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Old 04-29-2011, 11:28 AM   #441
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:01 PM   #442
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After putting it aside for lack of "proper" free time, I just finished the game and feel it was an extraordinary experience, one that reminded me why I loved adventure games so much when I was younger.

To me, this is where Gray Matter excels where so many others don't:

- Compelling introduction of protagonists and their goals (this is key!)
- Intelligent and progessive relationships between protagonists that make the player care about their fate
- Researched locations and clever link to storyline events
- Puzzles that are story-driven, manageable and fun
- Progress meters that help the player get back on track if need be
- Detailed backgrounds enhanced by subtle, emotional, and artistic use of colors and camera placement
- Highly inspired musical score emphasized on strong themes linking the characters with story events
- Evocative songs adding depth to an already superb presentation

There's something that feels old-school about the game, but that might be caused by Gabriel Knight memories or nostalgia. Actually, the overall themes presented in Gray Matter are more down to earth, so to speak, or perhaps less flashy and more mature than classic GK games. That "restrain" ends up pulling me in much more now than it could have at a younger age.

Beyond anything else, it's the way Gray Matter made me care about Samantha and David that resonated the most for me. I think it's a beautiful and touching tale that works extremely well within an adventure game.
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:26 PM   #443
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Right. Hello folks: this is my first time posting here, but having just finished playing Gray Matter, I kind of felt the need to order my thoughts, and present them to some people who might have a little interest in what I have to say!

A little background first – my first adventure game was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when I was about 7, and I’ve loved them ever since. In fact, since I suck at anything even faintly action or shooting related, I’ve been pretty limited in the range of games I am actually capable of playing. However, this is a roundabout way of saying I’ve played a lot of adventure games, good and bad, and whilst I have certain favourites and loyalties (most of the Lucasarts properties, Broken Sword etc.), I like to think that I can remain reasonably objective when it comes to judging the pros and cons of a given title.

This past weekend has been a Bank Holiday here in the UK, and I was chuffed to receive, on Saturday, both the DVD release of Sam and Max: The Devil’s Playhouse and Gray Matter, courtesy of Amazon. I played through both over the course of the last few days, and my experience and opinion of the two has been very different. On the one hand, we have a fairly low-budget, episodic game dealing with existing characters, and on the other, a widely-anticipated new work by one of the genre’s luminaries, Jane Jensen.

Now, this may seem odd for someone whose gaming experience has been largely restricted to the adventure genre, but I’ve never actually played any of the Gabriel Knight series – although I am familiar with many of their intricacies and methods of presentation (yay for youtube). I’ve liked what I’ve seen, and I’m definitely going to try to play Sins of the Fathers when I get the chance. However, whilst I’ve never played any of her games, I was aware that she was something of a legend, and it was her name that lured me into purchasing Gray Matter in the first place.

Sadly, I have to say I was left very much underwhelmed. I wouldn’t say that Gray Matter was a terrible game – although I thought that it was heavily flawed. However, I found it at best lukewarm, at times even mediocre. I’ve read through a lot of the criticisms that have already been offered here, and many of them chime with my own, so I don’t want to get too repetitive. However, here are some of my chief issues:

Graphics: I hear those of you who say that we don’t play adventure games just for their aesthetic qualities, limited budget, extended production issues, etc. It’s clearly a matter of taste, but I have to say that personally, I was really put off by the artwork in this game. It’s not that it was all bad (backgrounds were pretty good, I’d say), but it didn’t fit together. The character design didn’t fit in with the backgrounds, and I’m with the camp that thought the cutscenes were awful. Why? Quality – limited animation and stills would be fine, if the images used were themselves good. However, I found those in Gray Matter to be almost comically poor: off proportions, inconsistent character models and awfully repetitive (the neuron visualisations for David became particularly wearing). As several people have already noted, the inconsistency in character representation in 2D, coupled with the use of far more detailed 3D models during the rest of gameplay, actually made certain aspects of the story much more difficult to follow than they needed to be. They also didn’t feel as if they belonged together at all – despite the Art Nouveau pretentions of the menus, the game lacked any kind of cohesive aesthetic style to tie it together, to give it a visual identity. Having just played Telltale’s latest installment in the Sam and Max series, which shows marked increases in design quality as well as a cohesive visual presence (and on a pretty low budget), this was a lack I felt all the more acutely.

