Also On: PC, Xbox 360
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: King Art
Seeing as the vast majority of my experience playing adventure games has been with the likes of the Mystery Case Files series and Voodoo Chronicles — in other words, with hidden object games — my first time playing The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief was kind of a revelation. It was like, "Actual character animations? Woah! Voice acting that doesn't suck? Amazing! And a score that's genuinely well-made? Sign me up!"
On top of its higher-than-usual (or, at least, higher-than-what-I'm-used-to) production quality, The Raven also features a pretty decent story. It aims to be a mystery novel in video game form, and it succeeds at this, keeping you guessing with the clues and the twists and turns from beginning to end. In this regard, the game is helped immensely by the fact it essentially rips off Agatha Christie in every way possible, right down to the fact that one of the characters is a mystery novelist who shares a name with Christie's pseudonym. I mean, if you want to be all technical about it, the detective here is Swiss instead of Belgian, but still — this is, for all intents and purposes, Hercule Poirot: The Video Game.
Unfortunately, because it's a video game, it calls for some form of player input at times, and that's where The Raven doesn't hold together quite as well as you'd want it to. To put it bluntly, the controls kind of suck. Moving Poirot…er, sorry, "Zellner" around is torturous. Getting him from point A to point B in anything resembling a straight line is impossible without holding your thumbstick down as hard as possible, and evidently he was programmed with some form of OCD that requires him to turn in a circle before he can pick up or talk to whatever you've selected onscreen.
Which, come to think of it, is another area where the controls are deficient. Putting Zellner in the exact spot where he can see certain objects is a massive pain. When they're clustered together, it's not that bad — you can cycle through them relatively painlessly with your right thumbstick — but when they're not, it can take a couple of passthroughs before you get it right. You can, of course, cheat a little by having the system highlight all points of interest in any given area, but then you're deducted a certain number of points according to the game's arcane scoring system. Admittedly, that cheat doesn't really impact the game in any specific way, but it does hurt you in a hard-to-discern way if trophies are your thing.
Yet, as subpar as the gameplay itself might be, I can't help but still believe The Raven is worth checking out. It certainly helps that a good chunk of my teenage years reading every Agatha Christie novel I could get my hands on, so there's no denying that the game appeals to the nostalgic pleasure centres of my brain. But even if that wasn't the case, I think I'd still get something out of it. No matter how mediocre The Raven's gameplay might be, it's still got an engaging story with some interesting characters and a wonderful soundtrack. There's definitely a trade-off there, but it's one worth making.