I've been feeling kind of burnt out on adventure games as of late. Nothing against the genre, but I've just been playing a lot of slow-moving, molasses-paced titles that often overload me with busy work instead of actual puzzles to solve, confusing inventory systems and dull stories. Can the first chapter of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief pull me out of my adventure game funk?

When you load up The Raven, the first thing you'll notice is that the game is very cinematic. Everything from the whimsical soundtrack, the camera angles used, and even the characters themselves feel like they'd be at home in some family-friendly mystery film.

After a brief cinematic in a museum, we get our first introduction to who we can assume is The Raven. The introduction is cut quite short since we're then transported to the Orient Express and taken control of the hero of our tale, Constable Anton Jakob Zellner. The good Constable is an older fellow, and is not unlike Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame in terms of appearance and sense of justice. The only differences are that Zellner's got a bit more of a paunch, is significantly less bumbling, and can be a bit overzealous when trying to prove his worth. And as it so happens, he's about to get mixed up in a mystery concerning ancient Egyptian artifacts, a murder and The Raven's Heir.

Upon taking control of Zellner and meeting some of the other characters aboard the train, I found myself very impressed with the voice-acting. Accents were spot-on, delivery of lines was impeccable, and the quality of the recordings was very good, although not perfect. This great voice-work, coupled with the movie-like soundtrack, made for a very pleasant experience for the ears.

It is our job as Constable Zellner to help Inspector Legrand, the man who shot The Raven years ago, capture a thief who bears a striking resemblance to the master thief's style. The journey will take him from Switzerland and all the way to Cairo, all while accompanying a set of unique characters with great, fleshed-out stories and personalities.

Solving the mysteries the surround Constable Zellner takes patience, a little bit of wit and a handy mouse with which to point-and-click. You'll be able to click on different objects and people in order to view, use or interact. Hovering your cursor down to the bottom of the screen brings up your inventory. Any items you collect will be available here for your perusal.

You can also "use" objects with other objects in order to combine them into something useful. For example, you can take some sandwich paper and crumple it into a ball. No one wants that greasy mess in their pockets, so you can take a napkin and then wrap it around the grody sandwich paper ball. After you've successfully isolated the mess, you'll be able to "use" the napkin-wrapped, greasy paper ball on an ash tray so that a steward can clean it up. That, uh... doesn't sound useful at all, but it's the only spoiler-free example I could give.

Speaking to characters is as easy as clicking on them and selecting from a short list of dialogue options. Most of the time, your choices in dialogue won't really matter, but you can gleam some great information depending on whether or not you choose to ask certain questions.

Armed with your knowledge of how to combine stuff with other stuff and talk to people, you can go on and explore your surroundings to your heart's content and begin solving mysteries. All of the puzzles are fairly easy and are designed to make sense in the context of the story, rather than exist as arbitrary skill checks that bog down your experience with what feels like busywork.

The only trouble is that it's not very clear which objects you can interact with, even if you let the cursor fly around the screen in a mad hunt to find items that can be highlighted. Thankfully, The Raven helps alleviate this problem by letting you spend Adventure Points in exchange for a few seconds during which all of the hotspots on your screen are marked with a magnifying glass.

And if you're ever stuck, you can always just try talking to everybody one more time to see if they have different responses for you. Or, if you'd rather try and backtrack, you can read through your journal that gets updated every time you advance the story or find out any new information.

Though this is only Chapter 1 out of 3, the first episode of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief is pretty promising as an adventure game. Its cinematic style, great graphics, enjoyable soundtrack, entertaining voice-work and interesting story is sure to keep me coming back to see the adventure through to the end.

With that said, it's not perfect. As I've mentioned, sometimes the puzzles are simple, but a few of them can be difficult to solve because it's not easy to spot interactive points in the environment. You might get stuck on a puzzle only to find out that the final object needed for a solution was hidden away towards the bottom right of the screen, where your cursor never goes.

The graphics, while nice, are not always smooth and will turn into jaggies at times, or lip movements won't sync with the audio every so often. And, as wonderfully cinematic as it can be, The Raven will sometimes employ camera angles and shots that don't make sense, like random extreme close-ups during a normal conversation.

Still, The Raven has made a very strong impression on me and I look forward to seeing what Parts 2 and 3 will bring. If there's one thing The Raven has stolen, it's a lot of my gaming time.

This review is based on a digital copy of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief - Chapter 1 for PC that was purchased for review.


7.5 out of 10 arcade sushi rating