The Beast Within is part of the Gabriel Knight series and the slew of FMV games that burgeoned in the 90s. If neither of those legacies evokes a preemptive groan, this might be an interesting experience for you.
A genuine fondness for adventure games is probably a precondition. Another would be a willingness to use a walkthrough. Or, if you spurn the thought, infinite patience for obtuse puzzle design.
Now that these hurdles are out of the way, let’s talk about Gabriel Knight!
Yes, the character. Leading man of the series and staple of mysterious bad boy chauvinism. Gabe’s played by Dean Erickson in this installment, a casting decision of pure epiphany. Unlike his previous incarnation, a bore with seriously problematic tendencies towards women, this Gabriel is charming and engaged. He navigates on intuition and tends to downplay his intelligence to get people talking, a lost art in this day and age. Dean the actor tends to use pretty broad strokes in his craft, but it totally works. He’s not the most fascinating character on display (that would be Peter J. Lucas as Baron Friedrich Von Glower), but his performance carries the FMV.
The story is pretty good, overal. Historical facts and phenomena are mounted on an urban fantasy vehicle and you’re taken along for the ride. New Orleans/Benin are exchanged for Bavaria. Pro: less room for racist tropes. Con: another really white point & click adventure game. Like it’s predecessor, it does deliver the infotainment. The way themes and locality are woven into the story is actually amazing.
The game is easy to navigate, but goals and directions are often vaguely communicated and occasionally vexing. Grace Nakimura (Joanne Takahashi) as a playable character is a nice addition. Gameplay is the same as with Gabriel, but she approaches the world in a different way, which is a nice touch.
But the puzzles.. GK3’s moustache puzzle is generally used as the key example of “moon logic” in adventure games. I wholeheartedly disagree. On the definition and irredeemable nature of moon logic in general, but in this case: on the absurdity of that puzzle, especially when compared to the unadulterated folly that is the con with the cuckoo clock in GK2.
I wouldn’t say it’s a reason to avoid this game. It’s kind of like watching music videos from the 80s. Something I recommend from time to time, so here’s my recommendation of The Beast Within: it’s kind of weird, very interesting, somewhat dysfunctional, there are a lot of moving parts, but it has campy charm and it does manage to keep it all together.
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Time Played: 5-10 hours