Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
From Sierra Online
In the first game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, you played Gabriel Knight, used bookstore owner and writer. In this game, you play both Knight and Grace (his assistant from the first game). You alternate between these two characters between chapters of the game. Gabriel has been living in Germany over the past year, using the money from the hounfour to repair and maintain the castle. Grace has been running the bookstore in New Orleans.
If you liked the first game, you must get this one. The cast may have changed since the last game, but there is still a strong plot, good puzzles and it's fun. Well, until you get completely blocked, but that's what you play these games for, right? I find that the atmosphere doesn't build quite as well as the first game until fairly late in the game, and there aren't any direct threats to life and limb up to Chapter 5.
Chapters 5 and 6 try to make up for this. You go round in little circles, dying frequently. Fortunately, the game designers have added a new function "Try again". It basically takes you to the start of the scene you just died in. Much better than GK1 in this respect. The last few saved games for GK1 took forever to load because of their size.
The first Gabriel Knight game was a game with many icons. This game has a much simpler interface. There is one base icon for exploring the screen. It will change to a small version of an inventory item if you are trying to use an inventory item on something or someone on the screen.
Much like the first game, you need to be careful and look at everything. Sometimes you will find items that you can use, but only if certain other things have been done first. There is a bag of cement around the Huber residence, but you can't do anything with it until you find a clue. This can lead to frustration, as you wander around hoping to find something you've missed before that will allow you to continue the game.
I like the new hint feature. For your travel maps, you can press a hint button and it will show you locations that have puzzles to be finished. This helps you eliminate some locations from your list of places you need to go to. Try again after death is also a good idea. It means that if you haven't saved the game lately (bad you!), you will pretty much pick up at the correct point in the action.
Gabriel and Grace each will interview a number of people on a number of topics. Topics are highlighted and you choose from a list of subjects. Usually, you'll need to go through the entire list before you're done. A major improvement over the first game is that subjects disappear from the list as you exhaust that topic.
I miss the verbal sparring between Gabriel and Grace from the first game. They don't even directly interact until the final chapter. The game loses a lot of character this way.
Gripes about the game
The worst feature of this game is the way it handles the end of one chapter and the start of the next. Every chapter starts and ends with a movie. You *cannot* save between the chapters. So you view the end of chapter x movie, then the start of chapter x+1 movie. Now you can click to stop any movie (a lovely feature) and you can later replay these start and end movies. I would prefer being able to save *between* chapters and start the game with the x+1 movie next time.
Chapter 4 is not fun. Grace needs to see *everything* in
three museums. You must be systematic and patient to
succeed. It is very easy to miss something, and until you
finish, your path may be blocked. An example, I'm
pretty sure what kept me from completing the castle was I
had failed to click on *a chair*. You'll just keep
going around and around hoping that sometime you'll
notice that one extra item.
Actually, there may be a small bug here. Somehow, I couldn't ask Georg the right set of questions (three were never available in the list) even after I had completed the castle, the small Ludwig museum, and the Wagner museum. If you can't ask those last three questions, you won't get a message about a fax. A solution for this is to save the game just after you start Chapter 4 and keep this saved game available. Explore thoroughly (this is worth repeating) all of the museums. If you can't ask Georg about the wolf paintings and you are sure you have found everything, restore the saved game and redo the castle/museums. This time around, it is easy to quickly visit all the significant locations, listen to the complete tape tour, look at all the Wagner stuff then ask Georg questions. You should get them all.
It may be just my computer, but every once in a while, Grace and Gabriel go into this super-fast mode and just buzz around the screen twice as fast as they should. Slightly annoying if someone tries to speak when this happens.
It can be very difficult to tell where you are going with the 'exit' cursor. It's far too easy to miss a door or a room when you have one cursor for every exit. Perhaps a hint, 'exit side door' would help. Some sort of additional information would keep the museums much more pleasant, since you frequently have more than one choice of exits and from Grace's point of view, she would have some idea what's in that direction.
Ok, this one is personal preference. I like this game. I do wish they had made it in the same graphic mode as the first and kept the same actors. The new Gabriel Knight can only manage half the level of charm as Tim Curry. Actually, he seems to have put a lot more heart into it by the end of the game. After Chapter 4, he was definitely better. Grace seems to have had a new personality drafted on, and I don't feel it is an improvement. It did get better toward the end, but her comments tended to sound vicious instead of light sarcasm from the first game. Other than some of the location shots at castles, I think a graphic background would have been just as effective. They should have started a good new series to start using the full motion video. (The keyword there being good, certain other Sierra games don't qualify under that mark from what I've heard.)
This game is the best of its type that I've played. If you own GK1, you should buy this game. If you're looking for an interesting game with full motion video, you should buy this game. There are a few irritations, Sierra always seems to have at least one sequence of events that you have to get both the sequence and the timing right. Those who dislike death in a game will find death unavoidable. However, the last two chapters in the game are very powerful and you'll find yourself gravitating to the computer for one more try at getting past the latest sticking point.
Chapter 6 will leave you breathless at points. It was truly something. The last sequence of actions you need to perform isn't easy though.
Order Gabriel Knight Mysteries from Amazon.com
Some final thoughts on the game.
Chapter 4 was a major flaw in this game. It was painful enough to almost put me off the idea of going onward at all.
Some of the humour in this game depends on you having played Gabriel Knight 1. Hey, look, the video version of Gabe has just has much of a fascination with mirrors and his hair as the animated one did. And the music that plays in the city square should bring a chuckle.
My favourite character from this game was Van Glower, followed by (of all people) Mrs Smith. I think Mrs Smith because she was being so patient with Grace who was frequently showing her worst side just whenever talking about Gabriel. Peter Lucas as Van Glower gave one of the most sincere performances in the game.
Perhaps a pause function for the videos? Nothing like being in the middle of a video and suddenly needing to do some mundane task like answering the door or phone. Then you have a choice, leave the game or stay and let whatever else it is wait. With all but the start or end videos, you can only view them once, so if there was anything interesting there, you would have to restore a saved game.
Gabriel and Grace are not Time Lords. If there is a third story, and they change actors again, I may have to give it a miss.
Update: there will be a third story
The game will be back to the graphic adventure game, not a live action version. While most of the cast is changing again, the original Gabriel Knight will return. 3 March 1998.
Sound quality in this game noticeably varies. Even through not particularly good speakers. Sometimes the change would happen between one question and the next on a list, which makes it even more noticeable.
I started playing this game after starting both 11th Hour and Shivers. I finished this game first. This should say something about the relative quality of the game play.
The cellar was an interesting idea. I won't say any more because that could be a major spoiler.