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Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within Review

by Murray Peterson


I have a confession to make: we never actually completed this game. After almost three hours of continuous attempts, my wife and I decided that the final arcade sequence in this game was impossible to complete. Instead, we found a web page that showed us how to play the final cutscene, watched it, and went to bed. I will try hard to not let this miserable ending colour my review too much.

GK2 is a full-motion video game (FMV), and is a mix of mystery and supernatural thriller. Jensen's use of real world settings and historical fact help make the game very interesting, especially when you can go visit web sites for the "real" history and pictures of the places you see in the game. I don't describe much about a game's plot in my reviews, but I will mention that King Ludwig II and Wagner figure prominently in the game.

Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)

GK2 is a FMV game, running at a resolution of 640 x 480, with 256 colours. The technology used tended to create washed out areas on the screen, but they were easily ignored after a few minutes playing time.

When moving around outside of explicit cutscenes, the character's feet tended to move faster than the ground. Almost all other motions or actions were displayed as a miniature cutscene or movie, so the sense of realism was never compromised.

All cutscenes were easily interruptable by clicking on the mouse; this was an extremely nice (and used) feature, especially when revisiting known areas.

Conversation items were eliminated from the dialog selections, which made for easy gameplay (you talk a lot in this game).

Sound (music, voices, special effects)

The music and spcial effects were excellent throughout. The only problem with sound was the obvious lack of correct recording/mixing of spoken dialogue: voices would change in volume and "presence", sometimes even within the same conversation.

Story (plot, theme, depth)

The game is a mystery, and as a mystery, it succeeded admirably. We were continually wanting to see what was going to happen next, and it wasn't always obvious or predictable.

Personally, I am not a fan of supernatural thrillers, nor am I a great fan of mysteries. GK2 gets even higher marks for managing to make both of these elements interesting for me.

Characters (depth, development, interaction)

Without exception, the acting was superb. They even hired real opera singers and acters for part of the game, which impressed me greatly. This was not a low-budget game.

Personally, I didn't like Gabriel's character, especially his mannerisms and boorishness, but the acting itself was great.

I suppose my only complaint about the characters is that they weren't much fun; definitely a sour, miserable group of people. I really wanted more humour in this game, but there wasn't much to be found.

Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)

Most puzzles were quite easy -- merely a matter of finding things, talking to people, and then doing the obvious. On the other hand, the game had a few really nastysurprises in store for us.

In one chapter, we were completely stuck and couldn't make any progress whatsover. We were required to explore one of King Ludwig's castles, and weren't allowed to continue until we had looked at everything. After a long hunt and continual revisiting of every area, we found one !@#$^&%$# pillar in the castle that we hadn't clicked. This is taking linearity in a game just a bit too far.

The final "puzzle" in the game is an arcade sequence from hell. As I indicated in the introduction, we never completed this sequence at all. It's items like these that make my memories of Sierra games a bit less than fond.

There were timed sequences other than the final one, but all the other ones were easily handled. A "Try Again" feature helped you solve the puzzles that killed you, so there wasn't even a great need to save early, save often.

Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)

The controls were all mouse-based and easy to use, and there was minimal CD swapping, even with a six CD game.

About the only quibble I have is the lack of a pause button for movies. The end of every chapter was marked by a lengthy movie, immediately followed by an introductory movie for the beginning of the next chapter. If the phone rings (and it did), you are helpless. However, you could go back and replay previous movies, so even this wasn't as big a problem as it could have been.

Bugs or problems







With the exception of the final timed sequence, Gabriel Knight 2 is an excellent game.

I suppose I should give a warning about the game -- GK2 contains a bit of bad language, and some seriously violent and bloody scenes. You may want to think twice (or more) before playing it with your children.

Because of that final sequence, it doesn't make it into my "top ten" list, but it is definitely a game that you should try to obtain and play.

This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson

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