A First Look by flotsam

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers - 20th Anniversary Edition
Pinkerton Road

Dare I say it’s about time.

If ever a game deserved a makeover, Sins of the Fathers is it. And not because it is old and tired. To the contrary, it is a revered game in the pantheon of adventure games, and no doubt found many new fans once platforms like GOG made it easily accessible to modern players. Its strengths held it up well, but its blotchy pixellness and tinny (and rather annoying in places) soundtrack warranted a modern day rethink.

And now we have it. Or we will have very soon. I got to take Day 1 and parts of Day 2 for a spin recently and couldn’t have been more pleased.

Everything we all liked about Sins of the Fathers is still there. The story, the puzzling, the searching, the questioning, the point score system, even the little chime when you add a point or three to the score. So too Gabriel’s slightly over the top accent (which I confess could have come down a notch or two).

What is different is the artwork, which now has a far more contemporary appearance. Not as shiny as the Monkey Island remakes, but I think that was wise. It doesn’t look brand new, just dressed up, but what a dress. Full screen, giant resolution, and lots of bells and whistles if you pay attention – check the dust motes in the light through the window in the book shop.

So too the voice work and music has been re-recorded. Apparently the original recordings were lost, so it was all redone. It remains faithful to the sound of the original cast though (I already mentioned Gabriel’s accent) which is to be commended.

So too the score, re-orchestrated by Robert Holmes, the original composer. I still turned it down, but it is now far more a rich and engaging accompaniment than it ever was.

I haven’t mentioned Jane Jensen yet, so now would be a good time. A doyen of the genre, she was responsible for the original, and is front and centre and everything else for the remake. Newcomers will know her perhaps from Grey Matter and Moebius: Empire Rising, but she will always be Gabriel’s Mum to me.

Different too is how the puzzling plays out. Things now happen on different days, and solves are subtly different. Without going back and playing the original again it’s hard to say how different, but I haven’t yet been to Grandma Knights house, which I am pretty sure happened on Day 1, I found some things in different places, and I finished Day 1 without the crime scene file. It’s still the same game without question, just changed enough to be enticingly different to all those who have played before.

It took me a little while to get used to the foibles of the game play system. Sometimes clicking on a character generates a conversation, sometimes you try and “show” them the active inventory item. More than once I got a little stroppy when Gabriel told me “he wouldn’t be interested in that” when all I wanted to do was talk. But I settled in as we went along.

Other differences include a less fiddly icon system, and a notebook that keeps track of what is going on (seemingly replacing the recorder tapes window which tracked your conversations) and which can also provide hints. I also don’t remember their being a button which highlights all hotspots, which is also now available.

No boxes either, which is a shame, if only because one early release was probably one of the funkiest boxes ever to grace a game. A two part triangular construct, it remains unopened on my shelf, which is probably why it still stays together.

Some things haven’t changed at all – the mime puzzle remains as it was (which you can judge for yourself!).

I said that I played parts of day 2, which was the result of playing a demo that wouldn’t trigger certain outcomes, despite doing what the hints said. It may have been me – if not, I am sure all of that will be sorted out when the final game releases.

All up, it seems far more user friendly game in the way that modern games tend to be. Which doesn’t mean it will be easy, or that getting maximum points will be a snap. Even having played several times, it remains a tricky game, requiring careful and methodical exploration and questioning, and a little bit of trying things with lots of other things. It will take a good while to complete (and I mean a whole lot longer than what passes for a lengthy game these days), some of it frustrating as stuck happens, but none of it boring. Sins of the Fathers was story and character driven 20 years ago, and remains so.

I can’t wait for the whole thing.

I played on:

OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz
RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz
Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB