I'm not very Jewish. I spent four years in a very Jewish public school and that's about as close to the religion as I ever got. It's good then that 'The Shivah' required pretty much nothing of me. Barring a very minimal understanding of how religions work on a base level, you can enter this game with no knowledge of Judaism and exit with a strong desire for latkes and matzo.
'The Shivah' starts off with the main character, one Rabbi Russel Stone, ending his sermon early only to be interrogated moments later about the murder of an ex-congregation member. It turns out that this man had left Rabbi Stone a small fortune, enough money to easily save his dilapidated synagogue, which puts Mr Stone up as suspect number one. Like a good point and click hero, Rabbi Stone decides that the best thing he could do is attempt to solve the murder himself, getting embroiled deep into the world of mystery, intrigue and murder that surrounds the Jewish community. Ok, so it's not the most original story in the world. It's very tropey and, ignoring a minor twist near the end and a red herring or two, I had pretty much guessed the story from the beginning. Even with the Jewish get up, you could easily mistake this for Gabriel Knight Wears a Yamaka. That being said, it's fun. Your choices have a modicrum of impact on the story, which is a nice touch. There are also a handful of endings and the game encourages you to get the best one with a nicely placed autosave. It kept me entertained for the entire story, which lasted just under two hours including my faffing about.
Rabbi Stone: Sins of the Dressmaker
The gameplay works the exact same way that every other game in the genre. Walk around rooms, click on literally everything and attempt to solve the game enough to move to the next area. Thankfully, most of the puzzles are extremely intuitive and I only got stuck once. The game does a good job of explaining the mechanics very early on. There's one where you combine clues together to attempt to piece together the mystery. Its a nice mechanic that makes you think every now and again and does a good job of advancing the story through player action. Everything you get in the game is integral in some way to the puzzle, so you never get throwaway items. There's even a search function that plays its role in the story, which is nice. Holding down the right mouse button can bring up everything selectable in the area, but I almost never needed it. A hint system would be nice for the occasion where you get stumped, but its no loss without it as the game is so small that you can easily figure it out with a little patience. Its just unfortunate that the game never does anything too original with the genre. It doesn't even really do much to change the original up, besides explaining how the mechanics work and throwing on some more tinsel. Its still fun, it just seems like a bit of a missed opportunity.
Rabbi, your resolution greatly improved on that woman's face.
Finally, it is actually quite a sexy game. The original kept it old school with the trappings of late 80s point and clicks, like Maniac Mansion and Leisure Suit Larry. This new one bumps it all the way up to modern times with its early 90s style of Full Throttle/Gabriel Knight. It's actually surprisingly visually appealing. It brought me back to fetal nostalgia of messing around on my Windows 95 but I'm sure that, even without a history with the genre, it can be pleasing to the eye. Everything is very well drawn and can easily be made out for what it is. When in conversation with another character, a small box with both faces comes up displaying different portraits for different emotion. You can really appreciate the attention to detail in the characters and the world and can get lost quite easily in the short time you're with the game. The music is very nice and authentic. It adds another layer of atmosphere. However, the voice acting is moderate at best. The acting in and of itself is good but the quality really brings it down and hearing static or feedback can bring you out of the immersion that everything else worked so hard to get you in.
Overall, its fun. For $4.99, or your regional equivalent, the game is so inoffensive and mildly entertaining that you have pretty much no reason not to get it. Its not very original and follows the worn path but its story and setting is fresh and honestly, how often are you going to get a game where you play as a rabbi.
6/10 – Not recommended for Stormfront members.