@besmaller asked me an opinion about the point-and-click adventure game “Gray Matter”. Here it is.
I’m pretty sure that I would suck at evaluating a game in a professional way, so I’ll just write here what I liked of Gray Matter, what I disliked, and why. I hope that this information may be interesting to someone.
Gray Matter is a game by adventure game guru Jane Jensen, who is mainly known for being the author of Sierra’s Gabriel Knight series. Jensen is considered by many critics one of the best writers in the adventure game industry and that means that people have great expectations every time she announces a new game. That has happened for Gray Matter as well and not all critics were happy with a couple of characteristics of the game. While I understand their opinion, I consider Gray Matter one of the most well written PnC adventure games.
The most solid features of Gray Matter are a pretty good story, splendid and deep protagonists who develop a difficult but mutually respectful relationship and wonderful music and graphics, if we exclude the style of some cutscenes.
The two protagonists couldn’t be more different from each other (but they do share at least one psychological aspect): Sam is a very pragmatic and resourceful magician who wants to solve a series of real-life puzzles to enter a very exclusive magician circle, while Dr. David Styles is a renowned neurobiologist who has become a recluse after the tragic death of his wife in a car accident.
The two characters “meet” in a very peculiar way: Sam reaches David’s large house by chance, she’s mistaken for the person who should have taken the role of David’s assistant and she pretends to be that assistant for the whole game!
When David’s experiments start to be linked to strange phenomena happened at Oxford University, Sam’s pragmatism tries to find rational causes for them. Soon, the events become too inexplicable and the story colors itself of a supernatural tint.
The games is divided in a few chapters. In most of them the player controls Sam, while in the others it’s possible to control David.
These multiple switches between the two protagonists help the player to better understand each character’s goals and motivations. David is obsesses by the memory of his wife, he believes that she can still be “felt” in the house and even contacted in some way. Sam, on the other hand, doesn’t believe in supernatural phenomena and while her role is to assist David in his experiments, she also finds the time to advance into her quest to become a member of the secretive Daedalus magic club.
The development of the relationship between David and Sam is probably one of the beautiful aspects of the story: he usually acts in a rude and cynical way and she reacts trying to understand what’s wrong with that jerk and especially how he was before the tragic accident that changed his life. You won’t witness a single smoochy/romantic event: Gray Matter is not that kind of story, but the two characters learn how to settle their differences and how to respect each other.
This story and these two characters are the reason why I love Gray Matter so much.
Oh, and the gorgeous music and graphic art (but the cutscenes were not liked by several player). The soundtrack provides some of the best original songs that I’ve found in an adventure game, especially those played by “The Scarlet Furies”. Listen to them, they do a great job to define the bittersweet atmosphere of the story and you’ll not be disappointed by them.
What I disliked of Gray Matter? Mainly, the ending. It’s a bit too cliche for being the conclusion of a Jane Jensen’s story, you would aspect more from her, something with more depth. If you will be careful enough in the last shown cutscenes, you’ll notice a detail that will reveal a psychological aspect of one of the characters that will leave you with an important question… but Jane Jensen gave her answer to the more inquisitive players who wanted to know how to interpret the last images.
Sometimes the game also requires Sam to use her magician skills to solve some puzzles and this implies that the player needs to play some sequences that might be perceived as “mini-games”. They are not a very interesting part of gameplay but fortunately these sequences are also very short.
That’s my personal review and opinion of Gray Matter. I home some of you will find it interesting enough to have a look at the game.