Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Game Review: The Shivah

I loved the adventure game "The Shivah" because it was short, crisp and enjoyable. Read on to find out why.

The game follows the adventures of a rabbi who is accused of murder. The game follows his attempt to clear his name. I'm not religious but I still enjoyed seeing through the eyes of the characters and sympathizing with them. The plot was well done and your choices can cause the game to end in failure. Luckily, the game allows you to learn from you mistakes and weaves this superbly into the story.

Adventure games have a long history. This genre includes popular games such as "Monkey Island" where you are a fierce pirate in a whimsical land filled with colourful characters. Most adventure games started out in the early PC world, and their keyboard/mouse control and game layout reflect this. The Shivah is an adventure game with evolves the genre with many subtle refinements.

The first refinement is simplification. The inventory system is greatly reduced: you don't have to grab everything on the scene with the fond hope that it might be useful five hours later. Also, the inventory items don't interact. While this was innovative in early games, it does lead to frustrating game play where you patiently try use every inventory item with everything else on the scene. In Shivah, the inventory is useful in its own unique way. Interaction with scene elements is also simplified. You get two actions: a hand and a spyglass. The spyglass allows you to look at the object; the hand allows you to use the object. This is much simpler than a rich vocabulary of actions: pull, push, give, pick-up, see, ...

The second refinement is in the choice of dialog. Instead of choosing the exact words you speak, you choose your mood: stern response, nonchalant response, etc. This works very well. Unlike other adventure games, you can choose the wrong response and end up in failure. So you need to think while responding. This also works well.

The game is also short compared to a classic adventure game. This works well for me,  I spend less time with games and still get a sense of achievement. A tasty nugget is better than a bowl of insipid mush.

I played it on Android: the graphics are gorgeous and the on-screen controls are responsive and intuitive. The dialog has well done voices and fitting background music. It is more fun on a mobile device while you are on the go and have a few moments to kill.

Highly recommended. Just two dollars on the Android Play Store. Worth every cent.

(Image courtesy: Wadjeteye games.)