Reviews

The Shivah: Kosher Edition

The game is an interesting point-and-click adventure game that tackles themes usually avoided by games.


The Shivah: Kosher Edition

Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Players: 1
Price: $4.99
Platform: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Release Date: 2013-11-22
URL

It is an interesting proposition to go back to a creator's earlier work, when it was still rough, when said creator was still learning the ropes as it were. HD re-releases allow players to look at that older work with a fresh set of eyes, not tainted by graphics that may not have stood the test of time. While not an HD re-release, still that is essentially what we have gotten with The Shivah, an updated re-release of Wadjet Eye Games founder Dave Gilbert's first commercially released point-and-click adventure game. The art style, character portraits, and interface have all been redone to contemporary standards, but the fundamentals of a point-and-click adventure game -- the story, the puzzles and the flow -- have all been left intact.

This version certainly looks better than the original, but what is interesting is the direction Gilbert went with The Shivah. Originally, it was created for entry into a contest back in 2006 and in response to people saying about his previous games that there wasn't much of a reason for his protagonists to go on their adventures (they were detectives and the fact that detectives investigate was about the extent of the game's narrative justifications for its goals), but Gilbert went the extra mile with this one. And the effort shows. It is a detective story, but you aren't playing any ordinary investigator. Instead you are playing as the rabbi of an impoverished Synagogue that is nearly empty of members. The story begins when he comes into money left to him by Jack Lauder, a former member of his congregation, who was recently murdered. It plays out like a boiler plate mystery, but it is the characters that matter.

In trying to provide a reason for his main character to be invested in the outcome of the adventure, Gilbert developed characters and gave the work depth that otherwise might have been missing, and as a result, we become invested in the investigation. Rabbi Stone is a grump, but he is also a man struggling with his faith and his duty to his people. He is firmly in the camp of maintaining old tradition, as he equates such tradition with the moral and the right way to live, but this commitment also leaves him strained when dealing with others. And then there are other characters that strive to work in the social and moral context of the new century that they find themselves in. Mrs. Lauder is a gem of personality, the bereaved widow still angry at Stone for his treatment of her and her husband and only just willing to hear him out. While he is the hero and ostensibly the hero of the piece, Stone isn't without his own failings.

The Shivah is based on the tradition of the morality play. The major characters each represent their own philosophies, then circumstances immerse them in conflict. But unlike the original structure of the morality play, the game does not end with a simple, solid moral statement. One side isn't automatically declared right for winning or the other wrong for the actions that they have taken. Rabbi Stone is the hero, but he, like the others, has his blind spots. And while the villain is pretty much irredeemable, he has his own point to make about the current situation of their faith.

This is not to say that the game is overly serious and dour. It retains a certain sense of dry humor about it. It manages to insert just enough sardonic comments to keep Stone and the others a relatable bunch. Just click "Rabbinical Response" as a dialogue option to see what I mean.

The game is relatively short, but that means there's no fat to it. It's a lean piece of well paced detective fiction that only focuses on the material plot points of the investigation. There aren't any extraneous puzzles. Additionally, none of the puzzles are outright aggravating, and the solutions make sense in the context of the game's world.

The Shivah is, however, a re-release of an early work, which means it isn't going to be as polished as those made by those with a wealth of experience at their back. The game is certainly interesting from a design perspective and on a thematic level, but it is rough. The plot has some glaring problems, like why the police can't figure out what an untrained rabbi can over the course of a single evening or how such an incompetent henchman could escape notice. So on and so forth. The game is entertaining enough that these problems don't take focus away from the main action of the piece, but they hover in the background just the same. The writing wavers between superb and grade-B material, and the whole criminal plot is a little hokey to begin with.

Ultimately, I think interesting wins out over the roughness of the game's execution, though. The Shivah features above average design and presentation. Plus, there are enough good character moments and meaningful drama to keep the problems the game exhibits at bay. It isn't a game that I think anyone should rush out to play, but you could do a lot worse, as the game is an interesting point-and-click adventure game tackling themes usually avoided by games. The talent that would go on to bring us a catalog of wonderful game shows itself repeatedly over the course of playing it.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11
Amazon
iTunes

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image