The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

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Another limitation that the use of FMV incorporated into gameplay was the need to limit the choices available to the player, thereby making the game more linear.  Unlike some games that provided many paths based upon how a player reacted to each situation, The Beast Within kept players hemmed within a much more linear storyline.  The costs in both production dollars and CD space were simply too high to choose any other avenue. ~Dan Epp

The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery

In 1995, the phrase “full motion video” (FMV) conjured up the image of such classic games as Night Trap and Burn: Cycle – eye candy at best, and generally poor gaming experiences.  CD-ROM technology had been out a for a couple of years, and The 7th Guest was really still the only “must-have” CD-only game on the market.  So, imagine the concerns of adventure gamers when they discovered that the sequel to Jane Jensen’s awesome Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers was going to be released in FMV format.

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

However, these concerns were unfounded.  Sierra had been working on the Script Code Interpreter (SCI) game engine, which used full motion technology, for a Roberta Williams game, Phantasmagoria.  The development team for the second Gabriel Knight game, The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, was able to appropriate the engine for their own use, which had the benefit of cutting down the game’s development time.  However, even with the game engine built, FMV was an expensive process, involving a production crew and professional actors, all of whom were paid well for their time.

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

Another limitation that the use of FMV incorporated into gameplay was the need to limit the choices available to the player, thereby making the game more linear.  Unlike some games that provided many paths based upon how a player reacted to each situation, The Beast Within kept players hemmed within a much more linear storyline.  The costs in both production dollars and CD space were simply too high to choose any other avenue.

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The answer is multifaceted, but the first step was retaining Jane Jensen as the author of the entire storyline.  The first Gabriel Knight game was lauded for not only being fun to play, but having a deeper story than most adventure games.  Ms. Jensen had majored in computer science, but also had a deep fascination with creative writing, evidenced by her work on the Gabriel Knight series.  Interestingly, she did not become a published novelist until well after The Beast Within, with her novelization of the first Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers book in 1997, and then Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within’s novelization in 1998.  Her first non-computer game related novel, Millennium Rising, was published in 1999, the same year her last Gabriel Knight game was released.  She has continued to write books, earning a Phillip K. Dick Award nomination for Best Novel in 2003 for her book, Dante`s Equation.  But I digress!

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The Beast Within was not only written well, it was acted well.  The game featured Dean Erickson as Gabriel, who would go on to leave acting altogether and become a real estate agent; Joanne Takahashi as Grace, who continues to take a variety of minor roles tailored for Asian women; Peter J. Lucas as Baron Friedrich von Glower, who continues to take roles for an ethnic European; Andrea Martin as Gerde, who was a Tony-award winning actress before working on The Beast Within and continues to work on both the stage and in voice-over work today.  None of these four ever worked on a computer game again! However, Nicolas Worth, who played Kriminal-Kommisar Leber, has not only had a successful career in film and television both before and after The Beast Within, but has also continue to work in the gaming industry, acting in Emperor: Battle For DuneCommand & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, and Red Alert 2, as well as lending his voice to Freedom Fighters!

The Beast Within - A Gabriel Knight Mystery

The puzzles of The Beast Within were not particularly difficult, but were, on the whole, imaginative.  The game used “hotspots” on the photographic quality images to show that there was something of interest on the screen, so it was a simple matter to gain all the inventory items required to solve most of the puzzles the game threw at its players.  Like many adventure games, forward progress could come to a complete halt until you discovered the correct hotspot, but this generally was not a complete inconvenience.

Reviews of The Beast Within were very favorable upon its release.  Two of the biggest gaming magazines of the day gave it high marks: PC Gamer gave it a score of 96% and it’s coveted Editor’s Choice award, while Computer Gaming World (CGW) gave it 5 out of 5 stars, a Critics Choice tag as well as naming it the 1996 CGW Game of the Year.  It also managed to make #17 on CGW’s 150 Best Games of All Time , which is the definitive “must-play” list for retrogaming enthusiasts!  If you haven’t played this classic of the adventure game genre, you’re missing a rare treat.  Highly recommended!

