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Thursday, July 06, 2006
The Shivah is another brilliant piece of work by Dave Gilbert, creator of both Bestowers of Eternity and Two of a Kind. A few things are done differently in this murder mystery, for example there are no puzzles requiring the use of your inventory and practically no items to collect.

Story progression is usually achieved by extracting clues from conversations with other characters. A rabbi had received a large sum of money from a former member of his congregation, and being extremely suspicious the man decides to investigate the origins of his good fortune. Great stuff, even the final confrontation is a showcase of excellence in design.

Name: The Shivah
Developer: Dave Gilbert
Category: Adventure
Type: Freeware
Size: 20MB
Anonymous Anonymous said at 7/04/2006 02:19:00 PM:  
Overall, a fairly satisfying game. The puzzles were on the easy side, but fair and transparent, which get big points in my book. I was less impressed with the final confrontation, which -- for me at least -- was simply a matter of cycling the same three phrases over and over again (once I got one, I could always fall back on it until I found another). It had a Monkey Island insult-swordfighting quality to it, but without the panache.

For me, what held the game back from being stellar was the muddledness of the message. It's never quite clear what the protagonist cares about (the game relies heavily on the player not knowing what the protagonist knows, down to requiring the player to figure out the protagonist's email login!) and the finale failed to flesh out what seemed to be the main theme.

Modest spoilers follow. [If there's a tag to hide them, please edit to put it in.]

Stone seems concerned primarily with the ability of Jews to persevere in a hostile world. His own synagogue is collapsing (apparently due to his crisis of faith), while the antagonist's synagogue is thriving. It is ultimately revealed that the rival's weath comes from mafia connections. What do we make of it? The villain actually manages to help keep Judaism around (a black sheep from Stone's flock is returned to the fold), while Stone has done nothing but antagonize his congregation. Is Gilbert saying that the only way Jews hang on is with criminality? I don't think so, but the story doesn't give much more to catch hold of.

A last gripe relates to the dialogue "trees." The game routinely offers you a chance to respond in three fashions (usually neutral, hostile, or rabbinical -- asking a question). But these always lead to the same place. Likewise, you have a number of topics to ask about, but you need to ask about all of them to proceed. In essence, then, the dialogue is entirely scripted and linear. That leaves the interaction points pretty scattered.

All said, it's much better than Bestowers of Eternity and a pretty solid game, but too unfocused to really sell me.