There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never played many point-and-click titles before. The first is my personal gaming etymology is console based (not the natural habitat for games traditionally requiring a mouse) and it wasn’t until fairly recently that I owned my own proper computer. Secondly, the few times I did play such games (normally at a friend’s house) I became so frustrated I wound up breaking things and owing people money. That said, taking a swing at The Raven was an adventure for me in several ways, including whether not I would sacrifice my DualShock in pursuit of the title’s master thief. Fortunately for everyone/thing involved, the Raven showed itself to be, while a maybe a little humdrum, a charming and worthwhile investigative journey.
We enter the 1960’s world of the Raven by filling the virtual shoes of extremely Swiss Constable Anton Jakob Zellner (really this guy talks about being Swiss a lot), a policeman who after noticing some curious activity on the train he is patrolling, becomes even more curiously motivated to become part of the action. Zellner’s poking around uncovers what turns out to be the pursuit of the legendary burglar, the Raven, and he wants in. However he is quickly and reluctantly thrust into the position of the outsider looking in due to his pushy nature and mediocre credentials. As you take control of him and his considerable investigative talents, your mission will prove to not only be about pursuing the criminals involved, but showing your worth. Things escalate fairly quickly, as what was once odd turns suspicious and what’s suspicious becomes deadly. Ranging from gunmen lurking in the shadows to cavernous explosions, as Zellners’ investigations begin to bear fruit he finds the thrills he’s been seeking and you as the player will become genuinely interested in what it means for his future.
Since this is a narrative mystery adventure, sharing any part of the story is spoiling the fun, but suffice to say that the plot is entertaining and well paced. All of the Raven’s various characters are full of intrigue and like any good whodunnit the cast never becomes so large that your suspicions become diluted amongst the sheer number of them. Everyone here is here for a reason. The same circumstances of the tale that keep faces familiar will also move Zeller through a series of isolated environments, which will make sure your energies stay focused on clue finding and interrogating your company. This particularly linear design, while extremely functional, immediately brings into question this title’s replay value. But on that same note, how much replay value could one really expect to get from a mystery game?
On the more technical side, the Raven isn’t breaking any new ground. There isn’t anything here which reflects the generation of gaming we’ve currently reached, and if it’s the kind of thing that matters to you, this game has the look and feel something you could have found on a late era PS2. Zellner’s movements are robotic and resistant, which can make traversing even the small corridors of the various maps a grueling affair. This sluggish and sloppy element translates over to the games inventory screens as well, where the combination and specific utilization of different items makes all the difference between progressing through a level or cracking your head against the PS3 controller. For whatever reason, when this game was ported over from the PC it was done so with only the analog sticks in mind. This can be infuriating when after putting energy into figuring out a puzzle you’re forced to doubt yourself when you physically can’t manage connecting A to B due to twitchy controls.
It’s the kind of thing that makes it seem like this title’s console transition wasn’t taken very seriously. Considering its lack of action and locked camera, it not as though there were many control mechanics to figure out and at least the option to enable some more control functionality would have been nice.
It’s a shame really, because it’s little things like this that can add up and break a players immersion and this game is clearly an example of where that was important. A great deal of care was taken in the scripting and tone of atmosphere, and I can see why this game had such a strong following during its original release.