Review: The Shivah: Kosher Edition – “I want to be a Rabbi!”

The Shivah was originally released in 2006 as the first commercial game from Wadjet Eye Games. Now, a remastered version of the game, dubbed the Kosher Edition, is about to be released! I am a big Wadjet Eye fan (as you can see from my reviews of Primordia and Gemini Rue), and this game has always intrigued me because of its unique subject matter. Now that there’s a remastered version, what better time to play?

Watch the trailer:

Plot

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Russell Stone is 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.

I honestly can’t say much more about the plot of The Shivah without ruining it for you. The story is unique and excellent, with a noir overtone due to Rabbi Stone taking on the role of a detective.

Graphics and Sound

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This remastered edition has been updated with higher-quality pixel art that brings the graphics up to par with Wadjet Eye’s more recent releases. It also features newly-composed music. Having not played the original version, I am unable to compare the two. However, you can see a comparison between the graphics of the 2006 version and the 2013 version here.

While this graphic style might not be for everyone, I love that Wadjet Eye brings me back to the early days of adventure games. The game also features close-up portraits of major characters when they speak, which allows for more facial expressions than the character sprites (each portrait has at least two moods, with Rabbi Stone having a few more). The “wait” cursor is the Star of David with a swinging pendulum in the middle, and the normal cursor is a Hebrew letter, which is quite unique.

Voice-over quality is quite good, with some minor echoing, and the acting is believable; no one sounds out of place. Rabbi Stone’s continual internal monologue is not voiced, which I thought was a little odd. Music is varied and enjoyable, and sounds full and rich – the graphics might hearken back to the days of MIDI, but the soundtrack of The Shivah is something that doesn’t feel retro.

Gameplay

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Standard point-and-click controls: left clicking on an object interacts with it, right clicking looks at it, and holding the right mouse button shows you all hotspots. Dialogue is done by choosing how you want to answer or what you want to ask about; you don’t see exactly what you’re going to say until you say it (much like Mass Effect). Most of the time, you get an option to respond to questions with a Rabbatanical response, which is always in the form of a question. This comes in handy during the endgame in a really creative way that reminded me of insult swordfighting in the Monkey Island series. When you start, you have in your inventory a business card and a Yiddish dictionary (which, if you aren’t familiar with Yiddish, will help you out a lot with some of the terms you’re going to hear!).

Let’s talk puzzles. Throughout The Shivah, you gain a grand total of one inventory item; this isn’t a typical adventure game by any means. You’ll also gain clues that reside in a tab off your inventory, which you can combine to make deductions. You can ask some people about your clues in dialogue. The majority of the puzzles involve talking to people and hacking into personal computers so you can read e-mails. In the other Wadjet Eye games I’ve played, there’s always been a part of the game that involves this kind of computer research, so I’m beginning to see it as their trademark. I really felt like I was getting to the bottom of a mystery, and I played the game in one sitting.

That being said, this is a short game. Steam says I played for 106 minutes. However, there is replay value in finding the different paths the story can take (which is impressive for a game of this length), in listening to the commentary (called Kibbitz mode), and in unlocking the ten achievements, which are there regardless of whether or not you have Steam. There are also voice-acting bloopers included! I’ll be going back and listening to the commentary, a feature which has been included in all of Wadjet Eye’s games and one I definitely appreciate. I ended the game with five of the ten achievements, so I’ll also be going back to discover the others.

Final Thoughts

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The Shivah: Kosher Edition is an excellent introduction to the Wadjet Eye method of storytelling and a solid adventure for any fan of the genre. I guarantee you haven’t played a game quite like this, and at this price point, it’s difficult to pass up.

Score: A

You can get The Shivah: Kosher Edition from the official site, GOG, and Steam for $4.99, and on the App Store for $1.99. If you get it on the App Store, it requires iOS 4.3 or later, is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and is optimized for iPhone 5. Get the demo here. Visit the official site, like Wadjet Eye on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe on YouTube.

[EIC Note/Disclaimer: The author of this review and the artist of this game entered a relationship in December 2014. They were not acquainted at the time of this review. A review code was provided to review this game.]

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Shivah: Kosher Edition – “I want to be a Rabbi!”

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