Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
a game by Sierra Entertainment
The Term 'Eagerly Awaited' Is often used by journalists when they are either being too lazy or they're just too plain stumped to up an alternative description for a big release. For once however, we have a game that justifies such an expression. Journalists and punters alike harbour a special place in their hearts for the original Gabriel Knight adventure. The plot was gripping, and although from a technical viewpoint the graphics were not particularly impressive, they still had character and charm, while the talented Tim Curry's voiceover for the main character was both brilliantly delivered and highly appropriate.
So bearing all this in mind, what could we realistically expect from the sequel? Well, the graphics are digitised rather than hand-painted, with the result that they are certainly more impressive than those in the original, although whether or not they're as captivating is open to debate. Basically, we're back to the old argument that interactive movies on the pc are killing the worthy and addictive adventure games. However, to assume that Gabriel Knight 2 will offer nothing more than tons of fmv clips would be wholly premature and would only do the game an injustice. Having played a beta version of it, you can all rest assured that there really is a good solid game experience to be had - it has genuine puzzles and offers true interaction with the gaming environment. You'll find that most of the characters from the previous outing reappear in the sequel, although obviously they look a little different this time round because they are now portrayed by real actors.
The new Gabriel is fairly convincing in the lead role, as is his sidekick Grace, and the storyline (which continues from where the first game left off) should offer some compensation to those who enjoyed the original and are hankering after a further slice, regardless of the new photo-realistic sets.
As with its predecessor, Gabriel 2 is played out over a series of chapters, and the player has to solve all the puzzles in a particular chapter before progressing to the next one. However, this approach invariably works better in some games than others - take Phantasmagoria for example, which was so short and easy to complete that as soon as you got into a chapter you had to stop and slap in another CD before accessing the next stage. Boresville! Under A Killing Moon also had chapter-based gameplay, but it handled it a lot better; because there was plenty for you to do in all of the different chapters, you felt you'd spent enough time in each one before moving on to the next section.
Of all the games that use chapters to separate the gameplay, Gabriel Knight I was undoubtedly the best. Whether this will prove to be the case with the sequel still remains to be seen, but from the tantalising glimpses we've had so far, things do indeed look promising.
Sierra has spared no expense on the game's presentation, drafting in Hollywood director Will Binder to shoot the movie scenes, and creating over 1000 photo-realistic backgrounds for ultrarealism. And the interface has been improved too: in the first game it was sometimes difficult to pin-point crucial objects, or to get Gabriel to follow your instructions. All this has been sorted out and interacting with the game is as simple as it should be. Also, there's no repeat of the original's crap arcade sequence where you had to get past several mummies while simultaneously fighting with the interface.
Without wanting to tempt fate, it looks as though Gabriel Knight 2 will live up to all expectations. It should be out by the time you read this, but I'd still recommend you hang fire until you've seen our review in the next issue before parting with any cash. Time will tell!
Storybook: Part 1
The first game introduces the character of Gabriel Knight, a failed horror writer who is also the proprietor of an equally unsuccessful book shop. Gabriel has an unhealthy interest in all things occult, and it's this that leads him into trouble. He discovers that a series of killings in his home town of New Orleans have been linked with a mysterious voodoo cult, and with the help of his assistant Grace he decides to investigate. Spurred by a call from a man claiming to be his long-lost great uncle, Gabriel flies over to Germany and discovers that various members of his dear family have been Schattenjagers (witch hunters).
It transpires that he is the last in the line and he is duly initiated - and as a Schattenjager Gabriel then takes on and defeats the voodoo activists. The game ends with Gabriel and Grace reflecting on all that has happened (at this point everyone expects the mismatched pair, who have been at each other's throats constantly, to fall in love and give the story a yeuchy sickly ending. Thankfully it doesn't happen). Part 2 At the start of the second game, Gabriel is contacted at his German residence by a group of villagers who want him to go and track down a werewolf in Munich. Gabriel jets off and on his arrival learns of a spate of serial killings - the police are under the mistaken impression that the culprits are wolves on the run from the Munich zoo. Gabriel's heroic quest to track down the evil killer inevitably involves him in all sorts of shady goings-on, and he uncovers links between previous Schattenjagers who have gone into battle with supposed werewolves.
To reveal more about the plot would obviously be giving too much away, but romanticists among you (er, if there are any, that is) will no doubt be pleased to learn that the love story involving our hero Gabriel and Grace (hinted at in the first game) reignites in the sequel.
So there you have it - no more voodoo stuff but lots of spooky werewolf-type action to get your teeth into.
2018-12-03 Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within game added.