If my spirituality could be depicted as an animal, it’d be a mutt-dog with two crooked legs. My mother is an Orthodox Jewish convert from Irish Roman Catholicism. I was raised as (and identify as) a Jew, but I still had enough exposure to Christianity to notice some key differences between the faiths. Notably, Judaism doesn’t adhere to a single interpretation of the Bible, and Rabbis are the kings of question-asking as a consequence. It’s this small, but important distinction that drives the story – and indeed, even the gameplay – of The Shivah: Kosher Edition.
The Shivah: Kosher Edition is a mobile port/remake of The Shivah, a 2006 point-and-click adventure title for PC. The game stars Russell Stone, a troubled rabbi who heads a failing congregation based in New York City. Suddenly, a windfall: the rebbe receives word he’s been willed enough money to pay off his debts and keep his synagogue open. However, his benefactor is Jack, a former congregation member who departed angrily after Stone refused to bless the marriage between Jack and his non-Jewish wife.
As Stone tries to get to the bottom of why he was bequeathed the money, he quickly learns that Jack was mixed up in some pretty bad business. He begins piecing things together, and comes across more than a couple of moral dilemmas on his spiritual journey.
The Shivah: Kosher Edition purposefully looks and plays a good deal like LucasArts’ stable of classic adventure titles, especially the Monkey Island series. Rabbi Stone needs to explore his surroundings thoroughly in order to find clues, which includes interacting with people (and making sure you say just the right thing), taking note of obituaries and photos, and even hacking into fellow Jews’ computers. Eh, it’s just a schmear of privacy invasion.
The Kosher Edition of The Shivah plays identically to its PC predecessor. The differences between the two versions are in the aesthetics. Aside from remastered music, the graphics have received an overhaul. The character portraits are particularly improved, but manage to keep that classic, jagged Sierra influence. It would have been nice to get more content out of The Shivah: Kosher Edition. It’s a short game, made even shorter by the fact you’re likely to stay glued by its plot twists and punchy dialogue. If you’re already familiar with the PC game, chances are you already have each route to victory (and defeat) committed to heart.
Still, whether you’re an old fan or a new convert, The Shivah: Kosher Edition is worth your time. It’s a quality adventure game, though like the adventure games of old, it keeps you guessing on how you ought to proceed. It’s helpful to know you can combine the clue words in your inventory to get an idea of what to do next. Some puzzle solutions are even buried in Yiddish words.
Not to say the game is exclusionary. The Shivah: Kosher Edition isn’t meant to be enjoyed exclusively by Jews any more than Angry Birds might only be appreciated by birds (or pigs). The game addresses philosophical questions that have been with humankind since we first learned how to look upwards and wonder. Why do bad things happen to decent people? How “good” is God, really? Could God microwave a burrito so hot, even he couldn’t eat it? The Shivah: Kosher Edition doesn’t have all the answers, but it does supply a top-notch adventure experience. Nosh a little.