THE SHIVAH: KOSHER EDITION

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:  Wadjet Eye Games

Released:  November 2013

PC Requirements:   see review below.

Additional screenshots  

 

 

by gremlin

  

What is it?

Dave Gilbert, founder and lead developer at Wadjet Eye Games is something of a specialist in writing games for the AGS (Adventure Game Studio) system. Not only that, but he seems to have something of a thing for this newest game The Shivah: Kosher Edition. What I mean is that he doesn't seem to be able to put it down, as seven years after its original release as The Shivah, he's released a complete revamp with completely redrawn, higher quality graphics, new voice acting and an iPhone and iPad version to boot.

As I'm not Jewish, I had to do a little research into what 'shivah' is. It is the period of up to seven days of formal mourning that takes place after the death of a close family member, when the principal mourner is expected to remain at home and receive visitors and support from the surrounding community. Oh! What a lovely subject for a game. Let's just say it's a bit more complicated than that in The Shivah: Kosher Edition.

Is there a plot?

Rabbi Russell Stone is your representative in amongst the community of Jews on Manhattan Island, New York. He's the rabbi of a synagogue that is perilously close to shutting its doors for the last time, with members of the congregation leaving quickly and creditors making significant demands upon funds the rabbi simply does not have. It's enough to make someone wonder what the point is any more.

Then Rabbi Stone receives some very surprising news. A former member of his congregation, whom the rabbi drummed out of the door some years ago, has been murdered, but has also bequeathed the thousand dollars to the synagogue. Funnily enough, the New York Police Department feel this makes Rabbi Stone quite the highest priority suspect on the case!

Now it is up to you, as Rabbi Stone, to discover just what happened, clear your name, and re-establish the reputation of your synagogue and maybe start re-building the congregation. The rabbi has to deal with the inquiries of the police, get along with a woman who has every reason to be nearly as suspicious of him as the police are, travel into the dark side of the New York fashion business and ferret out corruption that is rather close to home.

There's a lot of emotion going on in this short game, and the more I think about it the deeper and more twisted it becomes. This is no fuzzy little hobbit's stroll in the country.

How do you play?

The Shivah: Kosher Edition is a point and click adventure game of the old school. All the graphics are low resolution (by today's standards), but nevertheless show all the detail you need to understand the scene and do your detective work. There are no unreasonably small hotspots to find, and there's a 'show all hotspots' option (right click and hold the button down) that means you need never miss the ones that are there.

The controls are simple: left click to interact, right click to obtain a description of the hotspot. You have a very limited inventory at the top of the screen, along with a small section for clues. Clues are obtained as the rabbi reaches certain points in the story and the dialog, and can be combined by dragging and dropping in the Clues menu. It's not an elaborate deduction board a la recent Sherlock Holmes games, but it does allow for some deductive thought processes.

Dialog is sometimes initiated when the rabbi walks into a room, sometimes by deliberately clicking on a person, but it either case, the conversation tree is expressed in a rather unusual manner. As you'd normally expect, there's a menu of possible responses or lines of enquiry you can pursue in a conversation, but often times those options are expressed an 'aggressive response', 'sympathetic response' or, 'rabbinical response'. The first two vary, but there's always a 'rabbinical' one. The game does play rather heavily on some of the mainstream tropes on the subjects of Jewish humour and the way that Rabbis are supposed to talk.

Notable Features

There are a couple of times where you have to make use of a computer in the game. These sections are well thought out and play well, though some of the Jewish jokes available on the computer made me groan.

Most of the game is reasonably linear, though the speed with which certain facts become clear to you the player will affect the amount of wandering around you do between that rather limited number of locations in the game (I counted just 10 if you include the map). However, late in the game you face a number of real choices that lead to different endings. However, if you make a choice that leads to death (and a few do), the game reloads to before the fateful choice, so you should be able to get to the 'happy ending' in the end.

Oddities

The only part of The Shivah that bugged me was the four of five rabbinical statements you have to click through every time you start the game. It's not unusual for a game to play an intro video before the game menu, but I would normally expect to be able to skip it in a single click. Clearly not a big issue, but it did frustrate me with the delay in starting the later sessions playing the game.

Conclusions

I'm torn here. Perhaps some of Rabbi Stone has rubbed off on me. And they do say that wherever you find three rabbis gathered together, you'll always sure to have at least four opinions.

The Shivah: Kosher Edition  may be short, and depressing in places, but it is a great piece of Indie games writing. Life, death, murder, corruption, forgiveness, and redemption, all tackled in one game. Quite an achievement in a few hours of gaming.

Grade: B

What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements for the Steam version:

OS: Win 2000 or higher

Processor: Pentium or higher

Memory: 64 MB RAM

Graphics: 256-colour: 266 Mhz or above

Hard Drive: 150 MB available space

Sound Card: Supports all DirectX-compatible sound cards

(I used a home-built 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium (SP1) PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video card, with on-mother-board, built-in sound card).

 

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