Shivah Review: A Dark and Atmospheric Point-And-Click Adventure Game

Shivah. Noun, Judaism. A period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral. It also is the name of a point and click murder mystery available on Google Play for $1.99. Originally, the game designed for desktops in 2006, and it is currently available to those of us on Android.

Shivah is a very intriguing game, where the player controls a jaded and cynical  character named Rabbi Stone who finds that he is to inherit a sum of money on the same day he’s ready to quit on his calling. He decides to use the Shivah as a reason to look into why he is to receive money from the deceased. This personal inquiry kicks off a mystery where the player really has to use some critical thinking and creativity, or a decent walkthrough, to piece together what happened and hopefully come out of it alive.

The developers included a few opportunities to make strong moral decisions that impact the ending of the game, so choose wisely as you go. You have physical items in your inventory, as well as facts that have been ascertained and fall under the category called clues. Clues can be dragged on top of one another to see if more information can be deduced by Rabbi Stone. Both are available to be referenced at close to any time in the game. Snooping around and guiding Rabbi Stone’s conversations are how the player expands the contents of these categories and work towards the ending. Overall, the puzzles and story were well thought out.

Shivah has a retro look using 256 colors. While many other games are going eight bit for the throwback feel, I really found this level of graphics enjoyable as a nice change of pace, as well as for the fact that it reminded me of playing similar games on my PC from near two decade ago. One of the ways the developers worked around the graphical limitations that this style imposes was to include a popup window when a character is talking during the game so the player can better see facial expressions. There is also some excellent voice work in the game so you are able to hear a character’s voice inflections. These two additions allowed me to get a much better feel for a character’s mood and tone. Doing dialogue like this is similar to how it was done in Waking Mars, if you’ve played that game.

And speaking of the audio, interestingly enough, once the game is completed and the “happiest” ending is achieved, you have access to the outtakes from some of the voice work. The music was a mood-setting instrumental comprised primarily of a piano and what sounded like a clarinet. It was simple and good for the feel of the game. If you like older graphics, or the point and click style, this game will definitely scratch that itch.

I only have one serious gripe about the game, and it’s that this game is WAY too short. I completed the game in a little over three hours, so an epic saga this is not. Had I not been stumped at one or two parts that demanded some trial-and-error and serious thought, I would’ve finished in less time than I already did. On the whole, I found this game to be downright riveting, so finishing it this quickly was an unpleasant surprise for me. In the past, knowing this upfront would have scared me off from playing it. Not knowing that before playing through it allowed me to enjoy the game.

If its brevity isn’t an obstacle for you, there’s a lot to like about this game: solid puzzles, a nice look, an interesting story, and multiple endings.

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