Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Shivah

The Shivah is an adventure game by Dave Gilbert, of Wadjet Eye games. It follows the story of Rabbi Russel Stone. Stone is the Rabbi of a small, failing New York synagogue. All he has left in his congregation is his cantor and one woman who keeps falling asleep during his sermons. He finally gives up any hope of being able to keep the synagogue running, when suddenly he is informed by the police that he is the number one suspect in the murder of a former congregant since he is (rather suspiciously) receiving a rather large sum of money in the deceased's will. While it seems like the miracle he's looking for, Stone isn't naive enough to take things at face value, especially given the circumstances. So he decides to look into things himself and see if he can't figure out what's going on, and maybe find a little closure while he's at it.

The Shivah is an interesting game. Like with everything made by Wadjet Eye, it's classic point-and-click adventure at its finest. It's also rather bare-bones in terms of content. While the story is first-rate, the game is short and so there are very few characters and even fewer locations. And when I say short, I mean really short. You might be able to beat Puzzle Bots in less time, but only because that game's puzzle's are generally easier. The Shivah has a lot fewer puzzles, but they are harder and require a lot more thinking. This isn't really a bad thing, especially since the game is only five bucks, but there were a couple times I found myself not sure what to do before realizing I had to do something that the game hadn't told me that I could do. Now, I'm not saying that the game should dumb itself down for me, but sometimes it would be nice to have some hints that are just a teensy bit more obvious.
The graphics are older and somewhat pixelated, but that doesn't bother me. I grew up on games like that and since I never had trouble figuring out what I was looking at I'd say they did the job admirably. Plus the game plays very well on my netbook, which is not exactly a gaming monster, allowing me to play it on the go.
The music is... not that great. It's not bad either, just not very good and there are times when it distracts from the game rather than adding to the ambiance.
The story is where this game really shines. Dave Gilbert does a great job telling a short, noir mystery with a Jewish twist. You get a real feel for the internal struggle that Rabbi Stone is going though, and you really want to keep playing to see where things go next. It's very possible to finish the game in one sitting and then wonder where the past couple hours went.

Bottom Line: While I have to say that The Shivah is not Wadjet Eye's best game, you have to keep in mind that "not the best" is still really, really good when it comes from a company with the high standard of quality that Wadjet Eye has. If you've got five dollars to spend on an impulse buy, go ahead and get it now.

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