King’s Quest III Redux – To Heir Is Human

king's quest iii redux

King’s Quest III Redux

Finally, the time has come for you, oh adventure-loving and most precious reader, to download and enjoy one of the best freeware adventure games ever released, for King’s Quest III Redux has -as was indeed quite elaborately foretold– been released. And though it sadly is the last game the incredibly talented AGD Interactive will release, you uncaring, heartless, game-obsessed bastard will be lucky enough to play through a true gem (and so will the rest of us). Download it right now from this place and don’t forget to thank the people responsible for it.
In case you are still wondering what the fuss is all about, know that King’s Quest III Redux is a PC/Mac remake of the original KQ3: To Heir is Human by Sierra, that adds a beautiful soundtrack, an excellent voice-over, a sleek point-and-click interface, amazing 256-colour VGS graphics and a ton polish to an already great game. And is it really that good? Well, of course it is! Having already played its review build, I can guarantee its quality, but this very post will not be a review. Oh, no. The review will appear within the week, just to give you time to savor the experience. Go on, get downloading. Here are a couple of tasty pics to further excite you…

 

king's quest 3 redux boat
kings quest 3 redux castle

Related @ Gnome’s Lair:

Trine

Trine
Trine

Trine review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Symphony of the Night + The Lost Vikings + Out of This World = fun!”

Overall Score:

8 out of 10

Overview:

Trine is a fantasy action puzzle platformer game that consists of three soul-bound characters that got trapped that way at the beginning of the game through magic making their way through each map in stages. You switch characters depending on which one you want to use, in the style of The Lost Vikings, only that all three characters take up the same place, rather than like in The Lost Vikings each being an independent character that you control once at a time.

The three characters are a mage, a rogue archer, and a warrior.

The mage can move objects around through magic and summon magic cubes/planks, which you can use to use to jump higher or drop on enemies.

The rogue archer is basically the most powerful character in the game. She can fire a ton of arrows that although they don’t do as much damage as the warrior, you can eventually fire multiple numbers of them and you can dispatch enemies safely at a distance. The best ability she has is firing a grappling arrow, sort of like the grappling hook gun that Batman has, which you can use to climb up, slide down, rock back and forth, swing, and all sorts of crazy acrobatics. She can light torches by firing flame arrows at them. For me, she’s basically the main character to use.

The warrior is supposed to be the main fighter, although the rogue archer is superior in my eyes. He mainly mashes things, whether parts of the terrain or boxes or enemies. He can also pick stuff up and move it around and he has a shield which absorbs most damage, so long as you angle it properly. He can also light torches, simply by chopping them with his sword.

There are 3 stats in this game, health, mana/energy, and XP.

Health is pretty self explanatory, with some enemies dropping hearts which can heal you. You can also heal by going to a checkpoint, if your health is lower than the minimum that difficulty setting designates as the minimum.

Mana/energy gets used up any time the mage does anything, or to do special attacks for the other two characters. The rogue archer mainly uses the energy to fire lit arrows when you pick up that power. The warrior uses energy to perform special attacks. You replentish mana/energy by going to the next checkpoint or by picking up blue vials which some enemies drop, which this is the most common drop in the game.

The last stat is XP. You pick this up in green vials that are scattered throughout the map (mainly in hard to reach places) and by killing enemies. When you get enough XP all three characters level up and you get a certain amount of character points which you use to purchase new powers or improve old ones.

The final thing to mention regarding general gameplay is that there are different treasures/loot hidden throughout the maps. Each one can boost your powers by a set amount or add a completely different kind of power to the character. For example, I picked up an item which lets my mage swim under water for unlimited amounts of time.

The game gets told as a fairy tale story, and it’s really well done in that sense.

As of the time of this writing, this game is only available on PC. You can play the demo here from Steam.

This is an indie title by Frozenbyte. It has gained a lot of acclaim/awards from other gaming sites. Overall, it’s a great, although short game.

