Anthony's Film Review
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers
(Video Game, 1993)
A truly engrossing horror game with the quality of a breathtaking motion picture...
As a lifelong computer game player, the genre of adventure games has always been a favorite of mine. I like a game with situational puzzles while following a story. The first of the Gabriel Knight series, Sins of the Fathers, developed by Sierra On-Line, works well not just because the puzzles are challenging but not entirely difficult to solve, but also because the plot and characters are as developed as any bestselling novel or critically acclaimed film. Jane Jensen, the game's designer, deserves much credit for making the story that good. That is why the game is a great representation of the genre of computer adventure games.
The story takes place in 1993 in New Orleans. Gabriel Knight is the owner of a bookstore and an aspiring horror novelist. He is working on a novel that involves Voodoo and is looking for any good material from his research into the topic. However, he is also haunted by nightmares. In fact, it's the same nightmare over and over: a woman being burned alive at a stake. Both his research into Voodoo and the mystery behind his nightmares lead him into a path towards darkness where he ultimately learns about his true destiny.
He does have two trusted friends. One is Grace Nakimura, an intelligent college student who runs Gabriel's bookstore as part-time work. The other is Detective Mosely of the New Orleans Police Department. Mosely investigates a murder at Lake Ponchartrain that may actually be a Voodoo ritual of sacrifice. He allows Gabriel to check it out for his research. Little do they know that it'll be part of something much more frightening.
The plot is just wonderfully written. Most stories for adventure games are just basic enough so that there is at least some purpose in the things the player does in the game. With Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, the story has the quality of a four-star movie. There is much research done on Voodoo, New Orleans, and other historical topics to give the game an authentic feel. For many players, it's no longer a game playing experience as it becomes much more like being in the story itself. This game works so well because we care about everything that happens to the characters in the story. Not to mention that it's also very frightening.
The game first came out on floppy disks and then re-released as a CD-ROM version. Those with the CD version are in for a real treat. Not only are the characters given voices, but also the voices are done by Hollywood actors. Some of the cast is definitely recognizable. Tim Curry, well noted for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, provides the voice of Gabriel Knight. Leah Remini is the voice of Grace Nakimura, which she did before starring in the sitcom The King of Queens. Even more notable is Mark Hamill as Detective Mosely, years after his days as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogy. Michael Dorn does the voice of Dr. John, another role besides Worf on Star Trek. The entire cast, regardless of their other credits, do a marvelous job bringing the characters to life.
The musical score for the game is also a reason I love this game so much. Robert Holmes, who is also Jane's husband, creates many memorable tunes set to different locales featured in the game. There is the nice tune for Gabriel's bookstore as well as dark themes for the St. Louis Cemetery #1 and Lake Ponchartrain. And of course, the tunes for the main theme and the end credits are truly great to listen to. I could mention every tune written for the game, but I'll sum it up by saying that every note composed by Robert Holmes is one well-conceived.
Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is, without a doubt, a masterpiece. It may only be a computer game, but that does not automatically make it inferior to a motion picture. On the contrary, it works just as well as a movie. The only difference is that the audience participates in the action and is put into the main character's shoes. This is an awesome game that adventure game fans do not want to miss.
For more information about Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.
In addition, check out my reviews of The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery and Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.