Gray Matter Review – MOUSE n JOYPAD

Gray Matter Review



Quickly, how many of you know who Jane Jansen is? Raise your hands, please. Yeah, I’m kidding, I can’t see you either way, so you can put them down. If you’re an old school adventure gamer, there’s a good chance you’ve been a fan of her work. I’m talking about the legendary Gabriel Knight series, of course. Jansen hasn’t had any newer projects, aside from the one we’ve got at hand today called Gray Matter, which is a shame since her storylines never fail to intrigue and amaze.

In this day and age, with Telltale upping the game with their kinda-sorta innovative (but fairly plausible) gameplay mechanics, it’s clear that the classical adventures are having a rough time trying to convince people to buy them. Disregarding this, Gray Matter has been re-released on Steam. This hasn’t been in vain, as this review will prove that the game deserves all the time you might be planning to invest in it. And with Steam helming the promotion, there’s an off chance Gray Matter earns a fair amount of money with this renewed version.

The story starts with the first protagonist, a stage magician Sam Everett, knocking on the door of a brilliant but troubled neurobiologist, seeking shelter. Through a remarkably interesting twist of fate, she ends up helping doctor Styles in his research, all the while trying to gain entry into an ominous and secretive magician society going by the name of Daedalus Club. The gameplay alternates between Sam’s illusions and tricks and the sorrow-stricken experiments of the good doctor. He is also the second main character, and will work in tandem with Sam on many occasions.

These two gameplay portions are obviously based on the pure old-school point and click mechanics, but with numerous elements that build upon it. Magic tricks, being the most obvious example. This is where Sam will have to employ her skills, find necessary items and successfully complete the given illusion. While serving as an interesting change of pace, these parts can be rather illogical and require often visits to the guide book (which is thankfully always available). On the other hand, Styles has a severly different tone to his personal adventures. His research is devoted to his deceased wife, and our doctor spends his days in sadness, collecting small scraps of memories and stashing them whenever he gets the chance. Both characters are wonderfully quirky and interesting, and serve as a great base for the rest of the game.

The story doesn’t slack either. Quite the opposite, actually. There’s a pinch of personality obviously lifted from the Gabriel White games, and it works wonderfully. The game tries to meld neuroscience with supernatural tit-bits, and manages to do so until the very end. Even better, all the other characters have their personalities, too. This means you’re in for quite a treat, regarding all the things I’ve mentioned so far.

Graphics wise, the game is a real candy. It manages to have more detailed textures and livelier characters than many modern games do. Animations are something else, however, as the characters talk without naturally gesticulating even a tiny bit, thus breaking the immersion almost entirely. Walking feels as if you’re moving a drunk hippopotamus, too. And voice acting should have been much, much better. If you’re an experienced adventure gamer, however, you’ll be most interested in the puzzles the game has to offer. While logical (except for the magic tricks/illusions), these will rarely prove challenging. By the time you find an interesting puzzle, the story will be nearing its end.

By far the most frustrating bits came from a couple of chapters where the players are left to their own accord, without a clear goal to work towards. Since there’s no hint system implemented at all (except for the function that pinpoints all interactive elements on screen), you might be in for an annoying episode of what’s otherwise a pretty great experience.

If you love adventures but have somehow missed this game, do yourself a favour and get a hold of it. Gray Matter can easily be placed among the best of the genre, and for good reason.