Another enthralling Poirot game has released! Oh wait, what happened to Poirot that he's degraded from master crime solver to constable... and was he always Swiss?!
You might be confused when you first download and start The Raven Remastered. The artwork makes it look like another Agatha Christie book made into a video game but actually, The Raven is its own unique game and merely stars a Swiss chubby policeman named Constable Zellner who clearly resembles Poirot. Thankfully, the developers don't rip off the Poirot franchise and instead pay homage to the series and they manage to bring their own story to life in a masterful way, too.
Anyway, The Raven is a murder mystery game that has humble beginnings and manages to weave a web of intrigue as you get further and further into the over ten hour long story. You start out playing as Zellner, sitting on a train with a few passengers scattered about. You manage to get yourself involved with the not-so-hidden secret that a great jewel is being guarded on the train while on its way to Cairo for a museum exhibition. Half way through the train journey, an explosion causes the train to get stuck in a tunnel and it's up to you to help get it back on track. However, you discover a note resting on the jewel's safe that must have been placed earlier by someone claiming to be the elusive Raven: a master thief who recently stole another similar jewel.
Finding out the identity of The Raven becomes paramount for Zellner as well as a well-known detective who's tasked with accompanying the jewel and has a background with the master thief. The journey takes you on a cruise ship where a murder happens and finally to the museum exhibit in Cairo where another tragedy hits and you must help the workers at the museum find out what happened.
Agatha Christie / Poirot references
Although The Raven isn't actually a Poirot game, there are multiple references to the series. The main character (constable Zellner) bears a striking resemblance to the curly-mustached gentleman. The character Lady Westmacott shares her last name with the author of Poirot, Agatha Christie. That is, Agatha Christie wrote six novels and a play under the name Mary Westmacott. Agatha Christie's pseudonym also shares her first name with Lady Westmacott's assistant.
The story begins on The Orient Express which happens to get stalled on a mountainside for a brief period of time thus loosely following the plot of the Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express. Finally, the protagonist that Lady Westmacott wrote about in her books has a name very similar to that of Poirot. If you can find more references, leave a comment below!
The whole time you're playing through chapters one and two, you'll notice the odd strange occurrence or inconsistency. If you haven't spent much time with a detective game before, you might just shrug them off but if you've played your fair share of Sherlock and Poirot titles (like I have) then you'll be expecting them to be explained at some point. Thankfully, chapter three does just this as it takes you back in time where you play as different characters and see what was going on from totally different perspectives. It's quite thrilling to play through a mystery from both angles and I enjoyed how they let you play as different characters because walking around as the slow and steady Zellner gets a little dull sometimes. When you finish the game, you'll be shocked by the ending, too. I sure was!
Gameplay in The Raven is mostly kept to simply talking to characters, deducing some information out of the conversation, then using it in another conversation. On a few occasions, you have simple puzzles or multi-stepped tasks to complete but there's not enough to rival a detective game like the most recent Sherlock. Sometimes, you combine items that you've picked up although this doesn't occur often enough to keep the gameplay fresh or challenging. I sometimes found it so dull just walking back and forth between characters that I wanted to just pull them together and let them talk to each other instead of having me be their go-between.
There are occasions when you have to complete a series of tasks in the right order to unlock the next part of the game. They vary from just the right amount of challenge to annoying and seemingly pointless. In fact, there were two times when I had to create some sort of light source and both of them required so much back and forth and redo to just get a light turned on that it drove me a little nuts.
The voice acting is mostly well done but sometimes, I wasn't sure what accent certain characters were supposed to have. Zellner is voiced genuinely and he even gives off a Poirot vibe in the words he uses but others seemed to sound like an American was trying to do some kind of European accent and often falling out of character in the middle of dialogue. The character models are just plain ugly and have really weird shading on some occasions. I've taken a screenshot of something that I found in the extras (unlocked as you play through the game) that shows the developers somehow deciding that this weird ugly modelling looked the best out of three choices they were looking at. Clearly, it looks the worst. I'd go with cartoony or real-life characters over these models any day.
Other than the character models, the sets are colourful and help bring some relief when things are going wrong. I particularly enjoyed how I could walk in so many areas of the cruise ship and all of them had their own charm but it's unfortunate that the textures often pop in. The Raven definitely has its fair share of technical glitches as characters walk into each other and inanimate objects sometimes move.
Overall, the riveting plot of The Raven will keep you hooked right to the very end if you can look past the strange character models and don't mind spending more time reading and listening than actually playing.
- + Thrilling plot that stays interesting
- + Some of the long-winded tasks are quite satisfying when you complete them
- + Various clever nods to Poirot
- - Ugly character models
- - Not enough gameplay in between story scenes and conversations
- - Some graphical glitches