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Old 12-06-2010, 12:25 AM   #259
A Slice of Fried Gold
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I was going to wait until the official North American release but since that is at least a few months away, if it even happens at this point, I finally gave in and bought it off of that German site. I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it, even moreso than a lot of people here seem to be.

The best thing about it is that it's undeniably a Jane Jensen-designed game. It adheres so closely to the same formula the Gabriel Knight games used that even if you had no idea that she was involved, you'd be able to tell her fingerprints are all over it in a heartbeat. And not just in a plot or character way, there are moments of this game that are nearly identical to Gabriel Knight. The whole mid-section of the game where you're trying to sneak into the dorm rooms of your fellow testees feels like a nostalgic revisit to all of the hotel room snooping you had to do in GK3.

It's also just a solid mystery. It gets goofy in spots - especially near the end where it goes off the rails for a bit and sends you to a location that completely breaks any sort of plausible reality - but the core mystery at the heart of the game is a strong one and Jane does a good job of weaving all of the supernatural elements in while keeping it relatively grounded in reality. Although, and this may just be a problem I had, there's a moment in chapter 5 where the identity of the villain is given away a little too clearly which kind of makes the investigation afterwards feel a little too red herring-y.

There are some other problems, most of which have been noted before, but they're more frustrating than detrimental. I like the look of the cutscenes but they sometimes fail to properly convey the story, often feeling rushed and confusing. There's also A LOT of moments where you'll find yourself stuck because you have to hit a certain trigger to continue (a problem I thought the GK games suffered from as well). It can be infuriating to be at 94% completion on a chapter and have to comb a location over and over again trying to find the one tiny thing you need to activate the next portion of the game.

On the whole though, I loved the game and I think it more than meets the lofty expectations you'd expect when playing something designed by Jane Jensen. It has its flaws but there are so many great moments that overshadow them:
That single scene at the end where Sam sees Dr. Styles without his mask is a more heartfelt moment than anything in adventure games in years.
I'd easily put this game up there with The Lost Crown and Amnesia as the pinnacle of adventure games for this decade (although that's not saying much). I really, really hope it gets the sequel that the end hints at, there are so many possibilities for this series and it's clear that Jane is still at the top of her game.
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