Heavily inspired by Agatha Christie’s Poirot series, The Raven Remastered is an adventure game set in the 1960s. You take direct control of multiple characters in an attempt to solve the mystery of the Raven, a legendary thief. It’s a decent game, but it’s certainly held back in a few key areas; all the while drawing far too much from Christie’s work to be considered original. The eponymous Raven is thought to be dead, but burglaries have continued and it is theorised that this is the work of a copy-cat called “The Raven’s Heir.” And it is on this premise that the game starts on the Orient Express, with an ensemble cast that continues throughout the rest of the game. There is a jewel onboard, making its way to Cairo — and the Raven wants it.
Taking inspiration from Poirot, the game’s settings include the Orient Express, a boat heading to Egypt (a reference to Death on the Nile), and Egypt itself, where Hercule Poirot also sleuthed. However, whereas the Poirot series was set during the decade before the Second World War, The Raven Remastered is set during the 1960s. This is where the dissonance in the game’s setting starts to creep in: the music and characters and environments scream art-deco, yet there are incongruous objects in the environment; a sports car from the ‘60s, for example. In this respect, they have gone too far in modelling The Raven Remastered after the pre-Second World War detective classics.
Speaking of Poirot, our protagonist — Swiss police constable Anton Jakob Zellner — is an almost identical copy of Hercule Poirot. The Moustache, the balding, the getting on in years. The only thing different about Zellner is his bumbling nature — it’s more grandad gets caught up in a mystery than Poirot’s deductive little grey cells. Again, there is some dissonance, this time in character. Zellner looks like he should be retired already, yet in one scene he sprints — and catches — a speeding vehicle. There are much younger people around, too, but it’s obvious that the game makers needed to make Zellner the hero for the rest of the game to work.
While we’re on the subject of characters: Plasticine — the characters are made of it. The models have a strange sheen and their animations are stilted and rigid. In cutscenes, they whip quickly to and fro faster than a human could, the uncanny valley causing you to cringe. It’s no better when you’re in control of Zellner, either. While talking to one character, you make conversation about the fact that he has trouble using one of his arms, but the animation is so stilted that you never even notice this fact.
The ensemble cast range from interesting to stereotypical: the emotional story of a mother and her son on the one hand and the tormented but privileged artiste on the other. The game is split into three chapters, and you take control of a different protagonist in each one, covering the same events. So after Chapter 1, we stop being in control of Zellner and take control of someone else (though we will only reference Zellner to avoid spoilers). This means replaying the events of the story three separate times, and although you get story revelations as you replay the same events it just doesn’t make for compelling gameplay.
Because The Raven Remastered’s story is delivered in repeated events with differing characters’ perspectives, it’s a jumbled mess. It’s obvious that King Art Games, the developer, was trying to innovate on the traditional adventure game formula, and they make a laudable attempt, but it just doesn’t land. Most of the story beats are predictable, and after Chapter 1 the game is a slog. The new information you glean in Chapters 2 and 3 just isn’t compelling, and the ending is abrupt; being delivered far too quickly.
This is unfortunate because the game has some really interesting plotlines. Character motivation is heavy in its themes, with topics such as genocide being covered. Shamefully, these plotlines aren’t tied together particularly well, and because the game is so stilted and marred by frustration, by the time you get to the more interesting parts towards the end you simply won’t care anymore. The revelations, then, are backloaded, to the game’s detriment.
What are some these frustrations, you ask? Loading screens, for one, and they’re terrible. Moving backwards and forwards in a building to complete some more elaborate puzzles leaves you staring at the loading icon more than playing the actual game. When searching a vehicle, for instance, interacting with one item sends you to a loading screen, then outside of the car, when there are more items to examine in the vehicle; leaving you to face another loading screen as you mash the A button to get back in and complete your tasks.
The controls are sloppy. You directly control Zellner through scenes, in a way reminiscent of the original Resident Evil. They’re not quite as bad as tank controls, but it’s very obvious that Zellner only has eight-ish angles of movement, so turning is not smooth — you will have Zellner bumping into and getting caught on objects as if he’s imbibed one too many. Speaking of controls — there is no way to run, it’s all walking. This is an issue in itself and rears its head most prominently on the ship level, which has a lot of backtracking. Because you can’t run, it becomes very tedious replaying this level three times.
The Raven Remastered has a points system. You gain points by solving secrets throughout the level. Points can be deducted if you use hints or hot spot highlights, and you are given an overall score at the end of each chapter. Most puzzles are environmental, you use or combine then use objects in conjunction with the environment to reach new areas or get to your goals. Frustration is the name of the game here, too: you have to examine the same object multiple times to exhaust all options; otherwise, you will miss key items. In one case, you’re rifling through a bag, but if you stop at the first item you pull out you will miss vital information, which then causes you to wander around scratching your head at how to progress.
There are good things about the game, though. Its environments are wonderfully stylised and the orchestral score is beautiful. In combination, this makes navigating the environments immersive, while the music evokes a great sense of period — even if it is the wrong period (the 1960s be damned).
On the whole, The Raven Remastered has a lot of aspects that let it down. It generally lacks polish, the characters’ animations are strangely robotic, the loading screens are atrocious, and the necessity to replay the same events lets it down. It is still, however, a good game for adventure fans. It toys with some novel ideas, and chapter 1 is actually fun to play. The frustrations will start to creep in during Chapters 2 and 3, though, and if you see the game through to the end it will likely leave a sour taste in your mouth.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to our mailing list
Get the latest game reviews, news, features, and more straight to your inbox
Thank you for subscribing to Bonus Stage.
Something went wrong.
The Raven Remastered Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 4/10
User Review( votes)
A love letter to Agatha Christie, The Raven Remastered‘s story is a tour of classic detective tropes, while an unpolished and frustrating gameplay experience makes it hard to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard adventure fans.