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#704236 - 03/05/11 03:04 AM Gray Matter
oldmariner Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 1436
Gray Matter

This is a difficult game to render any final decision on or to assess a rating. It suffers from many years of hype and expectations placed on it because of who its creator is. Jane Jensen gave us Gabriel Knight rich in characters with highly developed stories immersed in historical research. Gabriel was blessed with outstanding research where it was difficult to separate actual historical events from Jensen's historical extrapolation. How many game players actually were driven to look up facts about the Bavarian King to see how crazy he was? Jensen almost had you convinced he was a werewolf. With that anvil around Gray Matter's neck it suffered from an impossible task. Did it live up to that? Quite likely no, was it good, of course it was. Did it have flaws? It most certainly did. For those of you who remember Bob Uecker, the professional baseball player and "voice" of the Milwaukee Brewers, perhaps he said it best. Uke, who had a lifetime batting average of 200 and hit 14 home runs over twelve years, stated he could have hit 40 home runs a year. But in doing so he would have raised expectations and he did not need the pressure. Jensen stepped up to the plate and almost hit one out of the park.

The story is richly detailed with flawed characters who draw you in and keep you guessing. No spoilers here as any one of them could have been the bad guy except for our heroine, Samantha. As the story unfolds we do not know if the Doctor obsessed with the loss of his wife is going to do a Dr. Frankenstein or not. Jensen does not tip her plot off until the very end and I won't tell you either. There is no shortage of possible villains and the story will keep you guessing. This could either be a horror story or a romantic fantasy game. The story arc leads in both directions and throughout it could turn in either direction. It does strongly suggest it is a modern day Gothic romance.

As I usually do I will discuss how the game works rather than sing it praises or trash it. You decide I can't tell you to like a game or not. This is a third person point and click affair with no timed puzzles no action quick reflex challenges or musical notes to decipher. You can't get maimed or killed. Not one slider puzzle rears its ugly head. I will warn you in chapter eight there is the maze from H---. To make it worse once you complete it you get to do it again. It comes in the form of multiple rooms with numerous possible exits and devious clues to puzzle out so you can get to the next room. Most puzzles are of the inventory variety with the exception of having to employ magic tricks. I left out the part where our heroine was a street magician. A pretty good one at that and she does have a book of magic tricks. Look at the book you will use every one of those tricks. When you have to relieve someone of something you need Sam has to pick a magic trick from her little book. You must take an item and place it in say her left hand while sticking something in her right and then either instruct her to manipulate it or employ the art of misdirection. These little tricks are not easy in fact they are down right devious. To say you get to do this a lot is an understatement. To claim Jensen is a genius or sadists is for you to decide. Either have a walk through handy or plan on staying up late with a pot of coffee, or two.

The magic shop is where you get all the goodies for your "tricks". The problem is you cannot stroll into the shop and clean the place out as we are accustomed to in pick up everything in sight games. You need to know that you have a use for a particular item before you can take it. You figure that out when you decide upon whatever trick you need to play. Like I said it can be devious. Do I have to say many trips to the store are required? The good thing is you have a map for instant teleporting. The game is said to be non linear, it almost is. You cannot advance from chapter one to chapter two without completing all task but logical progression keeps the game in a point A to point B format. But you can do things in any order. However, it is easy to miss triggers requiring you to look at everything you can. Graphics are pretty standard fare with nothing that will present a wow factor. Overall they are pretty good as is the voice acting. The cut scenes are a different issue. In Becky's fine review she said "Much cut scene content has a surreal quality". Becky is a nice lady who was being kind. All I could think of regarding the cut scenes was they reminded me of the video quality you got from that 1985 fifty pound vhs camcorder. With that said the colour and visual detail are very well done. The setting is Oxford in the fall and the foliage rivals Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks

Playing this game on my Dell XPS410 with XP, 4gigs of ram and a mid range video card there were no crashes. I was playing the Lace-Mamba import from England not the US version. But there were some issues which I am unsure of the origin. The cut scenes more often than not would loop. In other words when finished they would immediately replay without returning to the game. Clicking on the screen you were given the option to cancel the cut scene and the game returned to where it was supposed to go without missing a beat. I never saw this happen before with any game. It was sometimes difficult to combine items in inventory and you had to try more than once to complete the task. There was one scene in chapter three that required use of a scanner. It just refused to work, finally after several tries it did. Use of the space bar provided a listing of all hot spots. The issue was the icons were so close together it was difficult to isolate on the one you needed. There are only twenty save slots which I used up before starting chapter five. I copy and pasted them into a separate folder and rewrote over the ones in the game as I progressed. I am not sure why I wanted to keep all the saves as I am doubtful this game has a second play to look forward to. Though one heck of a good game it is not Gabriel Knight.

When you first load the game up before hitting new game listen to the song that is playing. The whole song will play through if you listen without clicking anything. "Never Look Back" Sam's theme written by Robert Holmes performed by the Scarlet Furies, lead singer Raleigh Holmes, his daughter and Robert is on guitar. At the credit roll end of game you will hear "Safe in Arms" David's song by the same group. All in all there are 22 original songs some vocal some instrumental played through the game. All nicely done and not taking over the game. Search youtube for videos of the group and you can hear most of these songs. We are back to the opening question, did this game live up to the hype? Some will say yes and some will say no. I am still considering it. There is no question that it will entertain you. Jensen/Holmes and now their daughter demonstrate serious talent.

