A Gem From the Past Remastered to be Enjoyed Again
by Marcel Dufresne
Jan 14, 2022
Gabriel Knight was a point-and-click adventure that was very popular in the 1990s. Fortunately for us, the original game has been re-released as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers (20th Anniversary Edition). If you have never played the game before, now is your chance to try it out and see why it was so popular. If you do remember playing it, this version has been remastered in terms of graphics and sound, and new voice recordings were made. This way you can revisit a game played in your youth using a more modern computer. Obviously, the original game from the 90s will not play on the Mac OS we now use so this remastering of a classic is worth looking into.
The titular character, Gabriel Knight, is an author and book store owner in New Orleans who ends up investigating a strange series of murders. In this game, he is assisted by Grace Nakimura his girl Friday who acts as our hero’s receptionist, assistant, and researcher. A studio apartment adjacent to the shop serves as Gabriel’s home and office. He is financially struggling and looking for an interesting theme to base his next novel on. A series of murders labelled the ‘Voodoo Murders’ by the press might just fit the bill. This series of horrific murders within the city has left the victims with ritualistic voodoo symbols surrounding their bodies. Thus Gabriel begins his investigation, aided by Grace and his friend Detective Mosely who happens to be the lead investigator.
As with all point-and-click games, the storyline drives our hero from one scene to another. The non-player characters (NPC’s) when questioned provide much-needed clues as to what to do next. It is imperative that you chat with all the characters you meet. Objects along the way are picked up and stored, ready for use, in an inventory. You must also solve puzzles and complete tasks through the use of acquired items, information gathered, specific devices that can be activated, or provoking some of the NPCs. Moving from one scene to another is facilitated by a map. Click on the area you wish to go to and you are immediately transported there.
The game’s story proceeds linearly from one day to the next. You can’t retire for the night until all the tasks for that day are accomplished. This includes solving the required puzzles and obtaining the proper information from the NPC’s. To keep track of your progress, a point total is shown in the top left of the screen. Each puzzle solved or information gleaned results in the collection of points.
The elaborate story unfolds over ten days. Each day of the first week starts as St. George’s Books opens its doors. During the investigation, Gabriel learns that he is related to the Ritter family, making him the latest in a line of Schattenjägers (“Shadow Hunters”) who are meant to fight supernatural beings. This newly acquired knowledge causes him to fly from New Orleans to Germany on day eight to talk with the eldest Ritter family member still alive. From there, day nine is a foray into Africa. Lastly, the final showdown is back in New Orleans. There are two completely different conclusions to the story. These are dependent on his final choices.
Each scene that Gabriel enters has loads of hot spots, some more important than others. Hitting the space bar indicates all the areas he can explore. The cursor registers the actions that can be taken for each object or person. Some items can only be looked at, with an appropriate comment from the narrator. Other items and people can also be talked to, taken, or used. If taken, they end up in the inventory where you can again look at them, use them, or combine items.
The dialogue is quite appropriate to the setting. Gabriel has the typical drawl of a Southerner. That and his sense of humour are very enticing to the opposite sex. Unfortunately, his attitude towards women is straight out of the nineties. He and Moseley are extremely condescending in the way they treat their female subordinates. Each of them makes comments that, in the modern workplace, would be wildly inappropriate and (in Gabriel’s case) could be considered sexual harassment. As far as the other characters, again their accents help to emphasize the location, whether New Orleans, Germany, or Africa. Each character exhibits specific traits and has a distinctive appeal. Dialogues are well written and full of historical detail as well as information to solve the murders. I especially liked the narrator’s cajun voice-over which emphasized New Orleans’ exotic nature.
This game plays out longer than most other point-and-click adventures. It took me almost 20 hours to complete. Part of the reason for this is that the game contains a lot of dialogue. The developer has taken care in presenting the city and its history. Each NPC provides a background history of the city and Voodoo practices. Much of it can be ignored if you so wish. The important info is in a yellow font and provides game points when explored. All the rest is FYI only. I did start to skip over some of the dialogue. Hearing variations of “I know nothing about that” while clicking through conversations became a bit tedious. However, sticking to only the essential topics means that you miss out on some of the historical background and character development that give this game its individuality.
The graphics are great. They have been upgraded from the pixel-like original game. Each day dawns with light illuminating the rain-slick pavements, wrought-iron balconies, and picturesque awnings of Bourbon Street. The Big Easy comes alive in the outdoor scenes, ranging from the circular sidewalks of Jackson Square to the elaborate tombs in the St. Louis Cemetery. The Voodoo Museum has dripping candles, mottled human skulls, rotting fruit, and bottles of congealed liquids. The Dixieland Drug Store is stocked to the ceiling with mysterious jars, bags, boxes, bowls, and a robed crocodile mannequin. Each environment contains small ambient animations, whether mist drifting by, smoke rising from a candle flame, a snake twitching in its cage, or a squirrel frolicking amongst the tombs.
The musical score and the background sounds fit right into the story. From chanting African music to drums beating, the remastered music adds an appreciated atmosphere to most locations. Cutscenes are presented in a graphic novel-like format with dramatic voodoo rituals displayed and colourful costumes. These can be skipped. Another story layer is presented via a graphic novel accessed in the main menu. This describes the actions of Gabriel’s distant ancestors and provides the link between the past and the present in terms of both Gabriel’s family and the historic practice of voodoo in New Orleans.
The new version contains many of the original puzzles with the additions of a few others. The developers have done a great job of integrating these puzzles into the storyline. The gameplay consists of inventory puzzles, dialogue challenges, and many puzzle sequences that require a series of steps. Some of the more straightforward challenges are quick but fun. Many of the puzzles are high on the difficulty scale. For instance, there is a sequence that requires you to influence the movement of an annoying street performer in Jackson Square. A few of the challenges are timed and it is possible to die. The game restarts at the pivotal spot giving you ample time to try something else. The action needed to survive is often limited to a single correct step. If you know what actions to take during these sequences, the time allowed is adequate. The restriction forces intense experimentation, and until you do figure out the precise steps, the repetition can be frustrating.
Fortunately, the game contains a journal that not only gives you clues to what Gabriel is thinking but also records some of the specific details of what he has learned – knowledge that occasionally helps with puzzle solutions. In addition, the journal contains a system with graduated hints of specific obstacles, as well as a list of everything that needs to be accomplished within a particular day. This list doesn’t give exact details, but at least it provides you with an idea of what needs to be addressed.
Even though Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers 20th Anniversary Edition has been out for some time, it has lost none of its charm. The story is timeless and well worth playing. Being reimagined with improved graphics, soundtrack, and new puzzles and gameplay, it can compete with any point-and-click adventure game now out there. It retains the strength of the original with its engaging characters, clever one-liners, elaborate story, and lengthy gameplay. Click here to read more about the game. Treat yourself to a wonderfully engrossing and entertaining game.