There’s a certain allure to the detective power fantasy. The idea of living out the exciting, yet dangerous life of a sharp and cunning lawman has an appeal unlike any other. Bringing evildoers to justice by sheer force of will and wit is a reward all on its own. But when a good mystery must contend with the medium that presents it, all interest goes out the window. The Raven Remastered Remastered is a prime example of a good old fashion mystery that got lost within the mechanics of gaming.
Rare jewels, a luxurious cast and an extremely elusive thief sounds like a steamy start to a successful Hollywood noire film. Fans of the genre would be eager to take control of the aging protagonist, Constable Zellner, simply to live the life of an elite detective. In the beginning our hero is charged with aiding the famous Inspector Legrand to protect the Eye of the Sphinx. The Eye is one of two valuable stones to be showcased in Cairo for a special exhibit. Its counterpart, however, was recently stolen by a thief posing as a deceased burglar called “The Raven”. Players will have to use their observation skills to gather information about people, places and things to protect the jewel and apprehend this impostor before both are gone forever.
The constable is an enthusiastic old man, very much into mystery books and casual interrogation. His character shines through his voice acting, which really fleshes him out to be an observant and courteous Swiss gentleman. Throughout the game Zellner will need to inspect points of interest to collect items and improvise ways to overcome a variety of obstacles. Along his journey to Cairo, he will meet several very important characters that heavily influence the main plot, being directly or indirectly involved with the exhibition of the jewels. The game is fully voiced over, so expect a lot of dialogue to cover the majority of the game’s content.
The story itself has all sorts of highs and lows, with much of the high octane action taking place in cutscenes and leaving the exciting grunt work of gathering information through conversation all to the pleasure of the player. Much of my time was spent pacing the same small play areas, squeezing out every line of dialogue from each of the zone’s inhabitants. It felt a lot like playing a Telltale Games title, but only the walking and talking parts. For some, this may be a great relief from the typical twitch shooters. For others, it will be the greatest test of endurance.
Cat and Mouse
The Raven Remastered starts out fairly well. Heavy importance is placed on these rare stones, the antagonist has a sense of intrigue that makes you root for him or her, and the hero is a rather relatable person. It all begins with enough energy to get players interested in the plot. But all the momentum of the great chase grinds to a halt when the real gameplay arrives. At its core, The Raven Remastered is a linear point-and-click narrative that doesn’t have much else going for it. The only challenge the game poses boils down to two questions: did you gather everything, and did you use them in every possible combination? That’s all there is to do. If you’ve gathered every piece of dialogue and every item, the only way to progress the story is to use the proper items in the correct situations. This method left me frustrated most of the time, as some of the puzzles required less deductive reasoning and more trial and error.
When compared to modern mystery games like L.A. Noire, with its emphasis on player choice and consequence, its hard to imagine why The Raven was remastered at all. As I begrudgingly slugged through the first half of the game I found it increasingly difficult to continue playing. There was just no joy in being led by a string through each scenario. Being a detective means using my head to navigate difficult puzzles, and having the occasional misstep. Instead, The Raven Remastered had me simply follow a recipe for success that I didn’t know, with only one possible solution for said success. I was hoping for the typical Tom and Jerry chase that made me feel like I was close to nabbing my prey. All I got was a bland prop hunt and a growing list of things I’d rather do than play The Raven Remastered. Which brings me back to my initial question: why remaster this?
Caught Red Handed
Perhaps it was revolutionary in its scavenger hunt style of entertainment. The Raven Remastered might have rocked the world with a new way to experience the classic tale of cops and robbers. These days it’s common to see a groundbreaking title get remastered. Many times, it’s for the best reasons. Old gamers rave about their heydays playing true masterpieces, and get pleasantly surprised when a remaster is announced. New gamers get to experience these masterpieces, polished up for the current generation, and gain a certain appreciation for what these games did for the industry.
I didn’t see that in The Raven Remastered. In fact I saw all the problems of past generations. I could overlook the entire graphical experience. Some games stay stuck in time. What I can’t overlook was the glitchy cutscenes, the poor explanation of controls, the lack of a button mapping in the options, nor the incredibly dense amount of loading that happened when you switched areas. It was all too much at once. Some cutscenes had flash frames or continuity issues that would pop in and out of view. At one point during a scene, a character model jumped from a seated position to a standing position twice. It was all too buggy to justify re-releasing a title with very little to bring back to the table.
Full disclosure: I did not complete The Raven Remastered. I understand that there might be a community of gamers who absolutely adore the game, and that is great. I believe there is a video game for just about everyone. Perhaps I am missing out on the bigger picture, or I did not fully grasp the nuances of its hidden mastery, and for that I am sorry. However, this particular game is a hard pill to swallow.
The pacing of the story, the stale supporting characters I had to talk to, and the lack of simple satisfaction really put me off. To say that The Raven Remastered isn’t for me would be a bit of an understatement. It lacks the fundamental element of games that make people want to play them, and that element is “fun”. A game that does not provide an adequate amount of fun is just a chore. That is what this felt like. A great big chore.
If you fancy a good mystery, maybe The Raven Remastered is the right game for you. But if it’s a saucy story you’re looking for, look elsewhere. Although it sounds like a pretty tasty tale to dig into, The Raven Remastered will leave you with more questions than answers.
Let us know how you like The Raven Remastered. Is it worth the work in the end, or were you scratching your head in confusion like us?