The episodic model seems to the be steadily becoming the standard for point-and-click adventure games. Ever since Telltale Games practically mastered the craft, all sorts of adventure game makers have been aping the model to varying degrees of success. It’s a tough structure to pull off.
One of the latest games to take a crack at is The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief from King Art Games, a three-part mystery series set in the mid-1960s. The Raven follows Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, a Swiss police officer who finds himself swept up in the case of a lifetime: capturing the legendary, eponymous master thief “The Raven.” A stirring tale full of mystery, intrigue, and all sorts of twists and turns, The Raven delivers a fun, thrilling narrative. It’s a bit slow to start, the game practically dragging its feet in the early stages, but once it takes off, it’s tough to put down.
The story begins with the thought-to-be deceased burglar’s return following the theft of one of the renowned Eyes of the Sphinx in London. Zellner is assigned to help escort the second jewel to Egypt, where it was supposed to be displayed with its twin. It starts off as a simple enough job: sit back and assist Interpol agent Inspector Legrand – the man responsible for slaying The Raven previously – as necessary. But Zellner, wanting to join the case permanently, goes above and beyond his duty to convince Legrand to let him stick around.
He performs his own investigation in tandem with the inspector, constantly ignoring his orders to stay out of the way even though Zellner more than proves his worth throughout. Legrand’s the stubborn type. You do things his way and only his way or you’re out. His skill and intellect are unparalleled, but his obsession with The Raven clouds his judgment. Only in the face of cold hard evidence is he willing to take subordinates’ perspectives into consideration, skeptical of anyone and anything that doesn’t match up with the facts as he sees them.
Zellner, on the other hand, is relaxed and likeable. He has little in the way of character development, though, never changing as the case progresses, which makes him feel a bit flat. That’s likely due, however, to the limited time spent in control of him. Even so, I couldn’t help but become attached to the guy. His carefree attitude and thirst for adventure make him an affable fellow, his interactions with the cast only exemplifying that.
Up until half-way through chapter 2 of the series, Zellner is the sole lead character. Everything is witnessed from his view and his alone, allowing time to piece the mystery together before seeing past events unfold once more from the eyes of the burglar himself and his associates. They’re more interesting characters than the Constable and just as enjoyable. Seeing how their paths intertwine is a constant delight, cleverly weaving each of the tales into one another naturally.
A new perspective makes replaying scenes bearable. As there are only four locations in the whole game, it would be easy to grow tired of them. But The Raven deftly sidesteps this by never recycling content wholesale. Puzzles remain unique to each character, always presenting a new challenge instead of forcing you to recall answers to old riddles. Nor does the game dwell on past events very often, careful not to bog itself down by making you sit through everything you’ve already seen as Zellner again. It always cuts straight to the new stuff, never wasting your time without hurting the story’s pacing.
On the note of puzzles, they’re surprisingly reasonable. The Raven keeps its puzzle logic simple and straightforward. Not that they’re easy to solve, mind you, but they don’t leave you dumb-founded due to obtuse design, either. That the game only highlights certain actions when looking to use an item on something plays a big role. Rather than leave you moving the cursor about the screen looking for any sort of possible interaction, The Raven streamlines the process by only letting you use your inventory stock where they need to be used, even if you lack a key component. Not only does save you loads of time, but it also grants plenty of smart hints to lead you toward the proper solution.
Even so, some of the puzzles rely too heavily on pixel hunting. Whether it’s for an out-of-sight item or stupidly small hit-boxes, both detract from the otherwise fine puzzle design and frustrates greatly. Tapping the spacebar points out any examinable objects in the area, which remedies some of these ails, but not always. I encountered a few instances where I brushed over a point of interest but couldn’t figure out where I needed to place the cursor. Highlighting it helped identify the exact area I needed to search, but I still had to fumble about to find where the cursor would finally allow me to do something before I could move on. Annoying.
The rare game-breaking glitch also conspire to halt progress. I only encountered a couple – one in which a key item kept disappearing from my inventory, another in which my character froze every time I interacted with a particular item – but to King Art Games’ credit, they’ve been quick to fix them. And even then, whenever I did find one, it was easily fixed by restarting the game. Tedious, but fixable, thankfully. Other players have reported the game crashing at certain points as well, though that never happened in my time with the game. Still, something to be wary of should you play The Raven.
And you should. The Raven weaves an intriguing mystery worth solving. It’s slow to start, but once it gets underway, it’s hard not to be enthralled. Infrequent bugs and occasional pixel hunting spoil the fun, though only briefly. Neither are permanent fixtures, but their mere presence remains unfortunate. Still, the story more than makes trudging through those flaws worthwhile.