Gray Matter is troublesome. Jane Jenson (Gabriel Knight series) created that game and it fails. It has a great nice idea and setting: in Oxford you play Samantha “Sam” Everett which accidentally comes to the Dread House, the home of Dr. Styles, a former neuro-biologist. Dr. David Styles suffers from the loss of his beloved wife which burned to death in a car accident some 3 years ago. Ever since he remained in his house mourning the death and hides himself, since during the failed rescue attempt his face suffered too and disfigured him. But with the arrival of Samantha, the ghost of Laura Styles seems to haunt the house, so Dr. Styles sets of some experiments to get in contact with her.
During the experiments strange things happen around Oxford and Samantha takes on investigation. She suspects some magicians of some strange Daedalus Club behind this. But as she is a magician rookie as well she tries to put a stop on the activities and get into the club.
So far: a great setup. Oxford is pretty well displayed, the history, the city, Lewis Carroll and “Alice in Wonderland”, the colleges, and and and
But then: I personally had troubles with the characters: Samantha is an ever lying girl. Yes, as an would be illusionist you ought to lie every now and then, but this is quite excessive when it comes to this figure. And I do have problems with this. So I dislike Samantha and did not get in touch with this character portrait. I was sort of annoyed playing Samantha which is most part of the game. And for Dr. Styles: he is simply a very stupid asshole. Bottom line: I was not interested in the characters! Even worse: I felt a great share of dislike for both. Which is a failure when it comes to the main characters in an adventure.
Then the story loosens. What sets off as been real interesting gets boring, because the knowledge level you are on at the end of chapter 1 (out of 8) pretty much stays at the same level until the end: who is behind the strange activities? Who is the black sheep of the group of students? Who is Mephistopheles? What about the death of Laura and is she really haunting the house? You pretty much know at then end of chapter 1 as much as close to the final. There are no great revelations or suspects. It got very boring, because you run in circles.
Gameplay: what the F*! I’ve expected more from this person in adventure game design! Come on! The triggers are bad, really bad! Example: I could not buy some items at the black wand shop. Only at the beginning of a chapter I was entitled to … for totally unknown reasons why now! Another: I was able to confront Dr. Linkweller with his fling with a student girl … before I eavesdropped the conversation! This is ok, if this is your first adventure but of the Gabriel Knight creators? Huh? Bad! This ought to be an adventure with such things at core. I can’t believe they did not get this right.
And then: loading the scenery for each location anew: come on! I do have Gigabytes of memory. This loading is just a bad game engine implementation.
All in all: a great plus for story setup and environment. The rest is ok (graphics) down to real bad (gameplay and engine).