If the antics of a tentacle bent on world domination or a bone (a BONE!) disguised as a cow weren’t quirky enough for you, have at this: The Shivah, independently developed by Dave Gilbert using the same program our Lizo uses for testgame, follows a boxing Rabbi on the prowl for justice.
Because it bears repeating: He’s a Rabbi, he boxes, and he wants justice.
That’s about all I can say about The Shivah’s story without spoiling it for you. The game is, after all, only about five hours long, though its $5 price tag makes it far more reasonable than, say, paying $60 for the latest sports game rehash. It’s a point-and-clicker—what’s more, it’s a good point-and-clicker—and by supporting Gilbert, you’ll help support the adventure game genre as a whole.
Like any good adventure game, The Shivah has you exploring areas, manipulating items, conversing with other characters and solving puzzles, all in the name of—in this case—advancing a surprisingly serious (and even grotesque, at times) storyline, given the game’s premise. The story never disappoints—and, in fact, it even offers endings that surprise, and…well…they’re endingssss, plural, which is almost unheard of in adventure titles that aren’t that one King’s Quest game. But that’s not all this game offers for replay value: You can even trek through The Shivah while listening to a DVD-style developer’s commentary—a nifty feature that I’m not sure I’ve heard of in videogames before now. The game’s puzzles require some thinking, but not to the point where you’re stuck for days and days and days until, oops, you realize, of course, you were supposed to get the crazed man sitting in the World’s Largest Ball of Twine’s restaurant to use his mystical powers on your ice pick. It’s hard to find the exits of some rooms, which can impede your progress, but otherwise there’s nothing so illogical that you could never figure it out on your own.
The most surprising thing, though, about this game is its near complete lack of any traditional inventory. You have, maybe, three items in the entire game—two of which you start with, and all of which you use only as references. The true “items” in The Shivah are actually clues you pick up from your character’s research and his interactions with other people. You mix-and-match the clues, and interrogate other people about the clues, to complete many of The Shivah’s puzzles. It’s innovative—but not so much that you hate it and post angry messages on GameFAQs about how the developer should never have messed with an already great system, which is usually the case when adventure developers try to innovate.
And speaking of good ideas, The Shivah rips one of the best from the Monkey Island series: insult swordfighting, modified to fit the game’s premise, which has you using the hero’s Rabbinical (it’ll make sense later) tactics to punk out another Rabbi. It’s short, and it’s only used near the end, but it’s a welcome addition to an already solid game.
The Shivah’s visuals—gloriously!—are in classic 2D style; they’re not as cartoony as latter-day Lucas Arts, but rather they’re strikingly like that of Loom and The Secret of Monkey Island. They fit awesomely. The voice acting, too, is actually more realistic than what you hear in many modern-day commercial adventure titles, though sometimes you can make out the actors’ breathing into the mic.
Have I ever mentioned, my dear readers, how much I hate giving glowing reviews? Not only does it make me lose my street-cred, but it’s just, in general, boring. But let’s face it—when your biggest problem is that, on occasion, it takes you almost 15 seconds to figure out how to get out of a room, you’ve got a good title on your hand. If you don’t give this man money, you’re doing a disservice to not only yourself, but to the genre as a whole, which—need I remind you again?—needs support badly. Visit http://www.wadjeteyegames.com/ right now and buy this game.