I will start by saying that Grace Nakimura is a bitch. A horrible, horrible bitch. That is how much she annoys the shit out of me; I start the review of one of the most fantastic adventure games ever created by stating my feelings of hate towards that particular character. To a certain reviewer of a certain classic adventures' site that found Grace sexy I 'll tell one thing. You are particularly dangerous to society, a pervert and a fool, dig a hole and stay in there.
With that out of the way let us begin.
I do not know if it's the rain that brings that feeling of wanting to relax playing a good adventure game, or that I am getting old and I want to relive the glory days of my gaming youth, but I definitely wanted to play a Gabriel Knight game these days. I decided to play the second in the series as it is my personal favorite (not that the 1st or the 3rd one are not fantastic). Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within (as is its full title) takes place mostly in the area around Munich in Germany and the Bavarian countryside. It revolves around a werewolf story that goes back many centuries, the last Bavarian King Ludwig II and Wagner. I really cannot say anything without spoiling something to anyone who hasn't played it before. As, in all Gabriel Knight games it is very good at blending real history with the occult and create a fantastic totally immersing setting. The game starts with Gabriel going back to his ancestral castle to reclaim his long lineage of Schattenjägers (Shadowhunters) and investigate a series of mutilation murders.
This is the most brilliantly produced adventure game ever made and I am not exaggerating one bit. It makes use of full-motion-video and prerendered photorealistic backgrounds as they were made back in the good-old mid 90s. The acting is top notch and the direction is brilliant. The actors really bring the characters to life, as Jane Jensen had intended, with Gabriel Knight the protagonist being an absolute dick. He parades his cockiness and american ignorance on European culture at all occasions, even though, the game is created by Jensen and the all-American Sierra Online. Jensen stresses the differences in culture between Europe and the US with any chance using caricature characters as well(Fat loud lady from Pennsylvania anyone?).
Music plays a particular important role in the game. It features an original score especially written and conducted for the game. It creates the perfect atmosphere and sets the tone. The production values are so high that an actual original Opera was written and performed for the needs of the game. The opera is supposed to be a long lost Opera from Wagner who plays an important role in the background story of the game.
The gameplay spans across 6 chapters and you control Gabriel and that bitch Grace in turns in each Chapter. Gabriel investigates the mutilation killings while Grace researches the history around Ludwig II. Most of the riddles are logical and inventory based. Some are particularly smartly conceived but all of them are well blended into the story just as any good adventure should do. If it wasn't for this stupid and unfair reflex thing in the finale.
I played this game again after 12, or so, years. I can testify that this is a timeless gem and one of the best adventures ever made. Once you start it you will not want to let it go until the credits start rolling and even then it will stay with you for a long time. Heck, its been 12 years and I was still thinking about it every now and then. Make yourself a favor and buy this one as well as the rest of the GK games. You can find them in compilations in online shops as well as on ebay. You can also get it from gog.com ready packed to run on modern PCs. If you find any trouble playing the original version game in modern computers you can try dosbox(for 1st and 2nd) as well as the tools provided by the Gabriel Knight 2000 project. Also dont forget to join the Gabriel Knight 4 campaign.
Oh...and Grace Nakimura is a bitch...