Adam Burton On March - 27 - 2011

Does the name Jane Jensen mean anything to you? It didn’t to me and upon receiving my review copy of Grey Matter, I actually had to research who she was as her name was plastered on the cover. I was however pleasantly surprised to find out that she was the writer of Police Quest 3 and King’s Quest 6 as well as the Gabriel Knight series.

The game begins with Sam Everett, an young aspiring stage magician who is on the way to London to try make it big. Via a little trick by nature, Sam ends up heading towards Oxford instead and then breaks down outside the house of Dr Styles; a reclusive scientist left scarred by an accident and looking quite like The Phantom Of The Opera. Looking for a place to stay the night, she lucks into a job as his research assistant. With the help of Sam, Dr Styles begins a series of cognitive experiments while Sam herself deals with a series of mysterious events that occur just afterwards.

Throughout the games 8 chapters you alternate between playing as Sam and Dr Styles. As Sam you head around Oxford impressing/conning recruits with magic and seeking the approval of the Daedalus Club; a secret society of magicians ala the Magic Circle. As Styles, you continue your research and work towards unraveling the events surrounding your wifes death. The story is slow to unravel so patience is required.

The graphics can be broken down into 3 sections. Firstly the cut-scenes. These are displayed as almost hand painted images that change one by one to show events as they unfold. Given the nature of the storyline and the atmosphere created, these fit in well. Next up is in-game graphics. Backgrounds are static however they all look lovingly created and absolutely gorgeous to look at. Look at the picture below for an example.

Characters and NPC’s all look good too but are too stiff. Most walk around like their joints have seized up and the speed at which they walk just feels slow. You can double click to run though, and eventually had Sam & Styles running everywhere. Finally you get the conversation graphics and to be honest im not really sure how these ever passed Quality Control. Characters that appear look bug-eyed and twitchy and can be very offputting especially when contrasted by the beautiful backgrounds on display.

Grey Matter is all about walking around, examining things and solving puzzles. Thankfully, the Space Bar allows click-able objects to be highlighted meaning that you don’t have to scour the screen looking for things to use, however even if the object is click-able, it doesn’t mean you can use it then and there. You can find that even if you know for sure that you need to pick up an item, you cant unless you have spoken to a specific person about a specific subject first. Throughout the game, you get opportunities to use magic tricks to persuade/swindle others. Whilst this is fun to begin with, later on it just becomes a case of checking your magic book, finding a trick involving what you want to do and then adding the required steps to a list before just clicking ok and watching the result.

Finally, there’s stability and glitches. When i first installed Grey Matter, i was greeted by crash after crash. I headed to the support forum and then found post after post of other people with similar issues. It took several reinstalls and disabling of other programs to finally get Grey Matter working; one program was used to take in-game screenshots. Another common issue was triggering the end of chapters. You could find that you had done everything required to end the chapter (and you can check chapter progress in-game and it showed 100% in all areas) but it wouldn’t trigger. The only option is then to reload a previous save (or go online and download one in my case as i wasn’t using multiple saves) and repeat the chapter again. Once this had happened to me twice, my time was then split between working through puzzles and checking progress/saving which just slowed my progress through the game massively.

So in closing, Grey Matter is an enjoyable adventure but slow to reward you. Graphically beautiful with an unusual story that does finally pay off if you can get through it; be it either being too slow for you or being annoyed by having to repeat everything due to a glitch.

Review

ProsCons
Beautiful backgrounds, Atmospheric, Decent StoryConveration Graphics, Glitches/Bugs, Slow
Rating
70%

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