Let me preface this by saying that I couldn’t possibly say enough awesome things about this 20th anniversary revamp by Pinkerton Road of the classic game. As far as games I’ve played so far this year, this one was one of my most anticipated and most enjoyed. That probably sounds ridiculous to some, but nostalgia has a way of doing that to me. After all, the Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight mystery made my list of favorite retro games, so that this one is also an old favorite should be no surprise.
I played the original release of the game probably when I was around ten years old in 1993. Having grown up in New Orleans, I had a grand old time exploring my home town and seeing it in a light that I obviously didn’t see it in as a ten year old child – St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square, the overlook, St. Louis Cemetery #1. Then there was of course the voodoo aspect of things, which I didn’t even really begin to learn about in school until I was around 12 or 13. The early exposure was great. I remember proudly proclaiming in history one day, “Hey! I know who Marie Laveau is!” Who said games couldn’t be educational?
If you know absolutely nothing about Gabriel Knight, a few pointers: Gabriel is a horror novelist one-hit-wonder who now runs a Rare Books shop on Bourbon Street. His family is of Germanic descent, and he is a descendent of the Schattenjagers (or “Shadow Hunters”) from Rittersburg, Germany. I won’t ruin that story line for you as you’ll learn more about it while playing this game, but if you REALLY want to dive into it, I’d suggest picking up Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within on GOG – another must-play. In this installation of the game, Gabriel is researching a new book and somehow manages to get himself wrapped up in the world of voodoo, murder, black magic and an ancient occult with roots in both New Orleans and Africa. All in a day’s work right?
You begin your day with an overview of a quiet and misty Bourbon Street at sunrise. Bourbon Street is located in the French Quarter of New Orleans and the funny thing about this is – in reality, the idea of Bourbon Street being a silent and misty overlook, at any time of the day, is pretty laughable – but I’ll let that pass. Gabriel’s snarky assistant, Grace Nakimura opens the Rare Book store and we are introduced to our lovable protagonist, disheveled and lecherous as ever. Of course and in true author form, he heads right for the coffee pot (bourbon?) – a man after my own heart!
One of my favorite parts of the revamp is all of the absolutely gorgeous graphics. Every place you go is beautifully detailed and vibrantly colorful, not to mention the cut scenes are graphic novel quality works of art. Stunning. Gameplay proved to be a little challenging, however not extremely so – a tiny bit finicky in the mouse clicking (skipping through dialog proved to be particularly annoying), but nothing that really impaired my ability to play the game and advance without frustration. All you’ll need to explore and play is your mouse, which is typically, at least to me, a refreshing break from the usual WSAD keyboard navigation in addition to mouse and sometimes mouse wheel usage. There are points at which I wish it were possible to make Gabriel move faster, but I eventually discovered the using the map button instead of manually moving about (and sometimes double-clicking) helped that. Hint, hint!
The game is refreshingly familiar to that of its original counterpart, with an obvious upgraded push into the 21st century. The dialog is fantastically entertaining to listen to and read while Gabriel, who is a notorious womanizer, sounds hilariously much more like a southern chauvinist than I remember him being originally. I’ll admit, there are parts where I’d even call what he says, “creepy,” but not awkwardly so. Perfectly suiting to his character. Jason Victor, his voice actor – spot on, in my opinion. Just the right amount of sleaze and New Orleans in his voice combined with a sort of smooth arrogance that I really enjoyed. I might be the only one though! I will admit that Gabriel saying, “Nuh-awlins” is kind of a personal pet peeve of mine, but I digress.
The cut scenes in the game were all truly gorgeous and a joy to watch. I just cannot stop raving about them. There’s something about playing a fantastic horror game that has absolutely gorgeous art work accompanying it. As an artist myself, I am a very visual person so game visuals are, no surprise, very important to me and Gabriel Knight did an extremely good job of impressing me. This game really is all about the art and rich story line, which, for a twenty year old Sierra Entertainment title, is pretty good testament to the writing and original visuals.
Overall, I would say this is an extremely solid and enjoyable title with a lot of nostalgic value as well as new-experience playability. The story line is definitely engaging and enjoyable to play through and the voice acting is on point. Would I play it again? Absolutely. In fact, I haven’t even uninstalled it after finishing it just yet! There are two possible endings, as well, so replaying the last scene at the very least is an absolute must.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition is available on Steam for Mac and PC, and I would definitely recommend you try it out. It is extremely enjoyable and if you have played the original (which you can get on GOG), I can almost guarantee you will love the revamp. You can also pick up a demo for both PC and Mac here. You know, if you’re not ready to make the commitment just yet!