poniedziałek, 23 sierpnia 2010

Short Review #7: Gabriel Knight 2 - The Beast Within

Gabriel Knight 2 is one of these older (but not yet old) adventure games. There was this trend in the early-mid '90 to make games which use a lot of cutscenes starring real-life actors, or even, as with Phantasmagoria or Gabriel Knight 2, using pre-recorded movie sequences on photographic background.

The story here is one of a werewolf, and it is nicely connected to the figure of Ludwig II, the german king responsible for building the well known Neuschwanstein Castle, among other things, and Richard Wagner's lost opera. The premise sounds interesting in theory, but in practice the plot is a little weak at times. There are situations in which the game's writers arbitrarily take away options from the player. One such situation is when, playing one of the two characters, Grace, the player receives some very important info which basically allows you to guess the whole plot, but when Gabriel has the chance to get the same info, he just says that he "doesn't have time for this ancient history stuff".

There are some obviously silly riddles in the game, which would be impossible for me to solve without a walkthrough - I simply wouldn't have guessed what is expected of me. The game's finale is completely screwed up, as it requires you to play a very irritating minigame, after which you have to endure one of those 'click at the right moment or die' moments - something that the game did not have before hand.

In terms of narrative, probably the most important thing about an adventure game, the theme the author's tried to achieve is light horror / mystery. The first part didn't work out very well. At no point in the game do you feel like there's any threat, even when there actually is (Gabriel may die at several points in the game). The cinematic sequences do not help much in this regard. The actors do a fairly ok job usually, though some scenes are just done very over the top and plain silly. The worst thing about those sequences is probably the fact that the dialogue and acting make them look at times like a low-budget brazilian soap opera, and at others like gay soft-porn (or at least the foreplay bit of such a movie). When you get into that mindset, it's really hard to stop seeing the dialogues in this light, and it kind of ruins the game. This one scene is particularly WRONG:


There are some older titles which do not show their age too much - Warcraft 2 comes to mind, as do some old platformers. However, Gabriel Knight 2 looks very, very dated. It's not even the gameplay, which is pretty standard for an adventure game with little highlights, but the game in general feels very 'mid 90's'. The plot and cinematics do not help much in this regard. Generally, 'The Beast Within' is ok to play, but it's nothing you should go out of your way to get. I got it at GOG.com as a reward for my purchases in a Polish loyalty programme, but to be honest, I think I could have spend the 150 points on something more entertaining, and less boring.

GB2 gets a 5.5/10 on my scale. Not particularly worth playing in today's day and age, but you can get some fun out of it, so for you adventure fanatics this is probably more a 6/10 or even a 6.5/10. For the regular player, however, there is really not much here to look for.

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