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#704343 - 03/05/11 01:04 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: oldmariner]
Tomer Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 06/12/07
Posts: 793
Loc: Tel Aviv, Israel.
Thanks for the review.

However:

Originally Posted By: oldmariner
Gray Matter


These little tricks are not easy in fact they are down right devious. To say you get to do this a lot is an understatement. To claim Jensen is a genius or sadists is for you to decide. Either have a walk through handy or plan on staying up late with a pot of coffee, or two.



Are you serious? To me, these tricks were not more than shopping lists - an a-z list telling you exactly what to do. I can't imagine the tricks being implemented in a way that's easier to solve.
If it says manipulate you manipulate and if it says trigger you trigger - how could you have found that devious?

Originally Posted By: oldmariner

The problem is you cannot stroll into the shop and clean the place out as we are accustomed to in pick up everything in sight games. You need to know that you have a use for a particular item before you can take it. You figure that out when you decide upon whatever trick you need to play.


Not accurate. Once you've found just one reason to pick up a certain item in a certain episode (you as in Sam), you can pick up all the relevant items for the episode. For example, if you Sam encountered a trick she needs a magnet for, you could then pick up the magnet, fake blood, and so on...



I don't want to offend you, but your deviousness scale doesn't seem to leave much room for a real challenge. I would be happy to understand how you find that devious.
I'm just saying it, cause it might scare away many people who are afraid of challenges.
I would definitely not categorize this game as something even close to devious (with perhaps one exception with a certain David puzzle, or the maze you mentioned, which might be hard for some) - and most definitely not the tricks element.
I know it's just "my opinion" but I have a feeling, as a beta tester of the game, that most players thought the tricks were too easy and menial.

Other than that, nice review - thanks!
_________________________
There's definitely definitely definitely no logic to human behaviour.

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#704373 - 03/05/11 03:56 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: Tomer]
chrissie Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/15/05
Posts: 4404
Loc: london uk
Thank you oldmariner for taking the time to give us your impressions of the game! I agree with so much of what you've said. I thought it was a great game in all respects albeit, I agree, with a few flaws! I loved the style of the opening cut scene but some of the later cut ones (in the same style) didn't seem to have the same quality.

I thought the idea of the magic tricks was quite innotative although it was, I thought, a difficult concept to present in a game - I didn't find them overly challenging but I can see that other players may find them 'devious' in context.

I would agree that the game is fairly linear in that you have to complete tasks in one plot to move on to the next chapter - I think the non-linearity reference may apply to another 'subplot' where you can take your time throughout chapters?

I did find the end maze the most interesting I have come across & preferred it to the werewolf one in GK2, the swinging axe in GK 3 & I've forgotton the horror in GK1 but I do remember the skeleton sequence. scared Yes, all 3 GK games were flawed too! I think you have to forget about GK to appreciate this game, & also the amount of research that has obviously gone into it!
smile

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#704379 - 03/05/11 04:21 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: Tomer]
oldmariner Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 1436
Tomer

"Are you serious? To me, these tricks were not more than shopping lists - an a-z list telling you exactly what to do. I can't imagine the tricks being implemented in a way that's easier to solve.
If it says manipulate you manipulate and if it says trigger you trigger - how could you have found that devious?"

Yes I am. In the first place the tutorial does not present you with a "shopping lists" as you present it. Let us look at the first magic trick. Harvey and Lisa.

Yes Sam tells you that a trick is required. Yes she tells you which one to use by your clicking on them one at a time leading you to the right one. But the screen does not lead you step by step. here is Mag's walk through instructions.
Click to reveal..
" Click-hold-drop the spare cartridge inventory on the left sleeve slot at top right of the frame. See that step 1 at left frame states: Load spare cartridge in left sleeve.
Click-hold-drop Lisa's cartridge at environment (bottom of right screen) on right hand slot.
See that step 2 at left frame states: Take Lisa's cartridge in right hand.
Click-hold-drop the spare cartridge to left hand.
See that step 3 at left frame states: Palm spare cartridge in left hand.
Click-hold-drop Lisa's cartridge to left hand slot
See that step 4 at left frame states: Move Lisa's cartridge to left hand.
Click on 'misdirect' icon.
See step 5 at left frame.
Click-hold-drop spare cartridge to right hand.
See that step 6 at left frame states: Move spare cartridge to right hand.
Click-hold-drop Lisa's cartridge to left sleeve.
See that step 7 at left frame states: Vanish Lisa's cartridge in left sleeve.
A magic wand appears when the sequence is complete. Click on magic wand icon to check the sequence." Without the walk through you have to figure these moves yourself. For instance if you place Mag's instruction #5, misdirect out of sequence the trick will not work.
Click to reveal..
[/spoiler]

Therefore the game does not tell you where to place the objects nor does it tell you when or if you are to employ misdirect or manipulate. You make it sound like you are led step by step. You have to figure it out yourself.

