Rabbi Stone Has a Crisis of Faith
Before we go any farther, please notice the headline. When was the last time you heard a game described in remotely similar terms?
Shivah is the Jewish mourning ritual. For a week after a family member’s death, the family stays at home, receiving visitors, and mourning the deceased.
Rabbi Stone, this game’s protagonist, leads a small and declining congregation on the Lower East Side. He receives word that a somewhat disreputable former congregant has died, and left his small estate to the synagogue. Though he himself is close to losing faith in God, he views it as his duty to investigate, and perhaps to comfort whatever family members this man may have as they sit Shivah.
To go farther into the story would be to provide spoilers; let us talk, therefore, about gameplay. Yes, this is a point-and-click adventure–but your “inventory” consists not of items, but of clues, as this is a murder mystery. The puzzles involve combining clues, and using them on other characters and objects–uncovering new clues and ultimately solving the mystery.
One other charming aspect of gameplay; Gilbert has taken the “insult swordfighting” of the Monkey Island series (a game mechanic originally devised by Orson Scott Card–a devout Mormon, oddly enough) and twisted it to match the backdrop of his own game. The Talmudic tradition is traditionally one of questioning and analysis, and by tradition (and stereotype), a Rabbi is likely to answer any question with another question. We don’t want a spoiler here, either, so we won’t detail this too much, but: why would a Rabbi not answer with a question? Could you maybe then figure out how to win?
The Shivah is an adventure game. It’s an adventure game that looks like it might have been implemented in the SCUMM engine, which LucasArts used for its games in the late 80s and early 90s. It isn’t; it’s implemented using Adventure Game Studio. But it looks like something you’d see on an older PC with 8-bit graphics and a processor in the double-digit megahertz range.
It is a point-and-click adventure, in an old school mold (although it has nice voice acting, so speech isn’t purely pixelated text). But the writing, and the story, aspire to the level of art–and there are a number of clever game design ideas that distinguish it clearly from other adventures.
This game is not for everyone; no game is. But if you adore old-school adventure games; are willing to overlook antiquated graphics for the sake of a story with actual emotional impact; or, perhaps, if you are intrigued by the notion of a game that explores territory that no game has entered before–then downloading the demo is a mitzvah.
(Oh, by the way–the game contains a Yiddish dictionary, to explain some of the terms for the goyim among us.)
Bubbeleh! Five dollars. This you have to think about?
The Developer Says:
In this graphical adventure game, Russell Stone works as a Jewish Rabbi at a poor synagogue in New York City. He is a devout man with a problem. Membership is way down and he lacks the funds to keep his synagogue open. Things are looking very bleak, and he has grown progressively more cynical and bitter with the passage of time.
Just as he is on the verge of packing it all in, he receives some interesting news. A former member of his congregation has died and left the Rabbi a significant amount of money.
A blessing? Or the start of something far more sinister? Can Rabbi Stone just accept the money and move on? His conscience says no. Step into his shoes as he travels all over Manhattan in his attempt to uncover the truth.
Features rabbinical conversation methods, a unique method of fighting, an original score, and three different endings!
- A full voicetrack!
- A professional soundtrack!
- A dvd-style audio commentary!
Also, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have supported independent adventure games (and, more importantly, me).
“It’s in games like this that gaming really starts to measure up to conventional literature for emotional and intellectual integrity.”
– PC Gamer
“The Shivah is a nifty little independent game, one I had a lot of fun playing. It is strong in its design and has excellent voice acting…. I expect big things are in store from [Wadjet Eye] games. I can’t wait!”
– Just Adventure
“The story is dense and compelling and the main character has a surprising amount of psychological depth…”
– Abandonia Reloaded
“The final confrontation is a showcase of excellence in design…”
– Indygamer Blogspot
“The Shivah shows a side of sincerity…asking questions of faith and forgiveness.”
– Jewish Week