Murder on the Orient Express
Mysteries and point-and-click adventures are two gaming niches that I adore, so I was looking forward to play The Raven Remastered, a port of the 2013 game The Raven – Legacy of a Master Thief. The game features an original story that is inspired by Agatha Christie’s murder mystery novels.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
The Raven Remastered’s three chapters are set in Europe and Africa during the 1960s. You play as Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, a Swiss man resembling Agatha Christie’s famous fictional detective Hercule Poirot. Zellner becomes involved in an investigation of the Raven, a master thief who is after prized jewels known as the Eyes of the Sphinx. This surprises the protagonist because the Raven was allegedly killed years ago by an inspector by the name of Legrand. Together with Legrand, Zellner seeks to unmask the criminal mastermind and uncover the truth. It’s a solid setup to a mystery that genuinely shocked me with its well-told twists.
Without spoilers, you eventually shift control to other playable characters. Instead of continuing the story where Zellner leaves off, however, you replay through the same segments as Zellner, only from different perspectives. At first, I felt cheated, as if the game was artificially lengthened by these story retreads. Then, I grew to appreciate how these new viewpoints explained plot holes in Zellner’s storyline, connecting the dots to form a twisted comedy of errors. I just wish that the character shift didn’t occur directly after a climactic moment. Otherwise, the mystery narrative is by far The Raven Remastered’s strongest suit.
Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there with weakly executed gameplay. The Raven Remastered plays out like a modern take on classic point-and-click adventures. Your character can freely move and engage with items on the screen. Nothing is ever as complex as the quick time events in Telltale’s games, but it’s more advanced than the point-and-click interface. That being said, movement is stiff. Zellner walks and turns slowly like a tank. He also frequently gets stuck behind objects. This issue along with the static camera angles make it difficult to navigate your way around the map. Simply interacting with the environment is troublesome. I usually had to face an object at a precise angle, and even then, the prompts to take the item would sometimes disappear for no reason.
It’s a missed opportunity that the touch screen isn’t usable in handheld play, as it could have alleviated some issues. You can’t even use the D-pad and are forced to use both sticks; the left stick controls the character, and the right stick toggles between points of interest. It’s a unique twin-stick setup that could work if movement weren’t so clunky.
The majority of the game involves puzzle-solving and conversations. Thankfully, most puzzles utilize real world logic, which is a nice change of pace from similar games with ridiculous 200 IQ solutions. Most tasks simply necessitate finding the right items, combining them, and cleverly using them. The objectives are stimulating to figure out, whether distracting guards or creating makeshift torches. Since you can only click on plot-relevant items, most players, even those new to the genre, shouldn’t have too much trouble. For tougher brain teasers, unlockable hints can keep you up to speed, provided you don’t mind losing points from an arbitrary score system.
However, for a mystery title, you hardly have agency in solving the crime. You are simply guided through the narrative. Dialogue choices have little to no impact. And most puzzles don’t have to do with deducing evidence but rather concern how you can obtain that evidence or escape danger. The few minigame type puzzles pushed my limit, particularly picking a lock and playing a…riveting game of shuffleboard…
Every piece of dialogue is conveyed with good voice acting. The actors play their parts well and the varying European accents help the authenticity. The conversations are a bit dry, though. Zellner is no fast-talking adventure game protagonist, so don’t expect the sarcasm and wit in similar games, but instead something more akin to classic mystery novel discourse. Constable Zellner’s adventure takes him to three different locales: the Orient Express, a cruise ship, and an Egyptian museum. The places are interesting to explore, albeit a bit cramped. The detailed areas and backgrounds are immersive, but there are some moments when the game is unusually bright or dark. For that matter, the characters’ faces look primitive, despite the HD factor. The game’s remaster overall looks sharper and cleaner, but it’s not a vast upgrade. One area that surprisingly excels is the game’s orchestral score, with fanciful tunes evoking family films like Harry Potter and suspenseful tracks for more action-packed moments.
The Raven Remastered has a great whodunit mystery with fantastic endgame twists that are hindered by sloppy controls and weak gameplay execution. The slow moving characters and drab dialogue, along with painfully long loading times, make the narrative chug throughout its 10-12 hour runtime. Although there are unlockable art and music extras, once you know who the Raven is, it’s not compelling to replay the game. I would have preferred experiencing the story as a book or movie. As a game, The Raven Remastered isn’t bad but is quite flawed, and at times dull. Still, hardcore fans of mystery novels looking for a decent interactive adventure may find value solving this case.
Note: A review copy was used for this article.