The Shivah (iOS, $1.99)
The number of videogames starring a Rabbi can probably be counted on one finger, and it’s a damn shame too, given The Shivah’s bitter, down-on-his-luck Jewish protagonist, Rabbi Russell Stone. It’s Rabbi Stone’s gruff demeanour and take-no-crap attitude, along with the theme of what it really means to be a Jew, that elevates The Shivah beyond a simple murder mystery adventure and makes it a thoroughly gripping and entertaining experience - albeit a rather brief one.
The Shivah was Wadjet Eye’s first point-n-click PC adventure game (actually created before the company was officially formed), and it’s been spruced up and re-released for a brand new mobile audience. It’s a noir-ish tale of murder and greed, as Rabbi Stone investigates why an old parish member was brutally offed – and why he left the Rabbi ten grand in his will.
A large part of the game involves interrogating other characters, getting them to open up and give you new clues. You can also use your trusted home computer to scour the web in search of information, and occasionally hack other people’s accounts – this sure is one renegade Rabbi. Unlike many adventure games, you won’t have to carry around hundreds of objects and combine them in surreal and silly ways to solve puzzles. The Shivah is all about uncovering the truth through good old-fashioned detective work, which was a refreshing change.
It took us a little over two hours to reach the climax, a battle of wits that reminded us of Monkey Island’s insult swordfights. There are alternate endings determined by which characters survived, and it’s also possible to get a big fat ‘Game Over’ if Rabbi Stone meets a gruesome demise. Thankfully the game auto-saves, so we didn’t find ourselves replaying huge chunks. The Shivah might be short, and occasionally the dialogue feels a little false, but it’s a thought-provoking glimpse into faith and a cracking little mystery to boot.
As a p.s., we highly recommend that adventure game fans check out Wadjet Eye's excellent Gemini Rue, another noir-ish thriller out now on iOS.