Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
First Impressions: Jane Jensen’s Moebius Ep1 Brings Back Memories of Gabriel Knight
Having played point & click adventures since the early 90s, I’ve grown familiar with Jane Jensen’s storytelling and characters. It started with Gabriel Knight, an easy-going struggling author trying to write about a local Voodoo murder spree. As we play through the puzzles and unravel the story, we see Gabriel develop into the family role of Schattenjäger and atone for a mistake his ancestor made. Since the critical success of “Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers,” Ms. Jensen has gone on to consult, design, write, and direct a variety of other games. Her most recent project that is being developed through her own Pinkerton Road Studio is Jane Jensen’s Moebius, a point & click spiritual successor to Gabriel Knight.
I was privy to playing the first two episodes of “Jane Jensen’s Moebius” that was previously presented during this year’s E3. These episodes introduced me to antiques dealer Malachi Rector, some game play elements, and an underlying plot about history being in a consistent loop.
The first important element to a new video game franchise is establishing the main character and making him compelling enough so people will want to play as him/her. As first impressions go, Malachi is very unlikeable. He’s arrogant, condescending, and sees people as a waste of his time & talents. Fortunately, Malachi has the dialogue and acting synonymous with Dr. House and the BBC’s Sherlock that results in a enjoyable character with adept demonstrations of intellect and snark. As a foil to his arrogance, the clients that Malachi deals with often have some way to knock his ego down a peg so that he’s forced to play their game.
The first episode of Jane Jensen’s Moebius introduces Malachi and his talents. His keen eye for historical artifacts and knowledge of history is put to use when a billionaire hires him to investigate the life of a young woman murdered in Venice and see how her life possibly reflects the life of an important woman in history. This bit of freelance investigation is rather convenient for Malachi since he happens to have a possible antiques deal in Venice anyway.
Jane Jensen’s Moebius is a straightforward point & click adventure game with an interface to match. Most of the time is spent clicking on background objects hoping to locate clues or objects needed to solve puzzles or nudge the plot along. Luckily there is a hotspot button on the menu screen will highlight all the clickable objects on the screen when pressed so that the game doesn’t feel like a pixel hunt like the days of old point & click. But one of the best gameplay features in the game is how Malachi is a man of the 21st century who relies on his smart phone. The phone allows him to call for help or get updated objectives, keep a record of key notes, take photos for later use, and search the Internet for clues. While most of the phone use is contextual, it does add a bit of realism to the game that keeps players immersed as they see how Malachi thinks. Malachi will meet a variety of characters to Sherlock Scan and learn about their observable traits, which will help determine how best to approach them or clue him in on how to help them. This Venice episode also has a few object puzzles to solve, but they’re rather straightforward and thankfully do not involve cat hair.
The first episode of Jane Jensen’s Moebius boils down to Malachi taking an oral history of the deceased while noting key highlights in her life. The final puzzle is matching those highlights with those of another important woman in history through a process of elimination. Hint: It’ll be the woman who’s listed in every highlight of the deceased’s life. How history is tied in a loop or titular Moebius is teased during the ending cinematic, but it’s something I’m looking forward to see developed.
Once I got used to Malachi’s arrogance (seeing him get a sound pounding from some hired goons helped make the game feel more realistic), I grew to like him and enjoyed the challenges of this game with a realistic setting. With its modern day graphics and in-game tech, Jane Jensen’s Moebius captures the excellent storytelling often seen in 90s point & click adventure game like… well, Gabriel Knight. Hopefully the next episode delves more into the underlying plot. But for now, I can honestly say that Jane Jensen’s Moebius is the most fun you’ll have playing as an antiques dealer.