I've played as plenty of cops and P.I.s over the years, but they've rarely made me feel like I was doing detective work. Who knew I'd have to step into the Yamaka of a rabbi to truly feel like I was following leads, unravelling clues, and solving a murder mystery?
The rabbi in question is Russell Stone, the bitter old leader of a New York synagogue. When a cast-out member of his congregation is killed, and he's bequeathed $10,000 by the deceased, he decides to look into the case.
So, over the course of this short, satisfying adventure you'll play P.I. and use cunning and intuition to follow the facts. You might get them from talking to someone, or through searching the city's Jewish intranet, or by hacking into someone's email account.
It's a point-and-click adventure, but this is not the sort of adventure game where you can just use every item on every object in some stubborn war of attrition until you finally stumble upon the solution.
Many of the puzzles require you to type things into computers - search terms, usernames, and passwords - so you need to pay attention, and perhaps play with a notepad by your side, to drive the game forward.
The puzzles can be hard, but you'll get a real rush of accomplishment when you crack them. The best puzzle games make you feel smart when you solve them - Shivah can trick you into thinking you're a genius.
Sadly, some puzzles are more obtuse, and the final chapter is let down by head scratchers that require trial-and-error (or some very fast intuition) to solve.
Of Mice and Mensch
During Stone's short career as a computing-whizz detective, we learn a lot about the cynical and stubborn old rabbi. We find out more about Stone's hard-lined adherence to scripture, and how he's also questioning his faith.
It's also a compelling little morality play - but with more subtle shades than your typical renegade / paragon setup. So Shivah may be short, but creator Dave Gilbert gives you a lot to think about. And it may be lightweight, but it tackles some interesting themes.
You might learn a thing or two about Jewish culture while you're playing, too. Stone carries a cute Yiddish jargon dictionary in his inventory, you can find Jewish jokes online, you'll find out what a rabbinical answer entails.
Shivah is a brief game, but its unique cast of characters, intriguing storyline, and sharp detective-style conundrums mean it's well worth playing this thoughtful and pensive adventure.
And if you already finished it on PC, know that this iOS edition is a complete remake with fresh backgrounds, sprites, character portraits, and music - and even achievements. It's ripe for a revisit.