In the Shadow of the Raven
(Ve Stinu Havrana)
Release date: 1999/2002
Developer: Rainbow Rhino
Game language: czech with english subtitles
The game is available through the homepage for $19,95 or 16,20 Euro.
A review by slydos 4th November 2002
In our neighboring country, the Czech Republic, there are a quantity of creative game developers producing entertaining adventure games. Unfortunately the often humorous and imaginative adventures seldom find their way on our shop shelves. At least I could get hold of "In the Shadow of the Raven" by Rainbow Rhino, published by cinemax. It's the re-release of this 3rd-person point&click adventure game, already published in 1999. Beside the original Czech dubbing the game has English subtitles this time.
Severin is a young monk, who was sound sleeping, while some claustral disciples were disporting with adult literature. When he awakes and actually takes the erotic scripture from the boys, he himself is accused by his abbot of the worst sins. The abbot doesn't hesitate long - we are in the dark Middle Ages - trying to behead the "devil's minion". Severin can only save his life by a dauntless jump out of the window (he puts his Rambo scarf on for that). While he is lying unconsciously on the ground, he - like already before - dreams strange dreams, which want to bring him somehow on the road of insight about the meaning of life...
When he awakes, he finds himself in a forest without a notion, what to do next, but absolutely determined to fathom the sense of life and find his way. How he will keep track of the question of all questions with shrewdness, curiosity, mother wit and a thick skin and what will be the result, we will experience in this adventure game.
"In the Shadow of the Raven" comes on 1 CD in a DVD box as well as a beautiful poster, which contains the Czech game instructions on the back. I was sorry to hear, that the actual sold version doesn't contain this poster anymore and that cinemax is not going to reprint it.
Well - few will understand the foreign language. But even if box and manual are written in Czech, you won't have any installation problems. If the Windows autostart function is not switched off, the installation runs automatically. You only need 20 MB on hard disk as minimum. With the cry of the mysterious raven, which haunts our hero again and again during the game, the installation window appears. We can first select whether we want to install only 20 or 100 MB on hard disk. Afterwards we can choose the game language (Czech or English) and the target directory. The game is meant for Windows 95/98 or ME. I couldn't get it running with XP.
During the intro we can watch Severin's dream up to his waking up and the insane jump from the monastery window. A speaker accompanies us - and we can follow the English text in well readable writing:
"At the beginning there was a word, - nobody knew it. But many were looking for it: hermits in their caves, poets in hysterical poems, ordinary people in sex, ascetes in self-denial, kings in streams of blood, prophets in crowds, children in fairy-tales, medicine-men in dreams, all of them were looking for the word.
But try to find it without searching. Flow as a river. Try to slap the water - it will accept your hit. Become a stone on the road, a flower on the meadow or a smell of waking wood.
Feel the joy of neverending fusion and forget yourself. Close your eyes and breathe your soul out into the sunny morning."
You can quit the intro with the ESC-key and so reach the main menu. Apart from the standard menu options "New", "Save", "Load", "Quit", Credits" and "Return", you'll find "Setup" and "Help". In the help menu all functions of the game are explained in English. The menu option "Setup" contains the possibility to change mouse ratio and walking speed and you can also change the text language and adjust music and speech volume. Once made selections are kept even when leaving the game. Now select "New game" and Severin awakes in the forest.
"In the Shadow of the Raven" is completely mouse-controlled, in addition it's possible to use some short keys, e.g. "I" for inventory. Our standard cursor is arrow shaped and changes into an animated hand, dentures or a magnifying glass, depending on how often we click with the right mouse button. If the cursor is an arrow, we can move our hero. Some locations can be scrolled while walking to the side. Perspective- or scene changes are indicated by an animated mushroom (similar to Gilbert Goodmate).
We can recognize hotspots quickly. When driving with the mouse over them a well readable English text next to the object is indicated in each case. We can look at many objects with the magnifying glass, however not all hotspots are really relevant. You get however usually a funny comment about the things you're looking at. There are never too many objects in the inventory. There are objects, which cannot be used at all and such, which one can combine in or outside of the inventory.
