Adventure Game Girl

Arfle barfle Gloop? A nerdy girl in a pixelated world

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Gray Matter (Wizarbox and dtp entertainment 2010)

I know it's been a while and I'm a bad blogger *slaps wrist*. I have mostly been playing World of Warcraft since Warlords of Draenor came out, and recently got Civilization Beyond Earth, as well as a few indie games I got on Steam (mostly not adventures) so I didn't really feel I could review any of them here. But now it's a new year, I shall endeavor to do better!

Thankfully I got a Steam Wallet voucher as a Christmas gift, and one of the things I get for less than £2 was actually Gray Matter**, a game that's been sat in my Amazon Wishlist forever and nobody bought for me *sniff* so I bought it for myself! (**note- it was less than £2 as it was in the sale, it's normally £6.99)

I had no expectations about the game. Any reviews I'd read were a long time ago when I put it on my wishlist and I'd forgotten anything I knew. Other than that I saw a hot chick with piercings, and some cleavage out doing magic on the cover and I was sold (very much my thing *grin*)

See what I mean? This is Sam Everett, our heroine. 

Lack of expectations can often be a good thing in adventure games, as I liken it very much to reading fiction, it's like picking up a book without knowing the author, the reviews or even reading the cover. Sometimes what you find within can surprise you.

First things first- WHY isn't this game much more famous?? I honestly think it's one of the best storylines of the genre. I won't spill the beans on what happens, because I think that's half the fun, but it combines two themes I love- science and the brain in particular and magic and illusion. The fusion of these two things was practically a wet dream in game format for me, especially when you add a gorgeous female protagonist and some wonderful casting to boot, and sprinkle in real areas of the UK I've actually seen.

The second the game finished and I saw the credits, I saw why I loved it so much in one line "Jane Jensen". OH HALLO AGAIN!  Yes, I know my last post was about her, and I didn't realise she was part of this game until I finished it! It's odd because as I played I kept mentally comparing it to the Gabriel Knight games... (I've downloaded a demo for Moebius: Empire Rising, but as that's another Jane Jensen game, I should probably hold up on playing that until I've reviewed something else or she's going to want to take out a restraining order on me ;) )

Magic trick preparation

The only thing I have to mention that didn't *quite* work for me was the magic thing. Part of the game involves performing tricks to solve puzzles. I like this idea in theory. You have to find the right trick in your book of tricks, set it up correctly, then set out a plan with the order of what you put where to successfully perform the trick, I will hold my hands up and say I used walkthroughs for nearly every trick as I found it wouldn't work for me even when I was sure I had it in a way that worked, and more often than not it was because I put something in the left hand rather than right hand and vice versa. It wasn't very intelligent the way it was coded, to me. It seemed that you had to do things precisely as it was programmed to accept, even if the way you had planned was actually a way that really would work... I recommend checking online for the answer to these things if you find yourself screaming at your computer like I was...

Artwork/character design for Sam
Other than that, the puzzles were wonderful. They were hard enough, but not impossible or pixel-hunting. None of the sort you scratch your head over for days, then Google it and go "WTF?? How was I meant to get that??" It always made sense, but pushed me enough so I felt I was working for it.

The music was lovely. Apparently a band called the Scarlet Furies (as mentioned in game). It's not the type of music I choose to listen to, but it fitted in well, and felt atmospheric. The voice acting was also very good. Real emotion in the acting and I felt empathy for all the characters, and felt they were well fleshed out. Knowing that it's Jane Jensen, that does make a lot of sense. Her characters and background stories are always very detailed and elaborate.

Graphic novel style cut scenes.
The first thing that I compared to the GK series whilst playing was the cut scenes. They were graphic novel-esque, and if you read my previous review of the GK remake, you'd know that's something I really enjoy in games. The artwork in these was breathtaking to me. As an artist, it was something I really appreciated. They were beautiful and had some luscious movement and use of colour. It really tied the game together and brought in the emotion.

Top- photo of Oxford
Bottom- Oxford in game

The whole design artwork was gorgeous in fact. The places in Oxford that I've seen looked true to life, and I'm assuming the ones I don't recognise were equally accurate... It was wonderfully moody throughout and the lighting and colours very much enhanced the game.

I want to say more about the storyline but honestly, it's better for you if I don't, go in with an open mind and no preconceptions and enjoy the ride through a "magical" tale... Actually, I think the description on the Wikipedia page says it best without spoiling it...

"The opening scene of the game depicts Sam riding her motorcycle in the rain in the countryside while traveling to London, and accidentally being redirected to Oxford because of a broken street sign. Her bike breaks down, forcing her to take shelter in Dread Hill, a nearby mansion where David resides. She poses as an Oxford student responding to Styles' request for a research assistant.

Eventually, Sam is ordered to recruit six students as test subjects for David's research. Through clever manipulation and magic tricks, Sam manages to find four students willing to volunteer for the experiment. The professor recalls her to Dread Hill, letting her know that he found a fifth candidate and making Sam herself the sixth.
As the game progresses, Sam learns about the professor's past, his research on the paranormal, the prestigious members-only Daedalus magic club, a series of bizarre events that take place at Oxford University, and how these elements are connected."

Just because it amuses me and I managed to review two Jane Jensen games in a row without realising I was even playing one the second time, I'm sticking that classy B&W moody writer's promo shot in again...

Oh look! I get to use that Jane Jensen picture AGAIN!

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I’m useless at these "About Me" things. I’m an artistic type with goffick leanings who sits on her arse all day due to chronic illnesses. I'm a mad cat lady and I'll try my hand at most crafts. That will do for this little box! :D
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