Co-Optimus - Review - Beyond Co-Op Reviews - April 2011

Beyond Co-Op Reviews - April 2011 - Page 7

Publisher: dtp Entertainment
Developer: WizarBox
MSRP: $19.99
by: Sam "Samoza" Tyler

People have been waiting a long time for Duke Nukem Forever and for a time it seemed like the game may never see the light of day; but Duke is not the only example of this. For adventure fans there is a similar tale to be told about Gray Matter the latest adventure title from Jane Jensen, the writer and creator of the Gabriel Knight series of adventure games. The game was originally announced in 2003 and has taken 8 years and at least one generation of games consoles to arrive. Would the game live up to its 8 year gestation period, or does it feel more dated than a person signed up to a 6 month membership to ‘Perfectmatch.com’?

Gray Matter is a game that wears its adventure genre on its sleeve. This is a classic point and click adventure that is so old school the gameplay existed before Eton. You play as Sam (no, not me), a young American woman (see I told you it wasn’t me) who stumbles into a job working for the mysterious Dr Styles. Styles believes that people can contact spirits from the other side with the power of the mind. With the aid of some local Oxford University students Sam and Dr Styles become embroiled in a mystery that suggests that ghosts may exist and that they are not happy at being disturbed.

Like in any classic style point and click adventure the gameplay of Gray Matter involves walking through a series of static scenes and interacting with the objects and people found there. You alternate between playing as Sam and Styles. By picking up items and reading into clues you can move the story along. Sam’s sections are slightly more advanced than Styles, as she is able to perform magic tricks; this entails designing the trick within the inventory and then releasing it on the general public. Like many ideas in Gray Matter, in principle the trick mechanic sounds good, but fails to deliver. The clunky inventory means that the process is more trial and error, than skill.

Many of the problems with the game stem from its 2003 origins. The gameplay is very old fashioned; point and click at its most base. It’s been a fair few years since I have been inundated with quite so many complex puzzles to solve (blessed be FAQs!). The controls are also poorly mapped onto the 360 pad, you move openly with one stick whilst the other stick opens a wheel. On this wheel is an arrow that you can point to the different interactive areas of the scene. It feels very clunky, but after a while it becomes second nature. The year 2003 is also prominent in the story, obviously Jensen never retooled it for 2011 and the graphics and static levels feel very old fashioned.

I should be able to take all the issues with Gray Matter’s outdated gameplay and call this game as one to miss. However, I cannot. Adventure games have always been more about the story and puzzles than the action; this is the case here. I found the mystery of Sam and Dr Styles a gripping one and, although it had been a while, I was happy to have my brain worked over. Gray Matter is deeply flawed, but only in the same way that all traditional style point and click adventures are. If you don’t like the likes of Broken Sword, then avoid Gray Matter and give it a Bronze Billy. However, if like me you love point and clicks, with all their ridiculous foibles, then Gray Matter is a Silver Billy that provides better adventure credibility than lacklustre efforts such as Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper and the CSI games.

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