Gray Matter Game Review: A Flawed Game that Left a Lasting Impression

I can remember the exact period in my life I played this game; like Sam, the protagonist, I had just moved to an unfamiliar British city on my own and was starting a new job. Through this game, I could imagine my uncertain independent venture was slightly more exciting than it actually was, and it brought me solace at a challenging time due in large part to its stunning soundtrack and deeply immersive atmosphere.

Indeed, Jane Jensen's (see my review of her 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers here) Anglophile tendencies are at peak potency here, resulting in a moody, gorgeous (albeit admittedly quaint and idealised) depiction of Oxford, England. Additionally, the mythos surrounding arcane members-only magic circles and the history of England lend to the intrigue of the game.

However, this is a flawed game. The puzzle mechanics (especially those involving magic tricks) felt disappointingly simplistic, and the production values in terms of the still-image comic-book-style cut-scenes are a common weakness pointed out by critics.

The escapism offered through the haunting music and breathtakingly detailed environments almost made me overlook any niggles, like some of the flat voice-acting moments and weak dialogue. However, I found that the perky characterisation and voice of Sam, the protagonist, jarred somewhat with her rebellious gothic styling, which was hard to ignore. But more than that, while I enjoyed the glimpses into her personality, the game never really delved into her motivations and history (while the main male character, David, is never quite humanised beyond his Phantom of the Opera-esque image), so I was left slightly unsatisfied by the resolution.

Despite these issues, games with this level of thought and attention to detail are still quite rare, and I'd highly recommend Gray Matter for fans of absorbing narrative adventure games.

Verdict: A flawed game that nevertheless left a lasting impression.



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