The Eye of the Sphinx is the first chapter of The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, a mystery adventure told in three parts. But wait…don’t quit reading just because you saw the words “mystery” and “adventure.” Although The Raven is very much a point and click adventure game, you’ll realize early on in The Eye of Sphinx that this series is less about paying homage to its predecessors and more about pushing the genre in directions it should have gone 15 years ago.
What is it?
The Raven – The Eye of the Sphinx begins with a jewel heist, in which we learn we’re not dealing with your typical thief. Indeed, the fellow who steals the jewel is believed to be The Raven, a master thief who was fatally shot by an inspector named Nicolas Legrand. Legrand is now back on the case, but you don’t play him; you play Constable Anton Jakob Zellner, an aging policeman who treats both the Raven and the process required to capture him with a tremendous degree of respect.
The Eye of the Sphinx takes place mostly on The Orient Express, which is transporting the second Eye of the Sphinx—the one not stolen by the Raven—across the Alps. Believing the jewel will serve as a bait to trap the Raven, Constable Zellner works to solve the crime before it happens, even as he’s asked to not interfere.
How does it work?
As with all point and click adventure games, The Raven is all about discovery and inventory. You’re presented with logic puzzles that must be solved in order to advance the story, and you’ll use your inventory to do so. This, however, is what distinguishes The Raven from practically every other adventure game I’ve ever played. In The Eye of the Sphinx, you interact with real objects in ways that make sense. You can’t just dump anything you want in your inventory, because you’ve got nothing but your pockets to carry them in. If you find an object too large to fit, you have to carry it by hand.
In addition, you’ll use the items you have in ways that make sense. There’s minimal trial and error required to solve the puzzles because if two items can’t be used together in the real world, then they can’t be used together in the game. This alleviates a lot of the frustration typical of adventure games, and helps to keep it moving along at a brisk pace.
Pacing is important, too, because the developers took a very cinematic approach to its presentation. Whether watching one of the numerous cutscenes or moving the constable about the train, you’ll get numerous camera angles that make the game feel like a movie.
The plot is mostly laid out in cinematic sequences, and there are plenty of dialogue options to work your way through, so don’t expect a lot of action. Mystery fans are sure to love this, but those who prefer to just be solving puzzles may get antsy.
Is it contagious?
Very much so. American audiences may at first be turned off by the game, as the intrigue builds slowly and the characters all look and behave like real people. Our protagonist is a polite, aging Swiss gentleman with a heart condition, after all, not a hot, spunky twenty-something with a gun and an attitude. But when the story starts to pull you in, you won’t want to leave it or its gloriously laid out setting aboard The Orient Express.
After finishing The Eye of Sphinx, you’ll be anticipating the next chapter of The Raven as much as you would the next chapter of a great book.
Good thing it’s already available.