Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within
The original Gabriel Knight was very well received for its time. But when the sequel radically changed the visual style, fans were unsure what to expect. Were they about to receive another half-hearted, simplified and poorly written Phantasmagoria? The story opens about one year after the events of the first game. Gabriel is busy writing his new novel at Rittersburg, but then a group of people go to his house seeking help. It seems that the townsfolk have a problem with ‘Schattenjager’, some supernatural force that whisked people away into the dead of night, never to be seen again. Gabriel reluctantly offers his help in solving the mystery.
Although she’s not in the title, supporting character Grace will also be a playable character. Grace begins her research in chapter two and the mystery deepens as she uncovers a link between werewolves and ‘mad’ King Ludwig II of Bavaria — which Gabriel promptly ignores. Further intriguing plot twists result in the search for a lost Wagnerian Opera — but to reveal more may spoil your enjoyment so you will just have to play the game to learn how it all ties together. Suffice it to say that this is a well crafted narrative intertwining the lives of historical figures with the modern day investigations of Gabriel and Grace.
The game is part FMV, part pre-rendered backdrops, I didn’t really mind the live acting; hell, I was eventually fine with Dean Erickson’s portrayal of Gabriel. For me, however, Peter Lucas’ Von Glower just about stole the show. The backdrops were fake as all hell, in keeping with the B-movie quality that most 90s FMV games seemed eager to adopt. The puzzles weren’t dumbed down too much in this sequel – even the inventory slots are plentiful, as opposed to the limited ones in Phantasmagoria. In the end some puzzles are easier than others, while more complex ones are sometimes assisted with clues hidden nearby in books or by examining objects. The action puzzle at the end of the game, however, was quite bad and completely out of place. And a tape puzzle in Chapter 3 gave me headaches.
The interface continues the trend towards a single cursor which changes when you can interact with a character or item on the screen. This makes the game very easy to get into and simplifies the process of navigating your way through it. However, I find that, as much as anything else, it tends to limit the interaction and restricts the possibility of providing the player with a variety of puzzles to solve.
It also allows for unforeseen or unintended actions to occur. For example, you may click on an item just to look at it in order to understand what it is or how it works when suddenly your character promptly steps forward and operates it for. Smaller objects are still hard to find sometimes, and it’s possible to miss important things onscreen. Fortunately, there’s an indicator that pops up when you haven’t examined or done everything in a given scene.
As a dreaded ‘interactive movie’, Gabriel Knight 2 does a good job of delivering a sound adventure gaming experience. It’s a love it or hate it kind of deal, and there’s probably no shortage of people who hate it due to the radical departure from the original’s graphic novel style. But once immersed in its story and puzzles, the game has its fair share of adventuring thrills.
System Requirements: 80486/33 MHz, 8 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, Win95