If you played computer games back in the late-eighties and early ninties chances are you have some fond memories of hours spent playing point-and-click adventures. In recent years the genre seems to have been making a very welcome comeback. We’ve been spending some time with The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief, a new episodic point-and-click adventure from German developers King Art (The Book of Unwritten Tales) and Nordic Games.
The first chapter of this new crime adventure is called The Eye of the Sphinx and the story begins in 1964 London. An ancient ruby – one of the legendary Eyes of the Sphinx – is stolen from the British Museum. At the scene of the crime the thief leaves behind a raven feather which was the calling card of a master thief known as The Raven.
The Raven was famous for the most spectacular burglaries ever carried out. However in 1960 he was believed shot dead by a young French investigator named Nicholas Legrand. After this new crime everyone is wondering was The Raven really shot and killed? Did he survive? Was it the wrong man? Or is a copy cat thief at large. Whatever the answer Legrand is back on the case to find out and he’s in charge of safeguarding the transport of another of the jewels to Cairo.
Players take the role of Swiss policeman, Constable Anton Jakob Zellner who is getting on in his years and approaching retirement. After being side-lined earlier in his career he’s out to prove himself. The setup feels a lot like something out of Agatha Christie’s Poirot which is no coincidence as the developers themselves say the game is something of a tribute to her classic crime stories.
After the scene is set the first part of the games takes place aboard The Orient Express which is travelling from Zurich to Venice. As well as Zellner the train is carrying several other passengers including a Baroness, Doctor, Violinist plus Legrand and the jewel. There’s also Lady Clarissa Westmacott who just happens to be the world’s most famous crime author and the favourite author of Zellner. Following on from the lengthy and event packed train journey the action moves to a luxury cruise ship travelling to Cairo.
As you would expect from the genre the game requires you to interact with the various characters and solve puzzles to progress the story. Interacting with characters gives you multiple choice responses which helps you feel like you have control but the conversations do play out the same way eventually. The developers say they wanted to provide realistic puzzles and we’re pleased to report that they seem to have succeeded. There are times when you might need to scan the screen to find the right object to click on but all the puzzle solutions really do make sense.
Zellner carries a notebook to help you along when you get stuck or lose your way. It’s a great addition to the game and it’s actually presented like a notebook with handwriting and sketches. There’s a scoring system present in the game and for extra help you can sacrifice points for additional hints which we used on a couple of occasions. You can also use points to highlight all interactive objects. The game often changes what is available to interact with in a particular scene based on your progress so you need to constantly check. It’s also worth pointing out that some puzzles are optional.
The game has been created with the Unity engine and it is beautifully presented. Unlike many point-and-click adventures the environments are realised in 3D with full HD. Going for 3D graphics over 2D allows the developers to more easily present the action from multiple camera angles and the game takes great advantage of this. Graphically the game uses a realistic style although the characters have slightly exaggerated features.
The characters are impressive and very detailed with expressive faces that lip-sync. The voice acting throughout the game is excellent and really helps keep you interested in proceedings. The music also deserves a mention as it’s rather lovely and we’re guilty of finding ourselves sat just listening to it at various points in the game. Some of the tunes also stay with you after you’ve finished playing.
The animation for the most part is excellent but does have some problems during movement. When clicking to move around a scene it’s not uncommon for the animation to stutter as your character moves into position. We had a couple of issues where Zellner would walk on the spot for no reason. More seriously during our review playthrough moving to a certain location resulted in a black screen and other times Zellner became stuck on objects. Upon restarting, after forcing the game to close, we found Steam Cloud unable to sync and lost a couple of hours of progress despite having manually saved often.
Much like the thief himself The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief has seemingly come out of nowhere and taken us by surprise. It’s a fantastic start to the series which had us completely hooked and unable to stop playing. There are a good six to eight hours of fun to be had here that will delight both new and old adventure fans. We can’t wait for the next two chapters and adventure and crime fans should seriously consider picking this up.
The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief – Chapter 1 Eye of the Sphinx is available digitally for PC, Mac and Linux from July 23rd and is also coming to PSN and XBLA later this summer. For more information you can check the official The Raven website.