Gameplay: when I first installed the game and started playing, I couldn’t quite believe this was a new release. It looks, feels and handles like a game from six or seven years ago – which, effectively, I believe it is. For me, the setting of the tale in 2005 – around the date of its original putative release – is something of a clue; it suggests that for all its years in development hell, the game didn’t actually go through that many real revisions.

Story: this was what everyone was banking on – it’s a Jane Jensen game! The plot has to be utterly amazing! Well – I found the premise of the story interesting, but thought it was, sadly, rather underdeveloped. Plot as well as characterisation was also, for me, riven by clichés and daytime soap-style melodrama. (Incidentally, I used to live in Oxford, so it was kind of odd seeing the city and its denizens presented as stereotyped throwbacks from the fifties!) There didn’t seem to be enough subtlety, enough time to create reasonable doubt, alternative plots – found syringes, etc. seemed like crude, tacked-on explanations. Like others here, I saw the perpetrator coming since c. chapter five, but the way the finale was handled seemed rushed and unsatisfactory. (To again contrast with The Devil’s Playhouse, there is a much better twist here, surprisingly intelligently handled for a series about a pair of anthropomorphised animals that fight crime). There were so many good ideas that could have been extracted from the bones of Gray Matter, alternative avenues explored, but they seemed to go undeveloped.

I still completed Gray Matter, and as I said before, it wasn’t terrible. But I wouldn’t say it was even close to being one of the best adventure games I’ve ever played. I felt this game could have been so much more. When so much emphasis is placed on a single auteur, a Ron Gilbert or a Jane Jensen, it can be difficult to remember that a game is a group effort, the work of many hands and minds. Jensen seems to have been built up as an infallible tower of storytelling, but I think it is better to point out Gray Matter’s obvious flaws than to pretend they aren’t there, just because she’s behind it. Yes, many of the issues can be attributed to development problems and changes, but I personally don’t think it’s worth putting out a seriously flawed game just because it has the Jensen brand on it. Better to wait for a really good title, I think, than to rush out a rather poor one just to get it out the door.

Sorry for that long ramble, but I needed to get it out... what do you guys think?
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Old 09-08-2011, 02:55 AM   #444
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Originally Posted by pseudanonymous View Post
Sorry for that long ramble, but I needed to get it out... what do you guys think?
I agree with some things and disagree with some others. For example, while it's true that the gameplay is pretty disappointing, I found the story fascinating, the characters compelling (especially the two leads) and the writing appropriately atmospheric.

With this being said, Gabriel Knight is a whole other level. You should really play it.
Top Ten Adventures: Gabriel Knight Series, King's Quest VI, Conquests of the Longbow, Quest for Glory II, Police Quest III, Gold Rush!, Leisure Suit Larry III, Under a Killing Moon, Conquests of Camelot, Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist.

Now Playing: Neverwinter Nights, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
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Old 03-04-2012, 02:28 AM   #445
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Strangely in my opinion this was magnificent game. Story kept me interested whole time and it was nice to hear some new music from robert holmes who is in humble my opinion the best in the business in his area of expertise. Maybe it was not as good as gabriel knight games but in my opinion still much better than most of the adventure games nowadays. It just had that jane jensen magic.
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:12 AM   #446
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I replayed this game recently and it was interesting to take an overall view of it, rather than get involved with the story which you do on first playing. My main reaction to it this time is that it seriously lacks what I call "gameplay flow". There are several instances in the game where the player has completed all the immediate objectives, and whether playing Sam or Dr Styles there is nothing in the story to hint at what to do next. All you can do is visit the areas which aren't greyed out until you find something by chance, but quite often there is no logical story reason why your character should go there. This lack of gameplay flow makes the game harder/more frustrating than it should be as the game is also filled with obscure triggers which will stop the game dead if you don't fire them.

The magic system was an interesting idea but it didn't really come off. Thinking about it, the system would either have to leave you on your own, which would have made it virtually impossible to figure out the moves, or it had to give you step by step instructions, which the game does, thus making it no challenge at all.

The cartoony cut scenes were another interesting idea which didn't come off, mainly because most of the characters looked nothing like they do in the rest of game, making them difficult to follow. The graphics otherwise were fine, but the game had a very twee view of England. We don't have steam vents in the street, Cockney flower sellers in Oxford, and the English Dr Styles would never use the term "cell" phone.

Overall, I thought Grey Matter was a good game but not a great one. The story premise was excellent, but the gameplay was ordinary, at times illogical and often felt under-developed.
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