PC/Mac Reviews

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition Review: The Voodoo You Don’t Do So Well

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In the video game world, there are some true timeless classics. Games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog and others revolutionized gaming forever. In the point and click genre of games, though, there are only a few standout names in a sea of forgettable titles. Gabriel Knight, it could be argued, is one of those titles. If you’ve ever spent any time with the genre, you’ve likely heard of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father. Now that the 20th Anniversary Edition has been released, you may be considering this the perfect opportunity to check out the title. However, if you need to play a classic point and click, you’re better off just finding the original game and avoiding this release all together.

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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father is set in the early 1990’s and stars the titular Gabriel Knight. His hometown of New Orleans has been hit by a string of voodoo related killings. Being an author, Gabriel sees an opportunity to write up a book on the killings. However, he quickly finds himself getting in over his head and begins to discover that his family has a history with these killings.

As far as point and click adventure game stories go, it’s pretty simple but classic. There’s a lot of time devoted to learning about the voodoo rituals and discovering the history of Gabriel’s family. However, more modern players are likely to find much of this information boring. The plot is delivered in mostly flat conversations that can go on for what seems like an eternity. Obviously, being a remake of a game from 1994, one might not expect much but it would have been nice to see the plot delivered in a way that was more interesting. The rule of “show, don’t tell” seems to fit perfectly with what should have happened here.

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However, that is not the biggest issue with the new version of Sins of the Father. While the slow moving exposition of the story can be looked over, the problem lies more with the slow nature of the gameplay. As with many point and click adventures, a lot of the game centers around collecting and combining various objects throughout the environment. While menus have been streamlined to make accessing your inventory easier, many of the puzzles are as convoluted as in the original game.

For example, one puzzle may require you to try to find a translation of a secret code. However, you can only get this code translated on a specific day. Even then, you need to solve a puzzle for the person to decipher the code for you. This is somewhat typical of older adventure games, however, near the end of the game these puzzles become incredibly frustrating, even if you’ve played many different adventure games. Did you grab item A? Do you remember that extremely small hole in one specific area of the map that you visited one time? Well, you need to use this item on that hole in order to do anything.

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While all of these were typical of point and click adventure game activities years earlier, the years have not been kind to this sort of gameplay. There’s a reason many of these adventure game series died out and Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father shows them quite well.

But even if Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition simply re-created the original game and all its flaws, that still wouldn’t account for how horrendous this title is. Sadly, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father has been made into a broken, buggy mess of a game.

Animations are certainly one of the major issues with this version of Sins of the Father. Character movements are jerky and slow. Characters clip through the environment several times in any given area. At one point, you can have a character kill Gabriel by choking him with the use of The Force. Seriously, this character will be a clear foot away from Gabriel and magically pick him up by his throat.

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Not only that, but the save system and menus are seriously malfunctioning. When loading up a game only a day before release, the text size did not fit the resolution of the screen, making the game impossible to load as the load button was somewhere above the screen. It’s also possible to save your game at a specific point and have it load you to well before that point. For example, you can be working on a puzzle and decide to call it a day. You save the game mid-puzzle and turn off the game. Assuming you can make it back to the load screen, you can re-load and be put before you saved the game. Then, if you decide to try to reload the game, it actually might load you to the correct spot. It’s almost like the game is haunted by the voodoo that Gabriel is trying to track.

From a presentation standpoint, the game just doesn’t look that great. Character models are stilted in their animations and they look out of place in their 2D, painted environments. Remember watching old cartoons and being able to tell which objects would move in the scene by how they were painted differently? A similar thing happens with Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, where the game has all of the objects you can collect rendered in 3D against a 2D environment. You quickly can learn which items you need to grab by whether they look 3D or not.

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Additionally, the voice cast just doesn’t sound as good as the originals. Tim Curry voiced Gabriel Knight in the original and the new voice actor for him just doesn’t quite get the voice right. His voice seems to go between Cajun and bad Elvis impersonator. While there is some humor and charm to it, it just sounds wrong. That said, it is understandable that new voices needed to be done since the originals were lost in a fire years ago. However, the new voice cast just sounds off.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition just doesn’t live up to the original. While there are certainly some excusable issues with the new version, the mountain of bugs that the game has just make it an unjustifiable purchase. What’s worse, is you can still easily find the original on Good Old Games for $5.99. Compare that to this new, broken version which costs nearly four times that amount and the choice between the remake and the original become obvious. It’s unfortunate, too, because fans of Gabriel Knight will likely want this game to succeed to see more. However, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition is not a welcome return; it’s a kick in the butt out the door.

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SCORE: 2.0 out of 10

A code for Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father 20th Anniversary Edition was provided to Pixel Related for review. 

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