Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within

1995 Sierra On-Line
Designed by Jane Jensen
Reviewed 1998 March 11

Rating +5 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty challenging Relevance strong
Interface 3rd paned simple Real-time minor

Gabriel has had good success from his novelisation of the events of his first adventure and is busy working on his next novel in his family's castle in Germany. A group of farmers comes to the castle looking for the schattenjaeger: a girl has been attacked by, they think, a werewolf. Gabriel takes the case. His assistant, Grace, taking care of the bookstore back in New Orleans, knows something is up and hies herself to Germany to get in on the action. Gabriel doesn't want her in danger, however, and sends her off on safe, boring, research tasks.

Gabriel eventually tracks the werewolf to a hunting club in Munich, run by a charming member of the German aristocracy. After a close call, Gabriel eventually enlists Grace's more active help to finally bag a werewolf.

As with the previous Gabriel Knight adventure, this installment features a strong, developing plot. The story is less droll, staying focused on horror. To match this change in attitude, Gabriel himself is a brooding character, not the happy-go-lucky wiseacre of yestergame. Similarly, Grace no longer flashes her sharp, sarcastic wit. I miss the former lightness; the characters are blander for the loss. To balance this, there is some added romance involving Gerde, the former schattenjaeger's housekeeper, who now works for Gabriel. Fortunately, there is no loss of suspense.

The challenges Gabriel and Grace face are almost all completely seemless with the game's environment. The puzzle-screaming exception is a chase through a maze at the end of the game, where you must trap the werewolf.

While most of the challenges are easy, there are few hard ones. With again one exception, they are generally reasonable. The only problem with the gameplay comes in chapter four, while playing Grace. Here the game slows down as Grace does some boring research through some tourist attractions. The intent seems to be to add some Bavarian colour, and the intent is not bad, but somehow it falls flat. The museums are too bland, lacking the rich detail needed to invoke the appropriate mood.

Aside from the adventuring staples, Gabriel also has a tape recorder which comes in handy with a few challenges. This is a third person adventure, with all the characters presented as live action actors. It's well done, technically. There seems to be little to be gained over animation, however, due to the mediocre acting. It's not notably bad, just not good enough to be worth the expense. Otherwise, the production is top quality, with clear graphics and evocative music.

Despite a few minor flaws, The Beast Within is one of the better graphic adventure games. It's probably the only "interactive movie" that is a game worth playing.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

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    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.