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
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.
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.
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.
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
What do you need to play it?
Minimum Requirements for the Steam
Win 2000 or higher
Pentium or higher
64 MB RAM
256-colour: 266 Mhz or above
150 MB available space
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).