The inventory remains invisible until one drives the cursor into the left lower screen corner. A small clickable backpack appears here, opening the inventory which takes nearly the whole screen. Also the other 3 corners of the screen hide helpful functions: in the left upper corner one can reach the main menu, in the upper right you can get help and in the lower right corner you'll find a map. As soon as you have reached one of the places of the map during the game, you can here change from scene to scene fast.
Handling the inventory and character is easy and intuitive. Convenient is also that objects, which are covered by Severin's body, can be clicked and selected - we don't have to let him step aside all the time.
There are altogether 6 save slots for savegames, stored together with a small picture and a short text. More saveslots would be desirable, but you can cope with that.
Mainly there are object/inventory puzzles in the "Shadow of the Raven". It's about how to find objects, how to combine them and when to use which. The inventory puzzles are partly quite tricky, partly quickly evident, and to a large extent logical deducible. I only once got stuck so hard, that I had to sleep over it 2 times to find the solution. And this already shows that the game is developed in a logical way, because trying each object with every other object and hotspot would be an 'eternal' task, since there are so many hotspots without influence on the game.
You must talk to other characters and also place the correct multiple choice questions. However the conversations are not very frequent and also never very long.
One can divide the game roughly into 3 parts. After each part the inventory is cleaned from redundant items. There is no decoding, no machine puzzle, no labyrinth, no switches or the like. Only short before the end you'll need some aiming accuracy and reaction and here is also a place, where Severin can die. I enjoyed the puzzles very much. Particularly because of the fact that the developers obviously tried to lure you on wrong tracks by inserting a quantity of most interesting, however completely unnecessary objects, animals and even characters, which contribute absolutely nothing to the puzzle solution but energize the fantasy again and again - wonderful sneaking!
The 2D-backgrounds and characters are wonderfully handpainted in watercolor style, not super-professional but gladsome colorful and charming. There are 3 main locations and approx. 40 scenes. Here we meet around 20 NPC's and can talk to most of them - e. g. the village guard, a dealer, the landlord, a Fakir, a ghost, the miller or the town-beauty. Besides there are animals, e.g. birds, hare, frogs, fish, fluttering or hopping through the screens, bringing some life into the still pictures. Whether they are only beautiful additions ore involved in puzzles, the gamers must find out.
On a jungle island you can even experience from time to time a pseudo tarzan flying with a liane from left to right or right to left. If you wait some time, the poor chap flies from the inside against the monitor glass and then slips down with flat-pressed face making a squeaking noise! Apart from these animations there are some film sequences at key scenes of the game.
The entire spoken text is interpreted by only one speaker. His voice sounds professional and expressionful, times quiet and reserved times loud when the landlord turfs Severin out of the tavern, peeping and thin as hungry boy or flirting as town-beauty. It is worthwhile to let it turned on even if you don't understand the words, the sound of it may help to understand the ironical undertones. Irony and gags play a central role in this adventure. Be it allusions on Czech or Slowakian developers, on the well-known discussion about colors and design in an adventure game or side blows on Bill Gates and other Gods.
Sometimes Severin is pathethic, sometimes naive, sometimes he is sleeky and pleased about a successful trick - despite his cowl. In one instant he can be helpful and honest, in the other he thinks about jostling the unsympathetic angler into the water. With large eyes you'll follow all this transformations. All is accompanied by different guitar music themes, melancholic, exciting and merry. In addition there are suitable sounds, here a dabbling brook, there a crackling fire.
"In the Shadow of the Raven" is in the best sense an "old-fashioned" adventure game for all "sense-seeking" people, which can laugh about themselves. And not only the painting in the decayed house does show a twinkle of the eye. The game is made for all those, who don't want to be taken firmly by the hand in the way: here is a hotspot - interact with it, but more: here are many possibilities - think! The puzzles are of medium difficulty. Severin's story runs error free. It will amuse and entertain the gamers for about 20+ hours.
My rating: 74%
Rating system Adventure Archiv:
80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable 70% - 79% good game, recommendable 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable) 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only) 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- Windows 95/98/ME
- Pentium 90 Mhz
- 16 MB RAM
- 1 MB graphic card DirectX-compatible
- 6x CDROM-drive
- Min. 20 MB free space on hard disk
- Windows 95
- PII 233 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 4 MB graphic card
- 16bit sound card
- 24x CDROM-drive
Click to magnify
The option menu