XBLA Review: The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

1960's Swiss Detective or Hipster Mustache Contestant?

1960’s Swiss Detective or Hipster Mustache Contestant?

By: Jess Castro

Bust out your bubble pipe and goofy Sherlock Holmes hat — it’s about time you fancy yourself as a mystery solving sleuth! KING Arts claims to have a nail-biting adventure full of twists and turns, a dangerous heist and a dash of whodunnit. Let’s take a look at The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief – three installments of head-scratching, mustache-twisting intrigue on Xbox Live Arcade.

CONTROLS (2/5)

The Raven is cut from the cloth of many classic PC point-and-click adventure titles; your character is guided by points of interest where you are to inspect and interact with the environment, stash found items to solve puzzles and predicaments, and revel in one “ah HA!” moment after another. However, it seems that in the transition from PC to XBLA, a mystery unrelated to the game’s plot unfolds; the Mystery of the Missing Cursor.

You’ll control the main character’s movement with the left stick while the right stick cycles through highlighted interest points in the environment. Pressing “B” investigates for some inner monologue, “A” interacts and “X” gives a preview of all the accessible and interactive items, persons or areas on screen. Without an actual cursor to freely navigate your surroundings, however, the game feels extremely limiting and frustrating.

Imagine you see Item A on the screen, and you know that it most certainly should combine with Item B. Logic dictates you’d just be able to hover a cursor over Item A, then drag it over to Item B. In The Raven, you’ll navigate your character close to Item A, tap the right stick and cycle through an invisible wheel or menu of objects and hope your character is actually close enough to register interaction with Item A or B. This siphons almost all sense of adventure and curiosity out of a game like this.

In addition, item interaction is cumbersome to a face-palming degree. Want to try using an item in your inventory? Press select, open a window of your goodies, then press A on the desired item. If you use it incorrectly or highlight an unrelated object, the desired item goes null and you have to go back and select the item from your inventory again — very redundant.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4/5)

The Raven‘s presentation is extremely promising with the first catching item, the spectacular and impressive musical score that oozes with charm, mystery and grandeur. Set in 1960s Europe, character and environment design, artwork and animation all excel in bringing the right kind of mood to the story. Voice acting is spot-on, albeit paced a tad bit slow. There’s a certain appealing whimsy when all the elements come together — a very classic vibe that fans of Agatha Christie or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might appreciate.

There are some definite hiccups, however. Though the score is remarkable, it’s unevenly cut and pasted throughout the adventure, and at times, can feel rather repetitive. Plus, there’s a small number of glitches scattered throughout as well, from bad lip-synchs to snap, crackle and pops in the audio. Lastly, the brightness settings are unbalanced – most of the game is very vivid and colorful, but there are a few scenarios where you’re plunged into complete darkness and shadows. With no in-game brightness settings, those moments were quite a pain to fumble through.

GAMEPLAY (3/5)

Starting off the series is Chapter 1: The Eye of the Sphinx, in which you’ll take control of Swiss Constable Anton Zellner, a Poirot-looking investigator who aims to assist in the apprehension of the titular thief. Shrouded in mystery and thought to have been shot dead, The Raven is being lured into a trap by Interpol as a precious jewel is stowed on a train as bait. As Zellner, you’ll begin introductory gameplay, talking with all of the train’s passengers and getting a grasp on item management. Successful interactions, as trivial as they may be, score adventure points that not only act as a final gauge of your deduction skills, but also can be used to unlock hints in challenging spots.

It may start off mundane, but Chapter 1 eventually picks up some steam and all of the elements that make a decent adventure fall into place. Well, almost. There is some annoyance when you figure certain obvious puzzles out and you want to quickly click through the solution only to be forced to cycle through unnecessary observations or hints before pulling it off. Add the aforementioned problems in the controls and item management, and I can confidently say that players not accustomed to this style of game will not be won over.

Fans of the genre that choose to stick it out will be rewarded with a pretty engaging tale. One of the best aspects of the chapter format series is the anticipation of what happens next. Chapter 1 has an excellent cliffhanger that will entice players into Chapter 2: Ancestry of Lies. It’s significantly shorter than the first and the puzzles aren’t as solid, but things get interesting when the game shifts to a new perspective and character, unraveling some good plot twists. The story continues to come full circle with Chapter 3: A Murder of Crows as previous scenarios are seen and played from different eyes leading to the nifty unraveling mystery of the Legacy of a Master Thief.

OVERALL (3/5)

Compelling story, memorable characters and engaging puzzles make a great click-and-point adventure; does The Raven saga have it all? It should, but it feels heavily diluted in the transition from PC mouse to Xbox controller. Even as a longtime fan of the genre, it was tough to get into this otherwise well done mystery title on the console format, which is a shame considering it’s been done great before.

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About Herija Green

Avid gamer, adventurous lover and all-around damned handsome man...
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