Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

Developer/Publisher:  Sierra
Year Released:  1993

Review by Rosemary Young (July, 1997)
gk1.jpgIt's fortunate, indeed, that this game made it into our reflections as it is one of the few games in our collection that is minus its box. It now shares a home with its younger sibling, Gabriel Knight II, so it tends to get overlooked when I rifle through the cupboard to find an 'old' game to review. It 'lost' its packaging, by the way, simply because it was so impractical, a fancy box with all acute angles that was impossible to store, and fell to pieces in no time. There's a lesson here somewhere for unsuspecting gameplayers. If you can possibly avoid it, don't purchase a game with odd shaped packaging because it's bound to come to grief.

On to the game then, and I have to say that it is a very good one. I wouldn't have parted with it even if the packaging was in pristine condition. I recall thoroughly enjoying it when I first played it back in 1993 and, though I was surprised at how 'dated' the graphics looked this time around, I have enjoyed it every bit as much.

Dumb cursor... but very satisfying
It's what I see as an 'older' style graphic adventure of the sort that the publishers, Sierra, don't make any more ... and more's the pity. It harkens back to the time when a selection of icons were provided to perform different actions instead of having a single changing cursor to 'do' things. I suppose you could call it a 'dumb' cursor as it doesn't automatically highlight when passed over hotspots and, sad to say, I love it because it makes the play much more involving. In this game there are icons for looking, opening, talking, questioning, moving, operating and walking, which means that you can get information about an object before you interact with it and then you have choices as to what you might like to do with it. You can open it, or move it (maybe something is hidden behind). Somehow, it gives the impression of so much more control rather than having a super smart cursor taking over and interacting with an object on your behalf.

Still on the interface, Sins of the Fathers has a scrolling inventory where you can obtain useful descriptions of objects and combine them if necessary, plenty of save game slots, easy access to game controls, plus a scoring system that signals when you are on the right track. There are voices for all characters and, I'm very pleased to report, text translations throughout, even for the commentary. Though, I must admit, I turned the commentary voice off very quickly on the two occasions I played this game, it grates after a while. But I did thoroughly appreciate the music which, even though I've never been there, seemed to conjure up a perfect New Orleans atmosphere.

The story and puzzles
This title introduced Gabriel Knight and his able assistant, Grace Nakimura, to the computer screen. It is a story about murder, and voodoo, and a mysterious legacy inherited by Gabriel from his German/Bavarian ancestry. It's all very intriguing, and, though not quite as sophisticated as the story that emerges in Gabriel Knight II, as far as I'm concerned, this one is a more satisfying game because it is more 'interactive' and is not interrupted continually by video sequences. Of course, if you like video sequences then you will disagree with me on this point.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, is a solid, well designed adventure game that sits quite well within the murder mystery/detective genre, with highlights of horror to add to the intrigue. The Puzzles are pure adventuring with lots of items to collect and a good number of characters to get to know and interrogate. Grace does the researching whilst Gabriel follows up on the clues, though in this first title you are stuck with Gabriel, you don't get to follow Grace and see what she gets up to. At the start of the game you set about investigating a mysterious murder and there are more untimely deaths to come. In following your investigation you will try your hand at impersonation and interpreting coded messages, then follow up your investigations in Germany and Africa before returning to New Orleans and taking part in a mysterious voodoo ceremony.

This game is thoroughly recommended for mystery fans and for anyone who favours the more traditional inventory-based adventures. It's one of my all time favourites and is in my personal 'classic' computer game list. There's so much to do, and you will have lots of fun doing it.

Provisional warning ... This game has some sequences where you must carry out an action quickly, and it may be that these will be problematic on the newer, fast machines. I had no problems at all when I first played it, but this time around, with a P200, they were impossible to complete. I reinstalled on a P60 to finish the game. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997. All rights reserved.

System requirements:
386 or better, 4MB RAM, Hard disk, VGA, Mouse, MS-DOS 5.0 or above. Windows requirements: 386 (486 recommended) Win 3.1, VGA 640x480x256. Available on floppy disk and CD ROM.