Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Gabriel Knight Returns!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on October 11, 2013

GK20th_bookshopOkay, this news makes me pretty happy…

Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Remake

Sounds like they are giving it a similar treatment to the Special Editions of the first two Monkey Island games. With Jane Jensen herself at the helm… it sounds like it has some serious potential.

So if you aren’t familiar with the series – Gabriel Knight is one of the best examples of the graphic adventure genre of the 1990s. Designed by Jane Jensen and published by Sierra in the 1990s, the games regularly pushed the envelope of storytelling and adventure game technology.¬† They were thick with atmosphere and nicely mixed humor with horror and genuine creepiness.

For me, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers – the first of the series – endeared itself to me early in the game. As the game opens, the player is introduced to the main character, Gabriel… a struggling writer and rare book seller with a smart-ass attitude (and an assistant who is an even smarter ass and constantly one step ahead of her boss). That much is pretty traditional as it stands. It would have been a pretty decent game at this point, with the thick New Orleans atmosphere, clever puzzles, and – in the CD-ROM version – some excellent voice-over work, particularly on the part of the narrator (and hearing Tim Curry voice a New Orleans drawl was actually pretty cool).

But then, one of your early tasks involve a visit to Gabriel’s grandmother. There was something in the dialog – the sincerity of the relationship between Gabriel and his “gram” that really won me over. At that point, Gabriel ceased being a cartoon archetype and became a real character for me. Suddenly, everything else in the adventure gained greater emotional weight. It didn’t stop there. His relationship with Detective Mosely (voiced by Mark Hamill) had plenty of trappings of a stereotype, but added details and dialog gave it extra dimension, and helped “keep it real.”

gk20_bayouSadly, they are recasting all the voices, as the masters from the original are long gone, and the quality from 1994 isn’t up to snuff today. The original voice actors are quite a bit older, and some are out of their price range for this remake. This makes me a little sad, but I’m sure they will find some excellent talent.

And – hey – the game is being made in Unity! All the cool kids are doing it. Seriously, Unity has all but taken over the low to mid tiers of game development. It’s simply an awesome engine. The best I’ve ever worked with – and that includes (REALLY includes!) custom engines that I helped develop. The backgrounds (from what I glean from the FAQ) are pre-rendered 2D scenes, much like the original game. The character models are actual 3D, with a fixed camera angle to match the perspective of the original.

Now, I admit there’s a tiny, jealous part of me that says, “A remake? What about original indie titles?” It’s a nothingburger of a concern though, considering the deluge of original titles we’ve enjoyed over the years from the indie side of the fence. These kinds of remakes (and reboots) are still a rarity. Jensen’s company itself has been cranking out plenty of original titles. Yeah, an old classic getting redone is going to naturally get much more attention (how many of Jensen’s more recent titles have I actually mentioned in this blog, after all?).

Here’s a little bit of an anecdote to suggest that this is an amazingly good thing. My daughter had never played a graphic adventure game (I know, I’m a failure as a gamer-geek father) until the Monkey Island remakes. And she loved them. I mean, she was hyper-focused on those games until she’d beat them both – and then went back and re-played them. Now, just like her parents, she’s got that nice positive adventure gaming experience to recall when she sees a new game in the genre. It’s just kinda cool that the same games can provide the same foundation and love of the genre a generation later.

I can’t wait to see if she gets into Gabriel Knight the same way. Although, to be fair, I really need to stick some new indie adventure games on her laptop…

I’d be really excited to hear the other two games in the series get the same treatment. It’d be pretty different for Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within, as that was one of Sierra’s early forays into using real actors and sets, plus some full motion video. Personally, I was not a huge fan of the style (especially in that era… the images and video were pretty grainy and pixelated), so I wouldn’t mind seeing that redone in the same style as this remake.


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