“The best part of adventure games, for me, is the exploration. When you're breaking into someone's apartment, and you're looking into their lives,” Wadjet Eye’s Dave Gilbert told me at PAX East this past spring. “Looking at pictures on the wall, papers on the desk, and trying to figure out who these people are That's what makes it fun.”
Gilbert may not have made another game that typifies those values as much as his first Wadjet Eye adventure, The Shivah. It’s an usual mystery adventure about a New York rabbi at the end of his professional and spiritual rope who gets drawn into the events surrounding an old friend’s death. It’s one of my favorite Wadjet Eye games, but one that stopped working on my computers a few years ago. Fortunately, Wadjet Eye just fixed that with their release of The Shivah: Kosher Edition.
The re-release launched on Steam and GOG yesterday at $4.99, but it doesn’t just work on modern PCs. Wadjet Eye’s also adapted it to touch interfaces, and so The Shivah: Kosher Edition is also available on iTunes. Even better, the new edition features vastly improved graphics and a new soundtrack.
That means it’s a great time to take a look at this most personal of Wadjet Eye’s games. When we spoke earlier this year, Gilbert explained how The Shivah stemmed from his own feeling of isolation during a teach-abroad in Korea, and launched his new career as an indie adventure designer.
“I'd spent a year in Korea teaching English to kids, and then when I came back, I had some money saved up. I didn't want to get a job right away,” he said. “When I was in Korea — I'm Jewish, and I live in New York. I'm surrounded by Jewish people all the time. Being in Korea, it was the first time I'd been around people who had never met a Jewish person. Didn't know what it was, or what it meant to be Jewish. They didn't know anything about it. So when I came back after a year and a half, I wanted to reconnect with that side of myself. That's why I made The Shivah. There was a lot of personal stuff. The best stories come from something personal. Shivah definitely did.”
It feels that way. The Shivah is inarguably a cruder effort than later games like Gemini Rue (Gilbert pointed out that he simply didn’t know as many voice actors back when he made The Shivah in 2006), but it is also more grounded in reality.
It embodies Gilbert’s interest in adventure games, allowing players to investigate and understand the lives and relationships within New York's Jewish community. Rabbi Russell Stone is a perfect hero for this mission: he’s a somewhat privileged member of that community, but he’s also increasingly isolated from it. He has to reconnect to his community even as players are introduced to it.
So if you have some time for a fascinating adventure this weekend, consider taking a look at The Shivah. Its re-release is great news for fans, and well worth a look for players who have come to Wadjet Eye via the Blackwell series and Gemini Rue.