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SummaryThis review is brought to you by the letter V... for voodoo
The GoodIf you've played King's Quest VI, you will know that it was co-designed (and written) by Jane Jensen, who was praised for her storytelling techniques, and it was part of the reason why KQ6 is the best-selling KQ game of all time. Impressed by her talents as a writer, Sierra gave her a chance to spear-head one of the best series ever to come out of the company. Each of the three games in the Gabriel Knight series focuses on a particular style and subject; and Sins of the Fathers, the first game in the series, is a point-and-click adventure game and focuses on Voodoo, a far cry from the fantasy setting.
Gabriel Knight is the last in the long line of Schattenjӓgers – shadow hunters – whose purposes are to fight the dark forces of the supernatural. He is also researching a book about Voodoo that causes him to have nightmares. He has to spend every moment in New Orleans searching for the key to his dark past. One day, a ritualistic murder torments the city and Gabriel attends the crime scene hoping to collect material for his new book, but ends up going down a dangerous path of secret societies and murderous cults.
Sins of the Fathers is quite a long adventure game. It consists of ten days, and each one starts off with a part of a poem by Gabriel himself, and you won't see how it ends until the final day. You should pay attention to these snippets as they tell you what is going to happen on or what you are supposed to do. For instance, the part on the first day refers to Gabriel's initial sighting of a mysterious woman he meets. Having said that, I like the stuff Gabriel has to do on most of the days, stuff such as attending the crime scene, sit on a police interview, write his own coded message, and attend a conclave out in the swamp (at his own risk).
Gabriel will meet up with many characters throughout the game. Some characters will help him while some will be hostile toward him. Grace, his assistant, is the first of the major characters we meet. She is primary there to help Gabriel with his research. I like the chemistry between her and Gabriel, with him making these great one-liners and Grace having none of it. She gets more and more worried about Gabriel as he gets closer to danger. The next major character we meet is Mosely. He is a police detective who happens to be a close friend of Gabriel. He's happy to help Gabriel with any information for his book. I enjoyed how Gabriel proves to be a smart-aleck toward Mosely (in a nice kind of way, of course).
The game comes on both floppy and CD versions, with the latter featuring full speech, high-res art, and a “Making of” video. In the CD version, most of the characters are portrayed by Hollywood actors (such as Tim Curry and Mark Hamill) who deliver top-notch performances, and the minor characters are portrayed by the same actors. Curry returns in the third game as Jensen believed that he represented the real voice of Gabriel.
The amount of research put into the game is just amazing, and the manual makes mention of the references that Sierra used. Because of these references, I learned about certain Voodoo terms that I never heard before, such as Hoodoo and Vodoun, as well as names that refer to objects used in the voodoo conclaves. This wasn't the first time Sierra put research into the game. They did it with The Dagger of Amon Ra, as well as Gold Rush! before that.
Gabriel can die, just like any other protagonist in a Sierra adventure game. However, having him just roam around and not having him die until halfway through the adventure is a stroke of genius, and this is a technique used in the two other games. I think GK is death-free until around the fifth day. The box doesn't warn that the game contains “adult subject matter” for nothing. In Sins of the Fathers, there is a fair amount of blood and hideous deaths, and there is one scene in the game where I was about to get turned on by the sight of the female antagonist dancing around wearing nothing but a loincloth.
The game was the last of the Sierra adventure games to use true, hand-painted backgrounds before the company turned its attention to interactive movies and Disney-style graphics. There is a certain palette Sierra used that gives Sins of the Fathers a dark and sinister feel to it. The character portraits are great and don't suffer from the “ventriloquist bug” that plagues characters in other Sierra games (the hermit from King's Quest V, for instance).
The soundtrack is done by Robert Holmes (Jane Jensen's husband now), and he did a brilliant job making sure the soundtrack blends in with the situation that Gabriel is in. I enjoyed listening to the title tune, which can only be heard in the CD version. The sound effects are a mixed-bag in both versions of the game. In the disk version, they are OK, but nothing to get excited about. They are on par with those found in Sierra's games that use the SCI1 engine. In the CD version, they act as ambient sound effects, since they are stored in .wav files and played throughout the game, adding to the atmosphere. But there is a problem with this as I will discuss in “The Bad” section.
Finally, both versions of the game come with a graphic novel about a murder that took place in South Carolina three-hundred years ago, written by Jensen and illustrated by Terese Neilsen. It is about one of Gabriel's ancestors who falls in love with a beautiful witch, then betrays her. I enjoyed reading this and it sets up the game nicely. I recommend you read this, even if you have no plans to play the game.
The BadSins of the Fathers has an extended icon bar where there are extras icons such as “Open”, “Operate”, and “Move”, as well as those we are familiar with in a Sierra game. This creates confusion for new players. When I played this game for the first time for example, I ended up using the hand cursor on the bike in Jackson Square to eavesdrop on some radio chatter. The game wouldn't let me do this, as I needed to “operate” it instead.
As I said before, the CD version contains ambient sound effects that are stored in .wav files. But when these are played, there is a significant pause before the dialogue is spoken. When you restore a game in both versions, the game's volume is automatically set too high instead of the volume you set yourself.
If you are on Day 6 and you got anything higher than a Pentium, you will have problems getting into Mosely's office when he is not there. If this happens to you, you need to use DOSBox or go into your BIOS and disable the L2 cache. There was one time where I tried playing the Windows version (that is included on the CD) while the L2 cache was disabled, but it behaved like a dinosaur resulting in my computer locking up.