Quoth the Raven
HIGH The environments are expertly crafted and highly atmospheric.
LOW Numerous bugs crop up throughout the adventure.
WTF "I am the God of Fire!"
It's been five years since the world was at the mercy of the Raven: a master thief responsible for a string of daring, bloodless burglaries which resulted in the loss of a great many valuable treasures throughout his illustrious yet infamous career—a career which was understandably cut short after being shot to death by a determined French detective on his trail. However, a new Raven has risen from the ashes of the old and has orchestrated another wave of crime across the globe.
Players step into the well-groomed moustache of Swedish Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, a portly middle-aged gentleman with a receding hairline, natty uniform, and an expanding waistline. He's a bit like Hercule Poirot saddled with a heart problem, and despite his lowly status within the force, he's got a hankering to prove his mettle as a detective sort.
As it so happens, there's also a certain Inspector Legrande along for the trip, none other than the man responsible for hunting down and killing the original Raven five years previously. It transpires that he's most likely guarding some particularly enticing valuables as they make their way overseas—valuables almost guaranteed to catch the attention of this new, more violent and less scrupulous Raven.
So begins what is essentially an old-school point-and-click adventure where yakking to the locals and taking, pilfering or combining objects to solve puzzles is the order of the day. Before the game reaches its conclusion, Anton will have undergone such thrilling trials as unlocking passenger cabins for hapless travelers, locating missing purses for rich old ladies and hugging a nine-year-old boy. Don't worry, this is the sixties—it was a paternal gesture. Probably.
Of course, it's not all drudgery. Before long, things kick up a notch as the Raven's plan finally begins, and it's time to get started on solving sabotages, murders and other assorted nefarious deeds… by pleasantly chatting with nearby characters or slotting items together for the most part. It is a point and click adventure after all, and the gameplay follows the rules of the genre down to the wire.
Speaking of which, using an Xbox 360 controller instead of keyboard and mouse is entirely possible, though navigating the screen can be difficult at times due to Anton's ungainly maneuvering as he strides around the environment with all the grace of an alcoholic under the influence. It's fine in open areas, but when the locations are hemmed-in, it can certainly cause problems.
Fortunately, those areas are often gorgeously-rendered and great to look at. It says something when, for all the graphical splendour of modern day gaming, I spent more time gawping at the bloody scenery speeding by the windows of the train than I'd like to admit.
Characters don't fare quite so well, but they're still reasonably well-animated and decently realized in their own stylized fashion. The graphic design adds a lot of atmosphere to the game, and is a large part of its charm. From the Orient Express train journey in the early hours right through to the Cruise which rounds it off, there's little to complain about when it comes to the atmosphere on offer.
While the puzzles aren't the toughest out there, there were a few spots—particularly one involving the creation of a torch to burn away the darkness—where logic took a back seat to simply trying to stuff every available item into another to see if the solution would luckily present itself. Still, that was merely the result of me being lamentably thick—the problem was obvious with just a little exploring and lateral thinking.
Given the type of game The Raven is, characters spout a lot of exposition, and while dialogue is far from snappy and hardly nuanced, it's oddly pleasant to listen to. The translation is largely passable (save for a few grammatical errors here and there) and Anton's a likeable, rambling sort. The supporting cast has enough personality to make interacting with them fairly enjoyable throughout, as well.
The game suffers from a few technical mishaps, however. It hard-locked once during my playthrough, and more bizarrely, I had an incident where examining a crate twice resulted in Anton turning invisible and disappearing off the face of the planet. Another couple of times he walked straight through solid objects only to appear elsewhere. None of these were a huge inconvenience, but the game is undeniably a mite on the buggy side.
The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief may be a refreshing change of pace from the majority of video games on the market and a charming nod to to good, old traditional murder mysteries in the Agatha Christie vein, but as a single chapter in a three-game arc, it's too brief to satisfy, too buggy to impress, and not particularly captivating or engaging. I suppose that makes it a reasonably decent diversion then, but not one that's likely to stick with players for any length of time after the credits roll.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately four hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed one time) and there are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game seemingly hasn't been rated by the ESRB yet, but there's little to worry about if a younger player got their hands on the game. Despite the occasional murder, catastrophe or perilous moment it's all conveyed in a lighthearted, almost cartoonish atmosphere with little sense of menace.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All dialogue is subtitled, and a journal records pertinent information throughout. There should be no problems at all.
The chance discovery of a muddy, burnt out copy of '50 Shades of Grey' in a hunting pit gave him an appreciation for complex plots, characters and overarching narrative, and the unexpected gift of a Spectrum 48k allowed him to indulge in these newfound sensibilities with intelligent, highbrow games such as 'flee from the badly animated spinning turquoise dolphins' or 'avoid the deadly glowing bricks of doom'.
The fusion of both these interests finally culminated with Darren teaching himself how to write by basically guessing at what words might look like when jotted down on paper as opposed to being howled inarticulately at the skies.
Now others occasionally get to read his scribblings. Lucky them.