The Seven Noble Kinsmen
Well, the folks at the BBC are building themselves quite a reputation. All the point-and-click games they turn out are just golden. And The Seven Noble Kinsmen is no exception; possibly their best work yet. SNK is a murder mystery in six (6) acts.
The premise is that Christopher Morton, a self-proclaimed 'genius' of Shakespeare, decided to write a play using all of Shakespeare's most famous characters: Ophelia, Othello, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, etc. Seven characters to be exact, plus himself. The play took four years in pre-production and rehearsal to complete; and on opening night everyone was very, very... disappointed. The play ultimately fell and was cancelled after about a week, all due to one reporter's highly-quoted vicious review calling the play bloated, pathetic, and only feeding Morton's ego. Well, after his play was cancelled, Morton disappeared.
Now it's five years later, and each member of that cast, plus one, has been invited to The Knell, Morton's private theatre on an island in Scotland. That one extra person is the reporter that caused the downfall to Morton's play. That reporter is you.
First things first, you must register with the site to play. But don't worry, it is painless. No e-mail address required. It is just so they can save your progress through the game, and you will indeed need to save your progress in this game.
Once you begin you will see the game's interface, which is remarkably unique. It may even seem awkward at first, but you should be able to get used to it quickly. It reminded me of the interface for The Casino, and yet a bit different still. You can pan back and forth in your direct line of sight, and when you reach one side you can turn around and face the other way. Clicking on a door lets you advance to the next room. The items shouldn't be difficult to find, as everything that you can take has a shining effect to it, and the sparkling is somewhat noticeable. One thing I really like is when I click on something a little noise sounds when a message comes up and makes me feel as if I've discovered an important clue, no matter what it is. You will see what I mean when you start playing. What I don't like, though, is that it ends the conversations every time you reach the end of a dialogue, so if you want to say something more to someone, you have to keep clicking on them until there's nothing left to say. Also, while the Shakespearian facts are interesting, when you're deeply involved and you think you've found a clue you may get a tad disappointed to see that all you have is information on costumes. While nice at first, this became annoying.
The main idea of the gameplay is that in each section you will have to find the next chapter in the SNK script, and then carry out all the tasks it lists. You will also need to find the Shakespearian quotes book, to fill in some of the missing pieces in the script. Quite a clever premise, but unfortunately the plot-line is very developed and so the puzzles have suffered as a result. The game is very easy. Maybe it will get tougher with the next installments(?). You also get a PDA with a map of The Knell, it's a very handy tool and saves all the information you collect about the characters, each of which has definite characteristics that correspond directly with the characters they play in SNK; if you know a little bit about Shakespeare you can get a bit of insight about what might be going on, it really helps. The PDA also gives you hints if you need them, which is neat.
One complaint I have is that it runs a little slowly (it's a huge adventure!), and they are releasing the game in episodic parts each week, similar to Death in Sakkara. Still another is that you can't go back and play sections you've already beaten. Sure they're short, but it would be nice to be able to replay parts as in the Sakkara game. And since you can't go back and re-play the chapters, don't overlook anything! It's easy to miss some things, so make sure you've seen everything in one room before you move on to the next! Just some friendly advice.
Well, this week we won't have to wait long for the next release. The next chapter comes out on Monday (11/14), and then each Monday thereafter.
All things considered, the game is absolutely fantastic. A great and clever plot-line, impressive graphics, and a huge amount of originality. The talented folks at the Beeb clearly put a lot of time into this... why don't you pay them back by playing it?
Update: Unfortunately, the BBC doesn't like to keep compelling entertainment around permanently on the Web, and this game is no longer available to play. Previously tagged as: bbc, browser, flash, free, game, macwinlinux, mystery, narrative, original, pointandclick, rating-y