As for, "Not accurate. Once you've found just one reason to pick up a certain item in a certain episode (you as in Sam), you can pick up all the relevant items for the episode. For example, if you Sam encountered a trick she needs a magnet for, you could then pick up the magnet, fake blood, and so on..."

Partially true you can at the beginning of chapter two pick up what you need for that chapter. But you have no idea what you will be using them for. Again look at a magic trick.

[spoiler]At the library if you arrived with all the goodies when you decide on the magic trick Sam tells you that you need to put something in the environment first. You don't know what, you don't know where. It is trial and error. Do you need to use the noise maker or the thumb or the gum and where do you put it? It is not like the game tells you.
If you arrived without picking up the several items she tells you that you need to get a noisemaker. So yes it is easier to figure you need to put the noisemaker somewhere.


So I will stand with what I said. If you are following a walk through then you have a step by step list and the "tricks" are no challenge. But if you are not then you decide what you need to use and where to insert each item. You also need to decide if you use misdirect and manipulate and in what step of the sequence you need to inset them. Manipulate is not a simple command. You must decide what to manipulate and if you need to use that action at all. To imply these are easy if you choose to play without a walk through is incorrect. You may disagree with my choice of the word devious. But I maintain they are clever and difficult.

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#704421 - 03/05/11 08:09 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: oldmariner]
Becky Offline
The Medieval Lady
Sonic Boomer

Registered: 02/16/00
Posts: 26894
Loc: Stony Brook, New York, USA
Another fun review, oldmariner! wave grin

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#704532 - 03/06/11 08:13 AM Re: Gray Matter [Re: Becky]
Mad Offline
True Blue Boomer

Registered: 11/21/00
Posts: 23550
Loc: United Kingdom
Thanks, oldmariner, for a welcome review !! grin

I've only played a very little of the game so far but I must say it appeals to me thumbsup

[I personally feel that all the pre-release hype was quite ridiculous whistle]
_________________________
Time : The Most Precious Commodity

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#704740 - 03/06/11 05:42 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: Mad]
oldmariner Offline
Addicted Boomer

Registered: 01/29/07
Posts: 1436
Thanks Mad, Becky, Chrissie and Tomer. To be clear I liked the game and yes it is a very good game in spite of the issues. It is those issues that keep it from the top shelf of great games. That of course is opinion and some will disagree. The ending alone can generate considerable argument. Though sufficient it does ignore some questions. Threads elsewhere have suggested they resorted to an easy answer ignoring the theme they wove through the whole game. That did not bother me though I can see their argument.

Ending spoiler, don't read if you have not finished the game.

Click to reveal..
What some are complaining about is the easy out they took by implying the ghosts or presence was faked by a disturbed girl. They minimized David's reaction to that by his easy acceptance of the presented solution. That completely denies David's obsession with bringing his wife back. You cannot build a character who went to such obsessive extremes and expect people will accept his rapid embrace of a simple solution. A solution that completely trashes his experiments. Yes scientists accept theories are flawed when shown to be, however, David had much earlier crossed the line of rationality.

I contend there are many possible resolutions to this story. The problem is the ending they chose appears be an easy out that expects the players to believe the rapid acceptance by David. Evidenced by his sitting with the students and challenging none of it. The personality created for David through the whole game conflicts with this conclusion. All of his "evidence" or bits of data were swept away without a word.

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#707022 - 03/13/11 07:23 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: oldmariner]
leo Offline
Shy Boomer

Registered: 07/05/10
Posts: 22
Just finished it, and I can say this was a good one! I mean, a goth magician girl and a professor? Come on, the choice of characters alone can make you buy this game!

I think the game created so much hype around it that it was inevitable for people to get disappointed. Maybe some were expecting a new Gabriel Knight, a game with tougher puzzles and more frustration, I don't know. I personally have stopped paying much attention to the hype, and play what seems closer to my mood at the time.

To make it short, I loved Gray Matter! The puzzles were logical, the story progressed in a pattern, and I got my bonus at the end; the final maze which satisfied my "vice" for a tougher puzzle! The magic tricks were fairly easy, as you got to keep the right moves and proceed until you found the remaining ones.

It doesn't have to be Gabriel Knight, or anything else. These games were great, but the feeling was unique and cannot be replicated by another game (especially in 2011!).

For all of you who are considering playing Gray Matter my advice is go buy it and start playing. You will enjoy the experience, and I hope they will decide to make a sequel.

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#716487 - 04/13/11 06:21 PM Re: Gray Matter [Re: leo]
maverick Offline
Settled Boomer

Registered: 04/30/04
Posts: 130
Loc: West Coast
It could have been a great game!

I anticipated this game coming out for months. I was truly anticipating a great game after playing the demo. However, it didn't take long for glitches and loops started to cause problems. I used Gameboomers.com for help and got some. I had to use so many game saves that I lost most of the story and the game. I even had to use a save for the ending. Even the three walkthroughs didn't help. Plus, I have to report that I got no help from technical support from the games creators. Amazon doesn't refund on games, even if they are defective so I am out $30.00. What a disappointment!!!

Loyal Boomer Maverick

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