Back in the golden age of adventure games Sierra and Lucas Arts where at their creative peaks and produced numerous point and click classics. One of the best loved of these series’ was Gabriel Knight, a franchise that has stayed dormant since the third game in released way back in 1999. Now, one of best mysteries ever committed to code has had a facelift to bring it up to date for a new generation.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father introduces us to the charismatic lead of the piece and his assistant Grace as they struggle to make Gabriel’s rare bookshop turn a profit. Gabriel is plagued by nightmares of a hanging man and also struggling to write a new fiction book centred on voodoo. As Gabriel investigates for the book he gradually becomes drawn into something more dangerous than he can possibly imagine.
The biggest change from the original game is the graphics. Environments are now 3D and everything has had a redesign and overhaul. On the whole the new locations look very good and it certainly doesn’t break the atmosphere of the original. There’s a bit more of a Noir influence going on as well which adds to feeling of danger and mystery. New voice actors have been cast which means the game loses the talents of Mark Hamill and Tim Curry, a shame, but we soon got used to it.
The only other real shame is that certain fine details have been lost from the transition to the new look. New players won’t notice but the odd creative flourish like the repair man trying to fix the thermostat in the police station or being able to go up the ladder in the book shop have been removed. While this doesn’t really effect how the game plays it does take out some of the character at times.
The game is still point and click and has resisted the urge to move to the style that Broken Sword 3 and 4 have taken on. Most of the time you will be scanning the environments with the mouse for items and talking to characters to uncover clues. Finding things has been made easier thanks to a highlight button which shows up any onscreen areas of interested. This makes finding those pixel perfect objects much friendlier and the game is all the better for it. There is also a button which jumps you straight to the world map which speeds things up quite considerably.
As well as the new look the game has a selection of bonus content in the form of artwork and design comparisons. It’s quite interesting for the most part but could really have done with being put in a separate place. At the minute you can only access things from within individual locations. This means if you don’t look at the content right away and a place becomes unavailable then you’ve missed it. It also doesn’t help with the pacing and immersion when you have to keep breaking from the game to look at the stuff.
The game has had a few sections added as well. Some puzzles are made a little longer and certain items have moved around. The addition of block sliding puzzles is something we could have really done without though and it’s a blessing there are so few instances when things like this crop up. There’s also a slight change of pace with Gabriel only able to visit locations when they become relevant to what he needs to do in that day. It streamlines the experience a bit without taking away from it and does help to eliminate a fair bit of the aimless wandering while you work out what to do.
Any issue are very minor though and for the most part we really enjoyed getting back into the Gabriel Knight world and seeing how it had been changed and brought up to date. The strength of the story and characters holds true and it really is a tale that draws the player in and makes you need to find out how the mystery ends.
The original game is certainly a classic and it’s still fully playable but we still have to recommend both fans and newcomers to try the remake. It doesn’t feel dated in terms of look or mechanics and that is a big compliment to both the original designers and writers and the team who have taken on the job of creating the new 3D world.
Overall, Gabriel Knight: The Sins of the Father is a game we are more than happy to see back in the limelight. It’s an excellently imagined tale that deserves to be experienced by a new generation and one that has more than enough to offer to keep you entertained. Those who like a good mystery or want to step back into Sierra’s voodoo tale won’t be disappointed.