Who is The Raven? Well that's what we're hoping you could tell us, you see The Raven is a legendary Master Thief, think Molloy from the Simpsons, he burgled for priceless wares; jewels, art, you name it, but in 1964 he was shot and caught thanks to the young French inspector Legrand. However fast-forward 4 years and he seems to be back, the question is, do we have a copy-cat or was the Raven never caught?
The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief is a whodunit style adventure game with a story set across three chapters, we had the opportunity to play through the first chapter The Eye of the Sphinx where you control the Swiss Constable Anton Jakob Zellner as he attempts to make sense of the obsessed Inspector Legrand's investigation into the reappearance of the infamous Raven burglar. Your journey across Europe is made that bit easier as the almost retired Constable is perhaps the most charming character you'll get the pleasure of playing as, and is unlike your usual young, female protagonist in most adventure games, however Zellner is the perfect fit for a murder mystery, in fact if you changed his moustache he'd be a dead ringer for the great Hercule Poirot.
KING Art Games have hit the nail on the head with The Raven and truly captured the spirit of the classic Agatha Christie whodunit, the murder mystery is a universal curiosity that humans love to sate, and to keep you on your toes, throughout the story you'll pick up on suspicious remarks, so that you will keep second guessing who the Raven may well be. In this way the game is accessible for all walks of life, so whether you're an avid adventure gamer or a traditional murder mystery fanatic, thanks to more animations and camera angles than any of KING Art's previous games you get a far more cinematic experience than your standard far-away static scenes that may turn some away from traditional point and clicks.
One of the largest promises that KING Art Games have most certainly delivered on in The Raven is in breaking the tradition of the insane logic behind adventure games, so you won't be making a disguise out of cat hair or pretty much anything that takes place in Escape from Monkey Island, instead you'll be expected to solve puzzles plausibly, need to open a heavy barred door? How about an axe? Need to get someone away from the entrance they're guarding? Get rid of their water and feed them something salty! It's so refreshing and somewhat saddening for the genre to find that everything makes perfect sense in The Raven, and it's been far too long since something like this has happened, and this isn't even taking into consideration that Zellner doesn't have the pockets of Mary Poppins, so you can't simply walk around with the full contents of a world in your trousers!
Perhaps the crowning aspect of The Raven is found in its characters, if you aren't rooting for Zellner to crack the case, then you'll be second-guessing the possible ulterior motives of the greasy Mr Kreutzer, or the reason behind Professor Lucien's anxiety, you want to find out more about each character, because they aren't simply token-cutouts, and we can only hope that when our story draws to a close in Chapters 2 and 3 that you will get to know everyone quite a bit more.
What's perhaps is most impressive of The Raven as a series is the approximate runtime of each chapter, with the first chapter provided a decent 6 or 7 hours worth of play there's a potential 20 hours to be found across all three episodes, which at the cost of $20 is fantastic value for money. It also helps that you simply won't be able to take your eyes from the game, I'd like to think that one of the reasons is the familiarity of the game's setting, after all a lot of adventure games take players on incredible flights of fancy, and instead, taking place in a traditional Murder Mystery setting is something we've all seen and enjoyed, there is nothing to question, nothing to learn, you just know what's going on.
Adventure games these days want you to keep playing, developers know that some gamers have the attention span of a gnat, and that people don't want to trawl the internet for an FAQ to explain where they are going wrong, which is where Daedalic Entertainment's brilliant hotspot system comes in, the only trouble is, it's easy to begin playing the game through the system a lot like you would a walkthrough. However in The Raven, KING Art have attempted to work against this, if you are a little stuck and want to check out if you've any more interactive items in an area it's going to cost you; progressing through the game will award you adventure points which can be used in turn for a sneaky peek of the hotspots. You won't want to get too overzealous just because you've got 8,000 points towards the end of the chapter, KING Art may just shame you at the end if you did use an alarming amount!
In fact the only downside we could see to the game on a basic mechanical level was the few puzzles that you will encounter are met with extreme minimalism, in the case of Chapter 1 we were met with a Shuffle Board mini game with the young Matt Miller who will wager his conveniently required slingshot if you can beat him, simple enough, but you'll have no explanation of how to throw the puck, it sounds like a small demand, but when both this and the lock picking puzzle have you stumped for a good few minutes simply because you know what to do, but not how to do it, you will understand my frustrations.
In the later two chapters of the game we will get a view from the eyes of the criminal after experiencing the events from the lovely rotund Constable Zellner, how this will work is unclear, after all, half of the fun of The Eye of the Sphinx is emulating your favourite daytime TV detectives, and I personally can't think of any other game that has pulled off both sides of the story particularly well.
Except for a few very minor issues, KING Art Games appear to have created a true murder mystery in fabulous 60's Europe, if you were a fan of the great Poirot, enjoy a good whodunit, or simply are looking for a new adventure game to latch onto, The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief is the most enjoyably grounded, and rational point and click that I have played in a very, very long time. The only trouble is, once you have finished the first chapter, you'll be begging for more.
The first chapter of The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief is out now for Windows PC, Mac and Linux, with chapters two and three out August 27th and September 24th, and the Digital Deluxe version that can be purchased for slightly more, includes the fantastic soundtrack!