What I Saw at Dread Hill House: A First Look at Gray Matter

By Carla LeGall

Never been 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.

GameBoomers 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.


The green 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 -- very promising!


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.


Gray Matter 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 rare occasions.

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.


Claas Wolter , 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 Xbox 360.

The graphics 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 further!)

Gray Matter 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 possible hotspots.

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.

The 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.

The dubbing 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.

The 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.


After 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 inquiries.

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 a long, 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 website here.

*Statistical information is from The Entertainment Software Association website.

copyright © 2010 GameBoomers