Sterling's Gift



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    White Rabbit Adventure Games

Released:  January 2007

PC Requirements:   Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP or Equivalent, 256 MB RAM, 800x600 display, CD ROM drive, 800 MB Hard drive space








by Looney4Labs


Trivia: Libby Custer graduated Valedictorian of her class at the Young Ladies Seminary and Collegiate Institute.

I just finished a lovely, relaxing stroll through the Neill-Cochran House Museum in Austin, Texas, courtesy of White Rabbit Adventure Games. Along the way I enjoyed some beautiful music, discovered a little history, and solved an enigma. 

George Armstrong Custer and his wife, Libby, lived in what is now the Neill-Cochran house near the end of the Civil War. Sterling’s Gift tells the story of Libby Custer and Sterling, a blind orphan boy. Even though Libby has a profound effect on Sterling, he makes an even greater impact on her life. Their tale is set in 1865, though your investigations will be in the present day. 

As the Civil War comes to an end, General Custer endures a poignant death watch with an unknown soldier.  Thus begins a series of events that sets a mystery in place which will only be solved by the perceptive gamer.

Trivia: Libby has been portrayed onscreen by Olivia de Havilland, Mary Ure, Blythe Danner, and Rosanna Arquette.


The graphics in Sterling’s Gift consist of clear photographs of the Neill-Cochran Museum, its grounds, and its contents presented á la Myst (slide show). Also, there are two video clip sequences. The graphics are all static, with no movement in the background. Often you’ll have the chance to take a closer look at some of the beautiful period furnishings. As you travel around, you’ll find the house much as Libby left it.

As is usual in this type of presentation, there are one or two awkward camera angles that necessitate walking past an area and then turning to access it. As the game play area is not large, learning the layout of the house minimized this problem.

At some point in the game you will find a diary introducing the player to Libby and Sterling. Though crucial to the game, it is not an archival document. Rather, it was created referencing Libby’s writings and other historical documents. It is well crafted, though I wonder if the somewhat spidery cursive will present problems for some players.

Trivia: General Custer was once court-martialed for leaving the field in order to visit Libby.


The leisurely pace allows you to play at your own speed. No need to hurry. There are a great many drawers to rummage in (though they are often empty), certificates to read, portraits to admire, and rooms and grounds to search.

As always, there were doors I couldn’t open, leaving me wondering what I was missing. In addition, I was curious about the identities of the people in the numerous paintings. For instance, there is a likeness of two small boys in one of the bedrooms. I assume that it is the Custer brothers. I’d really like to know.

Hotspots are easy to find, and I did no pixel hunting -- though close observation is necessary in one spot. I noticed an inconsistency in their availability, however. Some points were active throughout the game. Some only became hot after activating certain triggers. Keep this in mind if you become stuck.

One facet of game play quickly wore thin. You have to put everything back the way you found it before you can leave a screen. For instance, if you open a drawer, you must close it before you can progress. This was mildly annoying and it broke the flow of the game.

You are free to explore the Museum and the grounds in whatever order you wish. Though an unhurried and appealing stroll, it was usually a lonely one.  

Trivia: Libby lived as a widow for 57 years, dedicating herself all that time to rehabilitating the reputation of her beloved Autie (General Custer).


Although you come to know Libby and Sterling through the intriguing diary entries, you’ll never see Libby. Sterling and a few other characters make short appearances in the full motion video cut scenes. There is very little spoken dialogue and the voice acting was adequate.

Sterling’s Gift provides enough ambient sound to set the stage, though not enough to provide immersion. For instance, you hear doors and drawers open and shut, and you hear wind or machinery while outside. But, other than the excellent background music, everything is quiet. No radio plays; no foot steps echo; no birds call.  

The background music (which is found only indoors) shines. With the exception of a beautiful rendition of Beautiful Dreamer, it’s original, it’s soothing, and it’s easy on the ear. Although it loops, it never grates. I was never tempted to mute it.

