Just One of Those Nights
You’re driving your car along the roads. It’s late, nearly pitch black outside, raining hard, and you have no idea where you are. Suddenly, there’s a bolt of lightning! Startled, you swerve, go off the road…and crash into a cemetery.
After being stirred awake by a sinister-looking red-eyed raven, you get out of your vehicle to see the gates slam shut without warning, trapping you inside. With no choice, you explore the grounds, eventually encountering a number of eerie ghosts that spring up from their graves.
They have an offer to make: help them achieve their eternal rest, and they will help you in turn. With nowhere else to turn, and without them even waiting for you to say “No,” they whisk yourself away to the past in their very memories.
Horror Theme For Those Who Like To Be Spooked
If you’ve played your fair share of horror-themed adventure HOGs, this should look pretty standard. But taken on its own merits, the story of Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven is rather interesting. It opens up with a bang, with a very well-made CG introduction depicting the player character’s accident, and then slowly pulls you inside the larger plot, not exactly revealing where it will go until the first ghost suddenly appears!
After that, the plot generally follows an episodic nature as you go from ghostly memory to the next. The smaller stories they tell vary, with one involving you trying to rescue a little girl from a burning building, while another has you find the identity of a victim’s murderer. They’re not bad individually, and they certainly keep the story from dragging on, but they’re not quite as good as other games that would go more in depth into those kinds of themes.
All Kinds of Creepy
Graphically, Curse of the Raven is very impressive. It’s often dark, dreary and filled with mist. There are a lot of cool atmospheric animations occurring in both the background and foreground, with creepy eyes leering at you from the shadows and leaves blowing across the screen. Sometimes, the scenery even changes with some fluidly animated CG. Even the HOG hints look creepy, generating an unkindness of ravens that circle around the items.
Unlike many horror games, however, Curse of the Raven, offers a little bit more variety and color. The cemetery looks like what you would expect, but the chapters taking place in the ghostly memories are often set in the daytime. These offer a nice change of pace, but they also seem a little too mundane as well.
Unfortunately, when people enter the scene, things take a dip in quality. Though the backgrounds and animals are depicted as 3D models, people are two-dimensional still drawings with a minimum amount of animation. It’s a little off-putting, primitive-looking, and sinks straight into the uncanny valley, making them look creepy in all the wrong ways.
Runs Like the Dead
Unfortunately, it’s Curse of the Raven’s graphic that are also its greatest undoing. The game is terribly optimized and laggy start to finish, even on high end systems. Clicking from one screen to the next means you’re going to get stuck with a pause in the action that can last anywhere between three to ten seconds. One has to wonder how such a glaring oversight got past testing, but playing Curse of the Raven will feel a lot more slow and tedious than it has any right to be.
Your Usual Adventure
If you’re expecting anything revolutionary out of Curse of the Raven, prepare to be disappointed. Like its story, its gameplay is pretty standard. You explore the grounds, collect items to be used to open assorted locks in possibly creative ways, play minigames, solve puzzles and look for hidden objects. However, this game doesn’t show any particular weakness in any of these aspects, and does them all surprisingly well.
More Effort in Finding Stuff
Take the hidden object sequences. Most games require you to find about 12-16 items. In Curse of the Raven, you’ll often be required to locate more than 20. Each sequence also has a fair share of interactivity, with you having to open cupboard doors or overturn rocks to find some things.
Much of the clutter also consists of things that make sense for the setting; for example, a home where a father and daughter live will contain a kitchen with foodstuffs, cleaning supplies and toys. If they do have one problem, it’s that most items are ridiculously small. Players with sharp eyes will have some trouble spotting the items, while those with poor vision could very well be stuck relying on the hint button to get through these sections.
When it comes to design, puzzles are well thought-out and follow real world logic. Seldom will things feel overly contrived. For example, when you need to clear out gasses from a room, you do so by breaking a nearby window using the first blunt object you come across.
Another case involves putting out a fire by soaking a rug up with spilled water and applying it over the flames. Even in the rare cases where you will have to use a random assortment of objects like MacGyver, the game will have the decency to let you know exactly what kind of objects you’ll need to proceed. And you’ll seldom be lost, thanks to a well-designed, if fairly minimal, journal that records all relevant information.
No adventure is complete without a lot of puzzle minigames to play. This one certainly delivers on that front. And though it has gotten flak for it derivative nature, it does a decent job avoiding the usual type of games in this genre, like the old tile-swaps and gearbox puzzles. We got some more fun mathematical games, some “path” connecting puzzles, and even one interesting variation of Chinese checkers.
Instructions are included, and though they usually get the job done, they’re a little too minimal and in occasional cases aren’t quite enough. But overall, the minigames are quite solid and varied. They can be skipped if so desired, but only after some time has passed, depending on the difficulty level chosen.
Conclusion - Good Hidden Object Adventure Marred By a Few Flaws
The state of Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven is really kind of sad. It might not win any prizes in the originality department, but it is a genuinely well-designed adventure game in its own right. Nearly every aspect of its gameplay is done well, and it looks good too.
Unfortunately, it really fails on the technical front in a big way, suffering so much unneeded lag. One can only hope that the team behind it will learn from their mistakes and make something really good in its stead. It’s worth a look if you can tolerate the slowdown. If you can’t, well, there are plenty of other polished games out there that offer a similar experience without the frustration.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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