I did not expect to enjoy this game this much.
My first experience with The Raven was way back in December of 2014. I downloaded the older version as an Xbox Games with Gold free title, and just never seemed to get around to it, as my backlog grew and grew. Today I’m shaking my head at 2014 me, because this game was a satisfying and fun to play little indie title, that I spent the better part of 4 days teasing out every aspect of.
The basic plot is this – The Raven, a master jewel thief that had the world enraptured with his daring escapades, strikes again – years after his supposed death. His theft of a priceless ruby – one of the Eyes of the Sphinx – throws an upcoming unveiling of the gems into chaos, and starts a massive plot to protect the delivery of the remaining Eye – an emerald.
You play as Anton Jakob Zellner, a Swiss constable who is stationed on the Orient Express as it passes through his home country, and who finds himself wrapped up in the ongoing mystery and deadly game the “new” Raven is playing.
The game is essentially an Agatha Christie murder and theft mystery, right down to the balding chubby mustachioed main character that is essentially a less dandy Poirot, and including a side character that is based on Agatha herself. You start off controlling Zellner as he chubby-waddles his way through a train, a port, a ship, and a museum, all trying to uncover who the new Raven is, what his motives are, and to unravel the body count and strange happenings that unfold throughout. Acting wise – the voices here are very well done, with correct accents and performances that make each character very individual and memorable for all their little quirks.
Items of interest are interactive, and allow you to uncover small data points that can help push you forward in the game. The fun for this piece of gameplay comes in the order and process you can combine things that Zellner is holding in his inventory to create new items that solve problems. One memorable, and frustrating example is the building of a torch to see better in a very dark place, that took me about 11 tries to get the right items and pieces connected.
While this seemingly plays like a more standard point and click adventure type of years past, the main frustration of this style is that Zellner controls like a newborn baby just learning how to walk. He really does waddle around in all environments, leading to a significant amount of game time just trying to get him to stumble around an Egyptian display case to find a clue. The inclusion of a “run” button to speed him up, or a little more give and take with the hitboxes or his agility would have made this a much faster experience.
This is a “remastered” version, and I will say it’s quite a beautiful game at times. Overall the graphics dip and dodge in places, including some very uncanny valley moments with close-ups of faces, but there are great shots that show how the light and color is best displayed.
The mystery itself makes up for Zellner’s stumbles quite well – with many a twist and sudden surprise. As a mystery fan, I read quite a few of them every year, and I found that the clues, and eventual reveals were handled well, and did not feel like a last-minute cheap addition to make the plot fit a preconceived narrative. I managed to successfully guess the identity of the Raven, and upon reflection saw all the tiny clues leading me down that path, all easily discarded at the time.
Overall, this is a great indie title, with about 6-8 hours of engaging play time. If you’re a mystery fan, a fan of the classic point and click adventures, or have always wanted to control Poirot as he mustached his way through a murder, this is a fast and fun pick up. I’ve got two secret achievements left to unlock, so I’m thinking one more fast play-through might be in order.