Fun Factor:

This game is a lot of fun, especially the first time through. There are many different approaches and solutions towards getting through an area or fighting enemies and to me that makes for an intelligent game, which most games are not these days, especially a platformer game. The atmosphere and way the game got made keeps you playing. The first time I played the game I was dead tired and started playing it at 11 PM. I went to bed that day at 5 AM.

For the first playthrough I give the game a Fun Factor score of 9 out of 10. For the repeat plays, I give it a score of 6 out of 10, maybe even 7 if it’s been a while.

Difficulty Versatility:

There are different difficulties but they are mostly the same. The only difference I found in game play is that the amount of health that you get when a character dies and resurrects at the checkpoints is lowered the harder you set it. I got really good at this game real fast so I would recommend playing it right from the start at the max difficulty. Most of the game is pretty easy to me, but some parts are tricky. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 6 out of 10.

Value:

When I got this game it was $5 (when I announced the sale last time). At that cost, the game is an amazing value.

When it’s not on sale, this game usually goes for about $20. At the time of this writing, you can get it for that much through ebgames.com in DVD and also as the downloaded version. You can get it for the same price through Steam.

You can also get it from Impulse here, which is one of our sponsors.

Trine
$19.99

For $20, considering it took me 5-6 hours to beat the game the first time, it’s not so much a great value. At that cost, I’d give Value a score of 4 out of 10. At a cost of $10, I’d give it a 6 out of 10. At $5, I’d give Value a score of 8 out of 10.

Replayability:

This is a pretty short game. I’ve played it twice so far and the game was predictable the entire 2nd playthrough. I have a good memory and since I just played it back to back, I will probably revisit this game in a year or two. I’d give replayability a 4 out of 10, mainly because it’s such a well made game and the action is well done.

Sound:

The voice acting for the game is great. I enjoy when they argue with each other, regarding the path they are taking for solving the main plot. It’s comical. The mage is a shy dork, the rogue archer is a hot sexy lady, and the warrior is a dumb jock.

The sound effects are well done too. The arrows sound real. The smashing of the warrior’s sword or the impact on his shield sound amazing. Sound gets a score of 8 out of 10. I would have given it a higher score, if it had more voice acting.

Music:

The music for the game is beautiful. It goes well with the atmostphere and the fairy tale setting. The music sometimes reminds me of a Tim Burton kind of fairy tale movie. Danny Elfman would be proud! It is written by Ari Pulkkinen. I wish it were available for download. The music from Trine gets a score of 10 out of 10. It’s simply beautiful.

Graphics:

The game looks beautiful. It reminds me sort of the style that the first Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen had, only from the point of view of a side-scrolling platformer instead of the top down and not pixelated at all. They look well drawn and the game is simply beautiful. For what this game is, the Graphics deserve a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

The game runs rock solid even while alt-tabbing the living hell out of it. Nothing to complain here. It loads up quickly as well each time. Stability/Reliability gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simple and fluid. Standard WASD + mouse combo work like a charm for Trine. Once you’ve played the game for a while, you will be able to use each character almost as if it’s second nature to you. It doesn’t take long to get used to the controls. Eventually you will find yourself just drilling everything with the rogue archer and the enemies won’t stand a chance. Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs perfectly on most gaming machines, even some obsolete ones. I never saw lag, not even once during any part of this game. The levels load up quickly as well. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This was one of over 300 games I bought during the Steam holiday sale. Although the game is short I enjoyed playing it as much nearly as when I played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the first time. I would recommend it to people who like that game a lot, who are PC gamers.

Civilization 5 coming Fall 2010

Civilization 5 Coming Soon
Civilization 5 Coming Soon

Civilization 5 coming Fall 2010

The latest installment of one of the best strategy games of all time, if not the best one will be out Fall 2010.

The Civilization games are the ultimate empire game strategy simulation games ever made. I have probably played these games more than anything ever. I can’t wait for Civilization 5 to make me lose sleep and make me forget to eat all over again. 😀

Sid Meier is an (evil) genius! 😀

UPDATE: This game sucked. Read the review here.

Interview – CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright)

CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright)
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We recently interviewed one of our favorite musicians CoLD SToRAGE (Tim Wright). The following is the interviewRead More