Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders
There’s a reason why the work of Agatha Christie (and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, for that matter) has endured for over a century… everyone loves a good whodunit. The point-and-click adventure genre has also endured since the dawn of video games for a similar reason… everyone loves to solve a good whodunit. When designed with an artistic flair and respect for the source material, a good point-and-click adventure can deliver a sense of intellectual accomplishment that few other genres can equal. Developer Artefacts Studio has endeavored to place gamers in the role of the great Belgian sleuth, Hercule Poirot, as he embarks on one of his most challenging cases ever, The ABC Murders.
Those of you familiar with the source material will already know how the story turns out, but will still be able to take great delight in guiding the master investigator through the trials that await. Speaking purely from a standpoint of the storyline, characters and content, the title delivers. There should be little doubt that it would do so, however, since Christie’s original work is a shining example of mystery done well. The technical execution of this title is another matter altogether.
The adventure genre evolves every few years. One developer will manage to design an intriguing mechanic that every other developer will then use in future titles. In this case, it was the subject analysis features of the last few Sherlock Holmes titles, which allows players to analyze people or environments in order to gather clues that may arm the player in a future investigation path. Questioning a suspect in which you initially observe is sweating, for example, may lead you down a different conversation path than one where the person is totally cool and collected. Players manage to guide Poirot’s slow moving waddle through many crime scenes while analyzing and deconstructing every detail they come across. This usually results in possessing information or items that are key in interrogating suspects at the scene and eventually, in typical Agatha Christie style, unmasking the true murderer in the room of suspects.
Each crime scene contains many points of interest and at least one complicated puzzle. The problem with the game’s execution, however, is that some things don’t always work the way they should and, in a couple of places, are intentionally misleading. This can lead to sense of either shoddy game design or a bug-fixing laziness, especially if you’re one of those adventure game enthusiasts who refuse to use the hint feature. More than once was a solution to a puzzle entered that did nothing, only to watch it work beautifully after attempting it a second time. One point to be made about the gameplay is that the game does hold the player’s hand and generally “points” them in the direction needed to progress. There’s no sense of danger for dear Monsieur Poirot, nor can a player really “fail” in any way. Although it is possible to make mistakes (and generally make a fool of our hero), the game will quickly correct any faux pas your version of the Belgian sleuth makes. In an interesting twist, the game actually awards ego points the more you act like Poirot “actually” would. Let your inner OCD fly… check your mustache, fix the angle of the furniture and, whenever possible, argue with suspects about their lack of taste or etiquette.
Graphically, the game’s cartoony, “Archer” like animation serves its purpose. The characters are intriguing and they definitely succeed in driving players to continue. Some of the voice acting is a bit weak, as if the actor submitted a rehearsal read as their final pass. There can be moments where dialogue is delivered in a hysterical, over-the-top manner when all is calm and then a deadpan, emotionless delivery when a situation is heating up. Sound effects and music can be considered both “cute” and appropriate for the timeline. There is even a feature that allows a player to go back to the menu and watch the crime being committed based on timeline pieces you’ve sleuthed out and put together.
Anyone who considers themselves a fan of Christie’s work and Poirot will immediately take delight in the fact that in a gaming landscape full of Call Of Duty and Destiny style titles a game like this can still get made. It’s a title for fans of both mystery and point-and-clicks, and, despite its technical shortcomings, is worth the price of admission. Guiding Poirot through one of his most famous cases will be one of the most satisfying afternoons of gaming any player can ask for… as long as you don’t refer to Poirot as French.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
This review is based on a digital copy of Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders for the PlayStation 4 provided by Microids.