Gray Matter (video game)
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The cover artwork depicts the main characters Samantha Everett in the center and David Styles in the upper left.
Gray Matter is a point-and-click adventure game designed by Jane Jensen, renowned for the Sierra Entertainment Gabriel Knight series. The game was developed by Wizarbox and published by dtp entertainment for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360. It was released in November 2010 in Continental Europe and in English-speaking territories in 2011. There were plans for a Wii version.
The game takes place in Oxford and, to a lesser extent, in London. It follows the story of Samantha Everett, a street performer and magician, and Professor David Styles, an acclaimed and mysterious neurobiologist.
The game is played entirely with the mouse in the case of the PC version (point-and-click). The cursor is contextual, meaning that it will change automatically to actions such as "Talk to...", "Pick up...", and so on, depending on the object (and state of the object) it is hovering over at the time. Item labels may be toggled at any time.
The game is divided into eight chapters (whereas the first and third Gabriel Knight games [the second game, The Beast Within, has a structure similar to Gray Matter] were divided into "days"). Each chapter requires completion of certain objectives. Bonus objectives are also available for every chapter but are not required to advance the main story.
Puzzles include riddles, word games, visual puzzles, mazes, and magic tricks. As an aspiring magician, Sam often adapts tricks out of her magician's handbook to the situation at hand. The tricks vary from creating misdirection to using gimmicks or taking or planting objects through sleight of hand. If each required step is not performed correctly, the player has the opportunity to redo the trick from the last correct step.
The player controls Sam for most of the game, alternating to Professor Styles at certain moments in the story. The gameplay is the same for both characters, albeit with access to different areas.
The opening scene of the game depicts Sam riding her motorcycle in the rain in the countryside while traveling to London, and accidentally being redirected to Oxford because of a broken street sign. Her bike breaks down, forcing her to take shelter in Dread Hill, a nearby mansion where David resides. She poses as an Oxford student responding to Styles' request for a research assistant.
Eventually, Sam is ordered to recruit six students as test subjects for David's research. Through clever manipulation and magic tricks, Sam manages to find four students willing to volunteer for the experiment. The professor recalls her to Dread Hill, letting her know that he found a fifth candidate and making Sam herself the sixth.
As the game progresses, Sam learns about the professor's past, his research on the paranormal, the prestigious members-only Daedalus magic club, a series of bizarre events that take place at Oxford University, and how these elements are connected.
Development and release
Gray Matter was originally announced in 2003 as Project Jane-J and slated for release in 2004. The game was put on hold in 2004 and later revived by a German publisher Anaconda in 2006 for release in 2007 and then 2008. In 2008, development was moved from Hungarian Tonuzaba to French Wizarbox, delaying the game further. The game was released in Germany on November 12, 2010 and in Spain on November 19, 2010, and was released in North America on February 22, 2011, in Europe on February 25, 2011 and in Australia on March 3, 2011. The German and Spanish language releases include complete English localization.
The Collector's Edition includes a metal game box, a CD with the game soundtrack (score and songs by Robert Holmes), a deck with Gray Matter playing cards, 5 exclusive postcards with artwork from the game, and a double-sided poster. This edition is available only in German so far (the game has English voice-overs and subtitles in addition to the German ones).
Reception by the gaming press to the English language release has been mixed. PC version received an aggregated score of 72 on Metacritic and 75.36% on GameRankings. Xbox 360 version received an aggregated score of 65.78% on GameRankings. Zen Review commented that, "While it does pale in comparison to what was one of the pinnacle[s] of adventure gaming [Gabriel Knight], for being such a refined product of well-told story and carefully crafted multimedia experience, it has been well worth the decade-long wait for the fans of Jensen's work." Adventure Classic Gaming stated that, "for the rest of gamers who opt to evaluate this game on its own merits, Gray Matter is a game that can easily measure up against the best of what the genre can offer. Gray Matter succeeds not because of its pedigree but because of what it can deliver." Most of the criticisms of the game are directed at the quality of the cut scenes, which are considered out of keeping with the quality of the rendered graphics. Official Xbox Magazine UK gave the game an unfavorable review, criticizing the clunky interference and "patronizing" depiction of England. The A.V. Club gave it an A- rating, praising the puzzles and writing and calling it "the best traditional adventure game in a decade."
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