The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief (PS3) Review
Posted by Gavin Napier on 02.04.2014
Nordic Games' 1960s-set point-and-click mystery The Raven makes its way to the Playstation 3! But is it worth checking out? 411's Gavin Napier checks in with his full review!
Title: The Raven
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: King Art
Rated: T for Teen
Admittedly, The Raven has flown under my radar entirely. See what I did there? It's a bird joke. Anyway, the game has existed on PC and XBox 360 for a while, but has just found its way over to Playstation 3. Having heard nothing whatsoever about the game, and with only the subtitle "Legacy of a Master Thief" to build any sort of expectations, I came into this game with an entirely blank slate.
The game has nothing to do with the Edgar Allen Poe story/poem of the same name, but is rather a tale of a thief and the detectives on his trail. Equal parts Pink Panther and Agatha Christie novel, the game carries a tone that is serious but not dark, with moments of whimsy but never absurd. If I were giving a Twitter review of the game, that would be a great starting point. I'd follow up with "Never enough of anything to be great" and then I'd throw in a hashtag of whatever was trending that day to make sure more people saw my review. Twitter. Tweet. Birds. Raven. Keep up here.
The story opens with a precious gem being stolen from a museum, setting the stage for Constable Anton Jakob Zellner to engage in a game of cat and mouse not just with the famed Raven, but with his superiors who look down their nose at him. I'll be the first to say that if you're a fan of crime novels, or Hercule Poirot-type mysteries, then you'll enjoy the story here. They're not my favorite genre of fiction or film, but they'll do in a pinch. There are twists and turns aplenty within the game, and the story pays careful attention to details that many gamers may overlook on their first playthrough. If everything in the game received the same attention as the story, I'd have far better things to say about it.
The art style, with colors rich enough to rival old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons, is easy enough on the eyes. As a comic book, it would be wonderful. The problems come when things are set into motion. Movements become clipped and jerky, and nothing ever looks quite natural. It's almost as if you're watching Playstation 2 animations on a Playstation 3. At this point in the lifespan of the console, I fully expect games that don't stress the graphics engine to move smoothly. I don't expect every game to look like Fallous 3 or Last of Us. I get that. That style would betray the atmosphere of The Raven, for better or worse. I just want whatever style is given to me to work. One could argue that The Raven's graphics are broken.
The sounds of game, from voice acting to ambient noise, are handled well. Everything is nice and clear, and nothing drowns out anything else that is happening on the screen. My issue is with the soundtrack. As is fitting of the game, the music is in a classical style. It is effective in adding or removing weight from the scenes as necessary, but after about twenty minutes, I realized that the music was just on a thirty second loop. Once I realized it, I couldn't unhear it and almost resorted to putting the game on mute. Much as with graphics that stutter on screen, I find a soundtrack that thin to be almost unforgivable, especially when people are going to be asked to pay for this game. At a price point of $30 for all three episodes, this game needs to work flawlessly.
The controls are clunky at best, as maneuvering into the position necessary to inspect objects or interact with characters can be described as anything from frustrating to maddening. I haven't had this much difficulty navigating a screen with a character since the original Playstation. I almost gave up early in the first chapter simply because the controls were so damned frustrating.
All things considered, The Raven could have been a bold first step for a relatively unexplored genre on the PS3. The game has gotten rave reviews on other platforms, so maybe something went wrong with this version. The game certainly aspires to something noble, but falls short. The graphics look like they're aimed at teens, the story is certainly geared towards older gamers. The game doesn't take itself too seriously, but never becomes too light, either. The result is an experience that never feels like it settles into a groove. With some graphical tweaks and an overhaul on controls, I would be happy to give this game another whirl based on the story alone. As it is, it was difficult to play far enough into it to form a worthwhile review.
Pretty, but only when characters don't need to move.
I put my controller down multiple times in sheer frustration.
It doesn't sound bad at all...until you recognize the loop.
I barely survived two hours with the game in one sitting at any point.
I'm skewing high here because the story is genuinely great, but is let down by the game as a whole.