You are Gabriel Knight, used bookstore owner and writer. You are working on a new book about voodoo, and are trying to gather material for that book. In the meantime, some murders have been happening around town and voodoo symbols are left by the crime scenes. An old friend of yours is the cop investigating the crimes and so you go off to learn more about voodoo and the voodoo murders.
This is a great game. The plot and story-line is quite good. Characterisations are good, and some of the relationships build well during the game. The game builds momentum and suspense nicely. The puzzles mostly make sense, and vary from simple to complex (the voodoo code you must build come to mind. How you get the correct syntax...). Some of the scenes (and deaths) are quite graphic and I wouldn't give this game to anyone under 15 or known to suffer from queasiness at horror films.
This is a game of many icons and you must select which one is needed for the task. There are times when that can lead you into trouble, because you aren't using the correct one for the job. For the most part, this isn't a problem but there are a few times when your timing is critical. Mucking about with the wrong icon only adds to the confusion.
You should have a go at picking up everything on the screen. There are a lot of things that you can't pick up but the worst that happens is a message about why Gabriel refuses to grab it. There are definitely a few times when objects you will need do not stand out from the background.
Some clues are subtle. When you figure out the puzzle, you'll realise that *was* the clue but you may not know it at the time. When stuck, go checking everywhere for some action or clue you may have missed. I was having the devil's time getting passed the butler to see Miss Gedde but starting over, realised there was a clue at the one point in day 2, I had missed.
It never *hurts* to try hitting various items with the various icons. Though you may get strange responses, try asking Gabriel to "Open" himself.
The verbal sparring that occurs during the game is lots of fun. I believe that there are no conversations that will lead you to an unwinable game so feel free to use any options you have. Much of Gabriel's time is taken by interviewing the people he knows or meets so you should be prepared to spend a lot of time talking to everyone.
I find the accents in this game get to be a bit much. There are so many of them. You would expect Gran, Gabriel, Mosely and a couple of the other characters to have pretty much the same accent from living their lives in the same neighbourhood in New Orleans but virtually every character has a different accent. Gabriel Knight sounded like several accents combined into one. By Day 3, I was used to the accents and pretty much ignored them after that.
I don't play adventure games because I want to find out if I'm fast. I hate semi-arcade sequences, and there is a point at which if you don't move fast enough, and in the right directions, you die. I would have been quite happy without that sort of thing.
Peeves about Sierra interface. Before GK, the last Sierra adventure game I played was King's Quest V. I loathed that game and developed a deep dislike for some aspects of the interface. Both Gabriel Knight and King's Quest V are guilty to some extent of having these problems.
The use of "dumb" icons. In games by other companies, frequently there are either not as many icons to know or they are "smart" (ie, put the cursor on a door and the game knows you either want to walk to the door or open it.)
Pixel hunting. There are times in the game where the *exact* position of the cursor matters. I had problems getting in the chapel, just because I had the cursor too far to the right when clicking on the door frame was expected. Also, sometimes you would get an "exit" cursor but if you weren't close enough to the edge of the screen, you would not exit.
They both suffer from having so much detail in some areas that you can easily get overwhelmed and miss the small detail that was necessary. Even back in the old days of text adventures, you could usually tell quickly which parts were the significant ones from the descriptions given. LucasArts brings up names or highlights cursors when you are on something significant. Here you just need to know the box in the middle of the shelves is important and not just part of the normal closet contents.
The game is worth having if you like adventure games. Towards the end the pace is fast and furious (sometimes deadly) and you will hate leaving the computer for any reason.
The same can be said of the sequel Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. Actually, if you really like this style, Broken Sword The Shadow of the Templars reminds me a lot of Sins of the Father. Much more so than GK2 which uses real backgrounds and videos, not animations.
On rereading the manual very late in the game, I read about 'enjoying the animation sequences when they happen.' I do hope that the line is just standard in Sierra books. I don't think they could expect anyone to enjoy day 9. If so, these people are seriously warped.
Gabriel really ought to able to rewind and record over conversations that lead you nowhere. I'd hate to think how many dud copies of him asking Grace for messages or to do research there were by the time I finished the game. In real life, you'd certainly tape over that.
I decided that I should try this game because I had heard it was the *best* adventure game ever developed by Sierra (from various people in the comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.adventure newsgroup before Phantasmorgia or Gabriel Knight II came out). The only other Sierra adventure game I have tried in recent memory was the simply ghastly King's Quest V. I hated it.
I loved listening to butler subtly insulting Gabriel Knight. That inflection on the Sir? Very cute. Almost a pity when you get beyond that point. Of course, the humour of the situation comes in when you realise that the same person played both those characters.
Doing voice over work for a game could be very strange. There is no particular technical reason why the actors would ever have to actually be in the same room. That could be most strange. (Much later I found the making of gk video on the CD, and noticed that "Grace" commented how hard it was to convincingly read the lines as though reacting to someone. They had recorded voice individually in a studio.)
I started rereading Eco's Foucault's Pendulum while playing this game and there was St John's Eve again. Even more surreal is that apparently you can get Pendulum as read by Tim Curry. Conspiracy anyone?
"Any new way to infiltrate myself into your minds." Tim Curry from the making of GK video. The plan has definitely worked. It was made much worse by Curry personality overdose of playing Gabriel Knight alternated with Frankenstein. The odds of recovery seem rather small. This actor also appears in Muppet Treasure Island and does a voice for Toonstruck.
Back to the animated style of this one. Most of the cast has changed (again) but Gabriel Knight is played by the original.