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Plus Valve’s incredibly addictive Dota 2, and work out whodunnit in The Raven

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The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief

This first of three planned chapters flirts with all the stock locales of the Agatha Christie whodunnit, shifted in time to the early 1960s.

There’s a trip on the Orient Express, a claustrophobic cruise aboard an ocean liner - complete with ubiquitous murder victim and no shortage of shady characters - and even the dangled carrot of your final destination: a romanticised Egypt.

The Raven

Central to the narrative is wannabe detective Constable Zellner. He’s chasing a would-be jewel thief who might just be the notorious Raven - last seen in a morgue. Zellner is perhaps not the most obvious choice of lead, being both the wrong side of 50 and overweight, but, as with Hercule Poirot, upon whom he’s surely based, he is sound of logic and sharp of mind.

Given the subject matter, developer King Art has sensibly opted for an old-fashioned point-and-click interface. Expect to be trying items in unlikely situations, before engaging in long-winded conversations with the ensemble cast – though here we’re at least spared repeated exchanges with characters in order to mine gossip.

In truth, however, the game is more interactive yarn than Day of the Tentacle-style grizzled adventure. My only real stumbles in unwinding its narrative were down to my glancing past a crucial interactive item rather than being stumped by a truly head-scratching puzzle.

In an attempt to get past the troublesome nature of discovering usable items - no one really just wants to click frequently and randomly across the screen in the hope of revealing something - hitting the space bar will highlight all the interactive items within your vicinity. It’s optional, and it reduces your score, but it feels rather like cheating. It’s not, then, the best solution to this technical limitation of point-and-click adventures.

The Raven

Still, there’s something comforting about conducting Constable Zellner about his business, not least because of the period setting, his kineticism – he’s seemingly in perpetual motion, whether on boat or train – and his chipper musical accompaniment, a series of easy orchestral numbers.

If you’re the sort of person that looks forward to a Sunday evening in with Miss Marple on the telly and a glass of red in hand, then consider yourself well served. If you’re not, well, maybe it’s time to put down Battlefield 3 and get involved.

Game Score 3.5

Dota 2

Without doubt, one of the more notable releases of recent weeks was that of Dota 2 as Valve's two-year beta test finally gave way to a finalised (and free) release.

Those unfamiliar with the whys and wherefores of its origins should check its fascinating Wiki page. Suffice it to say that Dota originated as a Warcraft III mod, is an addictive and complex mixture of RPG and RTS, and quickly grew into something of a phenomenon. Dota 2 is Valve’s attempt at modernising and honing the concept.

Dota 2

If you know of the game already then you hardly need me, a relative newcomer, to tell you about it. I’m writing this more for those among us who have no inkling of its existence, and too them I say: log in to Steam and grab it.

What you’ll receive is a game that hands you the deceptively simple task of destroying your opponent’s base – or “Ancient”, in the game’s lingo – while protecting your own. Never is it so straightforward, of course, as you and your teammates struggle against a team of like-minded but opposed souls in what is (hopefully) something of a titanic tussle.

Adding to the aforementioned complexity and depth are two key facts. First, you can pick from over 100 unique heroes – a mixture of magical, ranged and melee fighters, each with signature moves. And, second, you can buy all kinds of enhancing items in any given game, which can then be further combined to unleash further devastating effects.

Dota 2

What I would say to any newcomers is that the learning curve is steep - if not downright vertical - and won’t be for everybody. And the game, much like any other online endeavour, is wholly dependent on its players, some of who seem to exist solely to hinder.

Still, if you have a PC and even a passing interest in the RPG or RTS genres then you really should try it for yourself. Just don't blame me when it’s 5am the day after you started playing and you still can’t help but have one more go. ®

Game Score 4.0

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