Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers Review

Taking a trip down memory lane is never pretty. Who knows what skeletons you might accidentally take out of the closet? And there’s a risk that those skeletons are not what you remember them to be. Our mind is used to adding a LOT of makeup. It’s dramatically called coping with the unbearable reality. But this is never useful if you’re dealing with the fast evolving technology. Or, by extension, with video games. Which brings us to Gabriel Knight

Having a partial view

I first had a taste of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers when I was just a pee-wee ignorant midget. It was the cold nuclear age of dial-up Internet outside. In Romania, the land of all possibilities, software usually came in the form of shareware CDs (best scenario) and ripped, stripped and cold-cut cracked content (the greater evil). My Gabriel Knight copy was sort of a mixed breed:  both shareware and lacking some of the better media content (like dialogue voice overs, cut scenes and pretty much everything in between). I still had the MIDI music though, which helped me build in my head the image of a Gabriel Knight tormented by his nightmares and haunting the streets of a very Parisian New Orleans. For Day One (only one of the ten days were available in the shareware version of the game) I was a happy kid. And Gabriel Knight stuck with me to this day, like a fallen archangel.

The bearable truth

And I was happy to conserve that bittersweet flavor for years, until I was tempted by the Gog.com 2012 Christmas deal to buy the whole Gabriel Knight trilogy for almost nothing. And that’s when my beautifully constructed Gabriel shattered like a card castle.

Are you familiar with that scene in one of the old Indiana Jones movies, when Indy is attacked by a fearsome looking dark guard carrying a sword and he charmingly cheats his way through the encounter with a good old pistol? That’s the very symbol of American culture tarnishing all ancient stuff that it cannot understand, under the mirage of superiority. Keep that image in mind, because Gabriel and Indy are pretty similar. But, while Indy is pretty charming because he is an established (and somewhat intellectual) cliche, Gabriel lacks substance. We’re basically dealing with a failed red-neck writer, exhibiting an annoying Southerner accent and who would sell himself cheap for fame. Moreover, he’s being so corny with women that he should have been the sidekick of Larry Laffer in all those soft-porn point and click adventure games.

I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t have the feeling that the game is directed at a very mature audience. Silly, spoiler Gabriel is being thrown full force at a truly magical setting. Ritual murders, bongo drummers, witches and a tangled voodoo history breathe all around him, smelling dusty and moldy and  jazzy – an atmosphere I could only compare to HBO’s Treme. And what does Gabriel do? He chases mimes, argues with a hot dog stand man, steals from his friends and cheats grannies in some of the stupidest and least obvious puzzles I have ever seen.

An all-Knighter

However, after all this time, after my memories combined with the recovered content, Gabriel Knight’s story still remains a pleasant one. It still boasts one of the best portrayals of voodoo and African culture in video games, if somewhat biased. And, if you manage to ignore the sexual innuendo, the remaining wordplay is pretty smart itself. Definitely worth your while, if you’re not allergic to macro-pixels, that is.

Up next, I’ll probably tackle the second title in the series, which is historically important for video games as an instance of interactive movie point-and-click adventure games. Wish me luck, it’s the first video game of that type that I play. Call it research.

Ana Todor is a Computer Scientist with a playful and literary twist. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Studies and a Master of Science degree in Computer Science, Digital Interactive Entertainment.

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