Remastered adventure game is short but worth your time
Whilst Kickstarter has been abuzz in the last year or so seemingly reviving the point-'n-click adventure genre, Wadjet Eye Games has been quietly and successfully putting out quality adventure games for a number of years now as a publisher and developer. Gemini Rue, Resonance, Primordia, and the Blackwell franchise are its most well-known titles but the studio kicked things off in 2006 with The Shivah.
Now seven years later, the game has been re-released with updated graphics and new music; it's definitely interesting to go back and see the company's first game but is The Shivah: Kosher Edition worth playing in 2013?
The Shivah - Kosher Edition [PC]
Rabbi Russell Stone has been having a bad few years; his faith has waned along with the congregation of his New York synagogue. Frustrated, broke, and bitter, his fortunes turn around when a deceased former member of his congregation leaves the Rabbi $10,000 in his will.
Stone clearly needs the money but his conscience won't let him just accept it; he needs to find out why this man left him all this money. Needless to say Rabbi Stone and the dead man have history and it's this murky past that will lead Rabbi Stone on a personal journey of potential redemption.
Initially conceived as a competition entry, then updated for general release in 2006, The Shivah is fairly short and simple adventure game. Indeed, it's more of a murder mystery that uses adventure game mechanics to propel the story forward.
Although there is an inventory, Rabbi Stone will only accrue a handful of items; there's no combining items to solve puzzles or problems. The real-world, dramatic setting wouldn't quite fit with some of the more fanciful puzzles you would find in some adventure games.
Instead, The Shivah is about sleuthing and dialogue. Rabbi Stone is determined to find out why the dead man has left him this money and it's this determination that gets him involved in a sinister crime syndicate. Progress is made by examining clues and making the correct choices in conversations with the characters Stone will meet.
Stone has a special Rabbi Response in dialogue options, which basically means he'll answer a question with a question of his own (amusingly foreshadowed by an anecdote you'll see at the start of the game). Whilst it's an interesting touch, it will come in handy towards the end of the game in a unique conversation which I won't spoil.
There's a number of choices during the game that can lead the story in a variety of outcomes. True, most of them are serious black-and-white choices but there's more than one way to end the story, good and bad.
What may disappoint gamers is the length of The Shivah -- it will take maybe two hours to complete. However, that short running length stops the story from veering off on tangents. All in all, the story escalates quickly over a few hours of a single evening but The Shivah is about Rabbi Stone's investigation and the renewing of his faith.
Whilst the graphics are up to the same standard of previous titles from Wadjet Eye, they're a big improvement over the 2006 edition. The Shivah will run in a low-res window, so it's not going to look great on a big monitor but will look just fine on a laptop. The new music score is low-key, melancholic, and fits the mood of the game and there's a nice treat post-credits where you can listen to some out-takes from the recording sessions.
Whilst I'm not familiar at all with the Jewish faith, I didn't feel like that was an impediment to enjoying the story or themes of The Shivah. Whilst clearly a once-proud man, Rabbi Stone has become broken by the whims of the world; when he he receives the money it's his sense of right and wrong that leads him on his path and that's something relateable to everyone.
Despite its short length, The Shivah is worth playing for its story and to see how far adventure games have come in the last few years.
THE VERDICT - The shivah
Reviewed by Alasdair Duncan