What I Saw at Dread Hill
First Look at Gray Matter
in the English countryside? If you haven't, be sure to go, possibly near
Oxford. And while you're there, stop by for a snack at a local mansion where
they are introducing the most eagerly anticipated adventure game of 2010:
GRAY MATTER, designed by the legendary Jane Jensen.
was invited to the Press Presentation of Gray Matter, organized by
DTP and Mamba Games on April 28th, 2010. This is my report of the day.
grass of England...very green, and very English; the conference was held in
a beautiful (and a tad spooky) hotel in the heart of Oxfordshire. The
location of course was spot-on, because one of the main characters in
Gray Matter is a Professor at Oxford University. At the entrance to the
hotel, a typical London double-decker red bus was parked under a tree --
When looking at the
statistics for the average gamer: “The average game player is 35 years old
and has been playing games for 12 years and the average age of the most
frequent game purchaser is 39 years old”.* But when I stepped into the
conference room at the hotel, my first impression was, “Oh my goodness, they
are all kids here!” (compared to me of course). These were journalists from
all over Europe, including gaming websites and magazines. I could hear
comments in German and French, in addition to the buzz of conversations in
English. They all seemed to know each other, and were probably wondering
what a middle-aged woman was doing amongst them! Never mind, I sat down with
my Reporter Pad on my lap, ready to start.
A RECAP OF
is the first new adventure game created by the celebrated author/designer,
Jane Jensen since the release of Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred,
Blood of the Damned. Staying true to the Jensen style, the story
interweaves gruesome incidents and supernatural events.
Neurobiologist Dr. David Styles is one of the main characters in the game.
Since losing his wife in a terrible car accident many years before, he has
become a recluse, leaving his English mansion -- Dread Hill House -- only on
One day, a student and street artist named Samantha Everett shows up on his
doorstep unexpectedly, at a time when Styles just happens to be looking for
an assistant. Sam gets the job. Originally from America, she has travelled
throughout Europe for the past few years, and she is desperately in need of
money. Her first assignment involves finding six volunteers for an
experiment planned by Dr. Styles at Oxford.
The experiment begins harmlessly enough, but soon strange things begin to
happen. Styles is visited by his beloved but deceased wife. Now it is up to
Sam to solve the mysteries of Dread Hill House.
, Senior PR Manager at DTP, (the German publisher of the game), showed us
portions of Gray Matter, which will be released in Q4 2010 for PC and
are stunning, very detailed and gothic. We were shown only the first three
chapters of the game, but I noticed that even these early chapters have
several locations to explore. (I was quite happy that we didn't see more; I
want to play the game when it is released and I didn't want it spoiled any
has a classic, easy-to-use point & click interface and uses a third person
perspective. It contains inventory puzzles and multiple choice response
challenges. There is a point system, as in earlier Gabriel Knight games, but
it's mostly symbolic -- you won’t get a bonus or a different ending if you
reach the target. Completing the game with all the points means that you
have explored all the locations available and interacted with all the
One novelty was the
“magic interface”. Samantha Everett is a magician and she will have to
perform tricks in order to obtain certain items. The player will guess which
trick is needed to complete the scene, and then must follow the instructions
from Sam’s magic book, dropping items onto the correct places in a diagram
showing Sam’s sleeves or hands, prompting Sam to perform the sequence. If
everything is done correctly, the magic trick will be successful.
cut scenes are, in my opinion, the only aspect of the game that is somewhat
disappointing, because they resemble panels from graphic novels. These make
quite a contrast to the beautiful, realistically-rendered graphics in the
rest of the game.
is very well done. The voices are those of professional actors and
GameBoomers' British members will undoubtedly recognize them. (Dr. David
Styles, for example, is played by Steven Pacey, known for “Heartbeat” and
“Pie in the Sky”.)
There is no
difference in the story between the PC and the Xbox version.
soundtrack is by Robert Holmes, who composed the Gabriel Knight music, and
who has a knack for creating the right atmosphere for this type of game.
END OF THE
DAY AND CONCLUSION
the presentation of the first three chapters of Gray Matter, Jane
Jensen was available via video-conferencing in order to answer any
questions. She was very pleasant and easy-going and answered all the
I also met
Jennie Lever, our guardian angel from Mamba Games, who makes the GameBoomers
Giveaways for Mamba games possible. In this digital world, it is wonderful
to put a face to a name for once!
It was time
for me to drive back home, and while I was driving through the English
countryside, I was telling myself that Jane Jensen, once again, has
delivered on the promise of a game that is likely to be a "hit" for
long time. The few
chapters I have seen today completely immersed me in the singular atmosphere
of her games: a bit of the paranormal, a bit of romance, a bit of fear, a
bit of magic -- all blended together in a perfect balance. That’s what I
call “the Jane Jensen touch”, and I love it.
For more information
about Gray Matter, visit the newly revamped
information is from The Entertainment Software Association website.
copyright © 2010