Excellent first chapter in promising series
POINT-and-click crime games have never been on par with such timeless classics such as Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express.
With its brilliant first chapter, however, King Art's The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief feels worthy of comparison to both those great literary masterpieces and the best the point-and-click adventure genre has to offer.
Chapter 1: The Eye of the Sphinx has all the elements of a great mystery story: a dastardly crime by an imposing villain, an unlikely protagonist, a series of exotic settings, and a cast of eccentric suspects. The characters are its main strength: From the get-go, Swiss Constable Anton Zellner's hands are full convincing a world-weary French investigator he's needed to track down the infamous jewel thief known as The Raven; after that, his social skills are taxed by a precocious kid with a penchant for toy pistols, a baroness who uses haughtiness to hide a drinking problem, a penniless musician with a taste for the finer things, and a self-absorbed doctor with mysterious motives for moving his practice.
Even with the odd lip-syncing oddities - there's a boy that talks like a toothless pensioner - most of the character work is universally great, with the voice acting truly taking centre stage.
This chapter's second strength is its plot. Good mysteries keep you guessing, and Eye of the Sphinx's sinuous construction expertly manipulates expectation as suspicion falls first on one character and then another. The setting - a train passing through the Swiss Alps - is a melting pot of human emotions and the tension builds brilliantly as Zellner thinks he has someone's number, only for them to do something that drastically alters the plot.
Pursuit of The Raven involves the usual gathering of clues, interviewing of suspects, and picking of locks. As key things are discovered, you earn "adventure points" which are used for two things: to reveal interactive areas during the chapter, and to determine your detective rating at the end of it. While the latter might not matter that much, the former is highly useful since it minimizes the pixel-hunting.
The Raven's main asset is, of course, in its puzzles. The best ones involved discoveries that made me feel as sly as a real detective, forced me to take chances to obtain evidence, and challenged me to help Zellner escape imminent death.
The Eye of the Sphinx is a terrific first chapter in what looks to be a very promising puzzle/crime series.