Nothing gets you hooked quite like a good murder mystery - as Agatha Christie, Ian Rankin and James Patterson all attest to. With each making their careers from topping people off in unusual ways - and in Mrs. Christie's case, making her novels amongst the best selling of all time, second only to the Bible in terms of popularity - it's perhaps no surprise that her influence extends beyond books and into other media. And while it may not specifically be an Agatha Christie mystery, The Raven Remastered, a remake of 2013's The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, is a decidedly Agatha-esque mystery.
The year is 1964, and an impressive theft of a priceless ruby from the British Museum has sent rumours rippling throughout Europe. Bearing all the hallmarks of a legendary burglar known as the Raven, the theft has grabbed the attention of the chattering classes and the media, as the Raven has been missing, presumed dead for several years. It turns out the stolen ruby was one of the two 'Eyes of the Sphinx', a pair of priceless jewels which were set to be exhibited in Cairo together for the first time in fifty years - and it seems the thief will stop at nothing to add the second gem to his collection too. Playing as humble Swiss policeman Anton Jakob Zellner, what starts off as a simple escort mission quickly devolves into quite a case, with bombs, murders and conspiracies a plenty. Heavily inspired by the likes of Agatha Christie, The Raven is a classic whodunnit mystery - indeed, it's almost straight out of one of the murder mystery novels Zellner seems to love so much, finally giving him a chance to do something remarkable with his life, as opposed to the general mundanity of police work so far.
In terms of gameplay, the Raven Remastered is a pretty by the numbers point-and-click adventure, where you control the bumbling constable Zellner through his investigations as he tries to track down the elusive Raven. You'll be chatting to other passengers, examining crime scenes and solving puzzles as you go about your investigation, with the ever-resourceful Zellner often having to make clever use of the things he finds to get by. Whether it's using a pair of ice cube tongs to reach into a vase and grab a key piece of evidence, jamming a window open with a toothpick to distract a suspicious violinist, or using some scraped-off pencil lead to make some fingerprints visible, working out what to use in what situation is part of the fun. The process of exploring and combining, then re-exploring and re-combining, is pretty par for the course in these kinds of games, but to developer King Art Games' credit, rarely does The Raven stray into the illogical or implausible, which is nice.
The characters you'll meet on your journey all have their own reasons for taking the same trip - but the possibility of a master thief and a murderer hiding in their midst throws a harsh light on many of their idiosyncrasies. There's a haughty baroness with a drinking problem, a light-fingered violinist with a taste for the finer things in life, and a deadpan doctor with mysterious reasons for moving his practice, to name but a few. There's also a retired crime writer, Lady Westmacott, who's finding the whole theft/murder great fun - a character fact fans will recognise as being named after a genuine pseudonym Agatha Christie used. A precocious young boy with a penchant for toy guns also becomes a surprising ally in the early hours of The Raven, no doubt drawn to Zellner by his grandfather-like charm. They're all pretty engaging characters, and when things start going down, it's hard to know who to suspect first - because they're all equally suspicious, all with their own connections to the Eyes of the Sphinx, whether they want to admit it or not.
Interestingly, not everything you come across during the course of the story is strictly mandatory to progress - some puzzles/segments you can side step entirely, either accidentally or on purpose. In the opening hours, the aforementioned baroness' purse has gone missing, presumed stolen, and she asks you to help locate it - but as it's not needed to progress through the story, you can choose to simply ignore her request, with next to no consequence, save a snide dig at your expense later in the game. However, completing these little extra jobs does boost your score - in fact, every puzzle you solve adds points - with your score at the end of each chapter giving you a rank based on how good a detective you are. If you find yourself stumped along the way, you can pay a small amount of points for a hint, but your final rank may suffer.
However, despite the fact it's essentially a remake, The Raven Remastered is still a little rough around the edges at times. Controlling Constable Zellner can be a little bit awkward, and you'll sometimes find yourself having to do a strange little jig to get him in the right place to interact with an object, or getting yourself caught on furniture and obstacles en route. Some sections seem rather dark too, and as the game itself doesn't have its own brightness settings, you may find yourself doing a lot of squinting at the screen. On occasion, weird graphical effects and glitches turn the whole screen blocky bright colours for a second or two when the scene changes, which can be a tad jarring, especially if you've just come out of a dark hallway. However, with the game itself having a pretty gentle pace, none of the bugs are really game breaking issues either.
On the whole, we'd say The Raven Remastered is definitely one of the good ones - Zellner is a nice antidote to your usual top detective, being a bit of a bumbling oldie whose most remarkable trait is his determination not to be left out, rather than epic deductive skills. An interesting story, alongside an unusual cast of characters and some good puzzles make for a great little mystery point-and-click, and for fans of the genre, The Raven is pretty much a no-brainer.
Format Reviewed: PC