REVIEW: The Shivah: Kosher Edition

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The Shivah: Kosher Edition | oprainfall
Title The Shivah: Kosher Edition
Developer Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher Wadjet Eye Games
Release Date November 21, 2013
Genre Adventure, Point and Click
Platform PC, Steam, iOS
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

I feel I should start this review by stating that I don’t play a lot of adventure / point and click games. I’m always interested in the genre, but I am not that adept at them. However, their relative simplicity and strong story keeps me from ignoring the genre entirely, and when I see something unique or compelling, I can’t resist. Thus, when offered the opportunity to review The Shivah: Kosher Edition, I jumped at the chance! After all, there aren’t many games that focus on Rabbinical or Jewish issues, and when I heard it was a murder mystery, I was hooked.

Though I haven’t played the original version of The Shivah, some research told me that the Kosher Edition had a couple of nice refinements. First and perhaps most importantly, it added voice acting to the game. Any gamer knows that strong voice acting can make or break immersion in a game, so I was excited about this prospect. Additionally, this edition boasted enhanced graphics and music, though I didn’t compare and contrast versions to see how drastic of a change this was.

The Shivah | Intro

The game starts with Rabbi Stone and his cantor in weekly services. Rabbi Stone is a down-on-his-luck kind of guy, with a mountain of debt that is quickly crushing his spirit, and, as such, he comes across as a brusque and not-that-likeable fellow. Unfortunately for him, his problems are quickly compounded when a previous congregant is found dead, and the good Rabbi is questioned by a detective. It quickly becomes apparent that something is amiss, as the dead man was hardly on good terms with the Rabbi, yet left him a ton of money in his will. Suspected of potential foul play, Rabbi Stone goes out to ascertain what is going on and clear his good name.

Most of the gameplay revolves around talking with witnesses and browsing your computer for clues. Surprisingly, there are even a couple instances of “Talmudic Combat” (not to be confused with Mortal Kombat) where Rabbi Stone needs to answer questions correctly, otherwise he winds up feeding the fishes. I admit the novelty of these was great at first, but towards the end of the game I found them frustrating. This is because it’s not always intuitive how to respond, and based off your choices, you can easily wind up with one of the bad endings. In fact, there is only one good ending to the game, and I required some online FAQs to figure out what I was doing wrong. Additionally, the clues given in the game were not always clear cut, and when I found my answers, I was angry that such simple answers had eluded me. My difficulty with these aspects of the game were the only reason it took me almost two hours to beat it, but I can see a veteran adventure gamer rushing through in less than an hour.

The Shivah | Bar Diving

Which brings me to one of my primary complaints with The Shivah – it’s incredibly short. Granted, the game isn’t expensive at $4.99, but I felt there was a lot more story to tell. You only talk with a handful of characters in the game, and wander to even fewer locations. However, I don’t want to seem as if I hated the entire experience, as I did like a few things about the game.

One of the highlights was the voice acting, for the most part. All the characters brought a lot of emotion and even some nuance to the small cast. My one complaint, unfortunately, is aimed at the main character. Voiced by Abe Goldfarb, Rabbi Stone sounded less like a Rabbi to me and more like a hard-boiled private eye. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was a bit confusing. Frankly, the character of Rabbi Zelig sounded more like my idea of a traditional Rabbi than Stone, who was morose and often dour. Which wouldn’t be a problem if he had more backstory, but beyond his being in debt, there is little to no backstory to be found.

The Shivah | Services

Another bright spot is the relatively easy-to-use interface. Using the mouse can do everything from investigating the scenery to striking up a conversation, and it’s easy to open up your inventory and save. That said, the features in the game weren’t exactly ground breaking. The music, while enhanced, didn’t do much to help either, as it was often somber, which didn’t motivate me to play during one of the many instances I was stuck. I will commend the graphics which, while simplistic, had distinct-looking characters and just enough vibrancy to keep things fresh.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with The Shivah: Kosher Edition, but can only recommend it to big adventure game fans. There’s just not a lot of content there, and even for $4.99, it was disappointingly short. Though the Steam achievements do add some replay value, I just wish there was a bigger story. That said, it is a bargain, so if you like quick and cheap adventure games, give The Shivah a shot.

The Shivah | Danger Warning

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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.