Trivia: Libby died in New York City two days before her 92nd birthday and is buried beside her beloved husband.


Sterling’s Gift strikes me as a game of exploration woven around a beguiling story with a handful of inventory puzzles integrated into its narrative. There are few conundrums in this game, and none are difficult to the observant gamer. Fans of code breaking take heart. You’ll find one poser for your decrypting pleasure.

Like the save system, the inventory in this game is handled a bit differently. Picking up an item places it in inventory. However, to examine it you must set it on a specific table at the back of the house. This seems clunky, requiring many additional steps.

There are no mini-games or riddles, and no mechanical, timed, sound, color, or slider puzzles. You cannot die.

Trivia: Libby went with Gen. Custer on all his assignments and authored several books about those experiences.


Sterling’s Gift is a first person, mouse controlled adventure game. It is Alt+Tab friendly, and comes on a CD with an instruction sheet. The smart cursor changes to indicate possible directions or actions. Saving, loading, and exiting are available through either the Esc key or a right click of the mouse.

I’d like to point out an area which stumped me for a bit—how to actually get into the game. Upon starting a new game, you’ll see some text screens. Next is the options page featuring a mirror in the upper right corner. From here, you can turn hints, history, and spoilers on or off in any combination.

I quite liked that feature. I played with the history button activated, thus allowing me to learn which parts of the game were factual and which were imaginary. However, you can only set these options at the game’s beginning. I wish they could be changed at will.   

This options page is followed by another page with a bit more information and another mirror on the upper right corner. It is from this mirror, the one on the second options page (not the one on the first options page), that you begin the game.

Trivia: Libby was born in Monroe, Michigan and was an only child.


Sterling’s Gift has unlimited saves. You can save at will, and you can name your own saves. These are all features that are on my Most Wanted list. However, I ran into a snag as I first began to play. 

Each time a saved game loads, you begin outside by a tree. Though everything you previously accomplished stays done, you have to navigate back to the room of that save to begin playing from your last screen. This adds “clicks” to the game, and interrupts the game’s rhythm. 

Though it’s my own fault for failing to read the instruction sheet that came with the game, I wasted a couple of hours trying to discover why the game I saved at the piano or in the bedroom (or anywhere) started by that tree.

Trivia: Libby’s father withheld his permission for the marriage until Custer was promoted to General.


I had some initial difficulty trying to install this game. It kept asking me for the original disk, which was in the drive. I swapped drives and changed computers. Finally, I cleaned my CD drive, enabling the game to install on the original drive.

Too, I had problems with this game hard-locking my computer, but only for the first three starts. (Weird, I know.) After that, it ran without glitches. Though there is a patch available here which resolves a few minor game play issues, it does not address these.

Trivia: The Neill-Cochran House was the first Texas Home for the Blind in 1856.


Though this game is quite short (perhaps six hours), White Rabbit Productions did a great job of intertwining their story with historical facts. It was a gentle, serene, and mystical journey. At the end, I felt as though I had sauntered through a slice of times past and peeked into the soul of some famous, and not so famous, Americans.



Point and click adventure

Slide show style presentation

1st person viewpoint

No dying

Save at will

Name own saves

Unlimited saves, but will always begin outside of house

Alt+Tab friendly

Soothing background music

Mostly inventory puzzles

Has few puzzles, but they are well-integrated

No sound, color, maze, timed, or slider puzzles

No mini-games

No pixel hunting, though close observation is required in one place

Took several tries to install

Patch solves a few game play issues 

History, hints, and spoilers all available in game

Short playing time

No interaction with non-player characters

Fictional story integrated with historical fact

Sterling's Gift is an Independent Production of White Rabbit Adventure Games, and can be purchased here.

Trivia quoted in review is courtesy of

I played on:

Win XP Professional SP1

3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4

1 GB Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM

Sound Card: DirectX Version: 9.0b

Video Card: 128 DDR NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra

April 2007

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