Richter. The speech slows things down a bit (unless you are a very slow reader) but you can cut them off mid- sentence with a click of the mouse.
The graphic style of the game is a mixture of film noir and comic book cut-out panels. The music is an exceptional score by Robert Holmes which captures perfectly the feel of New Orleans. If you havent bought Gabriel Knight yet, then the cd version Js the one to buy.