NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AS A STAFF WRITER AT THE NOW DEFUNCT SPLITKICK.COM
REVIEWED BY JEFF CONOLLY ON PC
Point and Click Adventure Games are a polarizing genre. Unlike The Walking Dead, The Raven won’t win over anyone who isn’t already a fan of adventure gaming. That said, the brilliant music and compelling mystery make this a must play experience for any adventure game fan.
A huge plus to this title is that it has such an unconventional protagonist. You control Constable Zellnar, an over-the-hill policeman who can’t even eat the butterscotch candies he craves for fear that they’ll stick in his front teeth. He’s bald, overweight, and old. However, he’s also sharp. Having spent his life reading detective novels, he’s eager for the chance to prove himself when a mystery happens across his path.
The cast of characters is diverse and the English voice acting is superb, especially considering this game was developed in Germany. Zellner sounds like that cute, sitcom grandpa we all wished we had. Those he meets have varied accents and inflections which feel very appropriate to their characters.
The true highlight, though, is the music. Benny Oschmann, the composer, is going to be a name to watch. His fully orchestrated score carries the game from scene-to-scene brilliantly. Sadly, I do wish some of his pieces would have been implemented less jarringly. Often the music loops awkwardly or noticeably restarts whenever you leave a menu or switch rooms.
Unfortunately, the game is not without other flaws. Some of the animations lie so deep in the uncanny valley that they’re a bit frightening. I felt most comfortable not watching the mouths while characters were speaking.
There’s also that common adventure game problem of pixel hunting. This is most aggravating when you learn that some of the inventory-based puzzles are optional but time sensitive. This means you can only solve them by randomly clicking, but doing so in the wrong place might advance you in the story to a time in which you could no longer solve them.
Most of the puzzles are serviceable, but all fit into the key/lock paradigm. You can’t go here because you need item X; after you get item X and go there, you can’t proceed without item Y; once you have item Y and proceed, there’s a new dialogue option with character A; etc. If this isn’t your thing, you’re going to be frustrated. Fortunately, this is mixed up a bit with a shuffle board and lock-picking mini game eventually, but those don’t come until very near the end of this first chapter.
We are, as an industry, still sorting out this whole notion of episodic gaming and The Raven misses the mark in pacing and splitting. This won’t be a problem once all three chapters are released, but when a company like Telltale can make each episode feel like an organic whole, it forces the comparison. This game is split into two major sections which felt like two episodes crammed together. Also, cliffhanger endings might be the bread and butter of serial storytelling, but this episode’s end felt more jarring and abrupt than tantalizing.
Despite all of that, I had a great time playing The Raven and would recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the Point and Click style game. The first chapter is available now, the second drops on August 27th, and the third will be available on September 24th. After playing this first section, I’m eager to get my hands on the next two so I can gather more clues, meet more great characters, and get closer to solving the mystery while proving Constable Zellnar’s worth.