Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Shivah Mega Review

The Shivah was the game that started Wadjet Eye Games.  It began as a free adventure that was created for the 5th annivesary of the monthly adventure studio competition, and was expanded into a commercial release a few months later, and then was improved again as The Kosher Edition several years after that.  The fact remains that no matter what version you play, The Shivah is still a fantastic adventure.

The game follows Rabbi Stone, who runs a synagogue that is nearing closure due to increasingly lacking attendance.  The Rabbi soon gets a visit from the police, informing him that a man that he had kicked out of his congregation for wanting to marry a non-Jewish woman had been murdered.  To the Rabbi's surprise, it turns out that the man left Rabbi Stone a substantial amount of money in his will.  This puts Rabbi Stone at the top of the police's suspect list, and sets the Rabbi out on a mission to clear his name and to discover why he would be a major benefactor in the man's will.  The story is short, although it has been extended when it went into commercial form, as the free version was shorter.  Even though the game can be completed in a few hours, however, the story is excellent.  The game time is also extended by having several different endings, with satisfying moral implications for each.  The puzzles are well done as well, and a Yiddish to English dictionary is included for both the conversations as well as a few puzzles.  Conversations are put to good use in puzzles, as is the evidence that the Rabbi collects.  Every puzzle is logical, and each fits into the story of the game well.

The free version and the first commercial version are presented in a low resolution format, with pixelized graphics.  The backgrounds are actually quite well done despite the low resolution, and show off the realistic world of the game well, from the dire situation of Rabbi Stone's underfunded synagogue, to the more cheerful situation of more successful competing synagogues, to the gritty locations of the city's downtown.  Dialog from the characters are presented in a large dialog box, which give the characters much more detail than is possible with the pixelized sprites.  These character portraits are done in a realistic style that works well with the background art.  The kosher edition has a higher resolution, so the backgrounds are redrawn.  They did an excellent job making the transition, making the art really look like an upscaled version of the original art.  The character portraits are also slightly improved.  They still keep the detailed realistic style of the original, but the quality of the portraits has improved significantly.  They now have more realistic coloring and shading, and because of the increased resolution, the faces are much more detailed.  The mouths don't move in the portraits in the kosher edition when there are voice overs as they did in the first commercial version.  However, this doesn't detract much, as like the Monkey Island Special Edition, the static portraits actually work well without lip movement.

 The music in the game is purposefully understated, and works well with the serious tone of the game.   In the commercial versions there is also full voice overs, which are performed quite well.  The voice Rabbi Stone has a serious tone that matches the personality of his character, and he portrays a great deal of emotion in the role when it is required, which really helps draw you into the game.  The other characters are portrayed equally well, especially the character of the murdered man's widow.  Her voice actor portrays as much emotion as the Rabbi himself, which is needed considering the circumstances.  The game's villain is also excellent, portraying a calm and cool demeanor that belies a cold, twisted mindset.  The commercial versions are definitely the versions to play, as the voice work is truly excellent.

The first game by Wadjet Eye Games still remains one of their best.  The story is short, but excellent, and the puzzles are well done and fit into the story perfectly.  The art work is presented in a realistic style that fits the tone of the game, and the character portraits are presented in a realistic style that works well with the backgrounds.  The music is understated, but fits the game's world well, and the voice work is truly excellent, with the actors showing a wide range of emotions that work with the serious nature of the game's story.  The commercial versions are the ones to get, as the voice work really draws you into the game's world.  The best option is buying the game from GOG.com, as it includes both the original commercial version and the shivah edition remake with higher definition graphics for the same price.  Although it's quite short, it's still worth playing, as it is an excellently crafted adventure that deserves to be played by anyone that enjoys serious point and click adventure games.

Final Verdict:

4½ out of 5

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