Few games have got under my skin quite like the original Gabriel Knight.
The game’s handling of voodoo, the way it blends everyday living with the supernatural, the cast of characters you meet, the graphic nature of the content and even its multiple endings, GK was a real departure for the genre.
It had an unmatched atmosphere at the time, gripping me along the way while unnerving me at the same time. To be honest, few other adventure games have entwined me in their thralls quite that way since. Until Hob’s Barrow.
Thomasina Bateman has come in search of Hob’s Barrow, a small archaeological dig site in the remote town of Bewlay. As it turns out, she’s been invited there by one of its enigmatic, elusive residents, Leonard Shoulder.
But when Shoulder is nowhere to be found, Thomasina decides to uncover the Barrow for herself. Besides, her assistant is just a day’s journey behind with all her tools and resources.
What Thomasina, a woman of history and science doesn’t expect to find, however, is a small town full of superstition, mystery, and the unexplained.
The game has a really gripping story that hooks you from the moment you get off that train. You know something isn’t quite right, you get the feeling everyone’s a little bit off, but nobody is forthcoming with answers.
Despite adopting a vintage pixel art adventure game style, the ambiance of Hob’s Barrow is beautiful. As you explore vast, barren meadows, looking for out of town cottages and furraging through woods to find hideaways and tight spots, you feel yourself getting closer and closer to the fantasy.
The depiction of open fields, ferocious downpour, scattered flowers, grave sites, and unusually mannered characters helps you get closer to this tight knit community as you try to get to their secrets.
The game is never too challenging, not really focused on stumping you for hours at a time on a puzzle. However, it doesn’t offer the hint and tip system like the recent Return to Monkey Island either. You have a To-Do list which helps remind you of objectives and there’s a fast travel map that lets you zoom between locations with ease. An extremely welcome feature.
But Hob’s Barrow’s focus is its story, meeting its characters, exhausting dialogue with them, working out smaller, side quests which will feed into the larger story, working through the intricate story, day by day. And what a story it is.
To speak much beyond the initial premise would spoil the experience that moves between timelines, switches between perspectives and throws plenty of unexpected twists and turns in your direction.
What I can say is it’s one of the most compelling adventures I’ve had the pleasure of playing in years, more authentically old school than your Return to Monkey Island but a perfect palette cleanser if you want to step into a more sinister, suspense-filled arena after all that vibrance and pizzazz.
Coupled with a stunning score and some really unsettling cut scene closeups that tell a story in their own right, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow offers an adventure you won’t be able to put town, in a town you’ll never forget.
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is one of the most memorable and engaging games in recent years and is both a wonderful throwback to a classic era and a marvellous step forward in design and execution. You’ll be hanging on its every word and desperate to discover the truth from one turn to the next. Just brilliant!
+ Expert use of pixel art
+ An involving, enjoyable, suspenseful story
+ Memorable cast of characters
+ Full of atmosphere
– Some pacing does get drawn out and become a little frustrating
The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is out now on PC
Code Kindly Provided by Wadjet Games