Published on April 24th, 2014 | by JC Richardson0
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out here that I’m not from New York and I’m not Jewish. So why am I playing WadJetEye’s Shivah, a point’n’click adventure which emulates this scenario? Simple. It’s the most absorbing, emotional game I’ve ever played, and here’s why you should play it too.
Shivah (it means ‘mourning’) centres around Rabbi Stone, a man with troubles both spiritual and financial. His flock is dwindling and so is his faith, and now the bank is threatening to take his synagogue away. When a murdered man leaves Stone a large sum of money, it looks like the answer to his prayers, but when Stone becomes a suspect in the murder he’s compelled to investigate the reasons behind the gift.
Although this all sounds rather gloomy, the plot develops so intricately that you never find yourself bored. As Rabbi Stone, you’re clicking around locations for clues, hacking email accounts, interrogating suspects and other things I didn’t know rabbis did. To be fair, I haven’t met many.
Stone’s investigation takes him to various spots in New York, all rendered in a pleasant 16 bit style, from modern synagogues to seedy dives. It’s all very noir-ish and contributes to the foreboding atmosphere throughout the game.
It has to be noted that Shivah is fairly short, say one or two hours, but the play time is extended by a few fiendishly tricky puzzles. Once cracked, the puzzles are immensely satisfying and you really feel a sense of accomplishment when you make a breakthrough, or unlock a new location.
Shivah (or ‘Jew Simulator’ as one wag put it) has a gentle, meditative pace broken by the occasional intense stand-off. Stone has to talk his way out of trouble more than once, and it’s here that the dialogue really comes into its own. Playing Shivah is like being engrossed in a Mamet play at times, and I really can’t think of higher praise to give.
Summary: Shivah has been around for a few years now, so it’s criminal that more people aren’t aware of this stylistic gem. Not many games raise questions about faith and humanity, and Shivah does it with great dignity. Mazeltov.