Anthony's Film Review
The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery
(Video Game, 1995)
Not a Hollywood production, yet a very astonishing achievement in computer gaming...
The world of computer games is changing all the time. Unlike movies, TV, and books, interactive entertainment evolves so fast that within a year or two, there is already some advancement or experiment in gaming technology that could potentially become huge. The first Gabriel Knight game was animated but drawn realistically and embellished with voice actors. The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery continues the story of Gabriel Knight in the form of an interactive movie. All the characters are portrayed by real actors and the scenes are a combination of replacements of blue screens in post-production and miniature sets. The production value may not reach that of a Hollywood film, but since it's a computer game, there's not really a high standard to go by.
The title character is played by an unknown actor named Dean Erickson. In the beginning, he does an OK job. I feel this way mainly because I somehow consider Gabriel in Sins of the Fathers to be the most memorable portrayal of the character. The rest of the cast are also unknown actors, even though some have credits in at least five films involving minor roles. However, if I had to pick the one actor in The Beast Within whose performance stands out among the rest, it would have to be Peter Lucas as the hunt club leader Friedrich Von Glower. If there were an Oscar or Golden Globe equivalent for computer game performances, he would surely win.
The story of The Beast Within starts with Gabriel Knight in Rittersberg, Germany, after he inherits a castle from his uncle and accepts his title as Schattenjager (Shadow Hunter). He has hunted the dark forces of Voodoo in New Orleans and has written a novel based on it. While at work on his next book, Gabriel is visited by local villagers who believe a werewolf is on the loose. As he is the Shadow Hunter, he is obligated to investigate.
Meanwhile, Grace Nakimura is still in New Orleans managing Gabriel's bookstore. She gets a message from him about his new case, and immediately, she flies to Germany to join Gabriel. The two don't meet until late in the story after they have explored the same case from different ends.
Like the first Gabriel Knight game, Jane Jensen does intensive research on history, religion, and the occult. Here, she includes material about lycanthropy, King Ludwig II, and the opera composer Richard Wagner. Her interest in such topics is so great that the story in the end blurs the line between fact and fiction. What may seem too good to be true may feel like fact, and what may be fact may seem like fiction. This is what makes Gabriel Knight such an intense thriller and why this is the best of the three Gabriel Knight games.
I was so mesmerized by Sins of the Fathers that I did not think the second one would top it. As it turned out, it greatly exceeded my expectations. I would consider The Beast Within not just the best Gabriel Knight game, but also the best adventure game I have ever played. This is the reason why the series is among the best computer games ever made. The whole gameplay experience is something I will always remember. It just proves that computer games can be just as thrilling and exciting as motion pictures, even if games do not necessarily look like movies.
For more information about The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, visit the Internet Movie Database and Moby Games.
In addition, check out my reviews of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.