The spooky manor of Ravenhearst is home to creaky doors, flickering light bulbs and that most chilling and scary bird, Naomi Campbell… sorry, we meant the raven. You know, the one that does a lot of quothing, according to Edgar Allan Poe’s verses. As a detective, you’ve got to brave the musty halls of the mansion to piece together a mystery using your powers of observation. And mouse clicking.
In essence, Ravenhearst is ‘Where’s Wally’ crossed with a puzzle game. Each room of the mansion is packed with junk and the sort of clutter that would give an estate agent a coronary. Just you try selling a place where the kitchen contains a rusty old trike, an anvil, a pair of maracas, a drill, some snow shoes and a dirty great hairy spider. Never mind the house price crash.
Solving a room is a matter of finding a number of these very random objects in all the clutter. There’s an inventory list of targets and when a correct item is spotted and clicked upon it disappears. It might sound dead easy, but the objects are pretty well hidden and often camouflaged into the background. If you’re searching for a piece of rope, the assumption is that it’ll be brown, but it will actually turn out to be blue and white striped. Similarly, objects will be strangely sized or cropped, so you might be looking for a shovel and only the top of the handle will be visible.
Clicking on a wrong item elicits a warning buzz from the interface, and too many of these accrues a time penalty (to stop the player from chain clicking all over the screen). Yes, the other twist to Ravenhearst is that it’s played against the clock. However, the time limit can be turned off if you find it too stressful. We certainly didn’t, as it adds an enjoyable edge of urgency to the treasure – well, junk – hunt.
Some doors are locked and a puzzle must be solved before you can gain entry to the chamber behind. These are, in the main, reasonably simple logic puzzles whereby a certain end has to be achieved. They generally involve slightly surreal experiments with Bunsen burners, balloons that have to be inflated and fruit machines. It’s all a bit odd, but at the same time rather fun and not overly frustrating in terms of difficulty.
Periodically, after completing a set number of rooms, the player is invited to reveal more of the game’s story by solving a jigsaw puzzle. Again, this isn’t too taxing, as the puzzles are reasonably compact (around 30 pieces in size).
Ravenhearst is a fairly relaxing tonic of a puzzle game, although the time limit adds a little pressure. Replaying the game is also possible, as although the plot and overall design don’t change, the items that need to be found are randomly picked, so one session will never be the same as another.