If you asked me to name the world’s most famous fictional detective, without hesitation I’d say Sherlock Holmes. But there’s another famous chap with a penchant for solving crimes and that’s Agatha Christie’s creation, Hercule Poirot. Not one to stay in the shadow of Mr Holmes for too long, he’s got himself a video game for the new generation of consoles based on the classic ‘The A.B.C. Murders’ novel. Will this tale from the early 1900s stand the test of time and lend itself well to modern day gaming?
Well, in all honesty, the age-old story is one of the parts that comes across as being pretty decent in this adaptation. Hercule Poirot receives a mysterious letter from someone signing off as ‘A.B.C’ which offers the great detective vital information about the whereabouts of an upcoming murder, as well as the date of its occurrence. Despite this knowledge, nothing can be done to prevent the crime being committed and it seems as though ‘A.B.C.’ is eager to do the same to more potential victims. It’s down to Poirot, his assistant Arthur Hastings and Inspector Japp to uncover the identity of soon-to-be serial killer before whoever it is gets through the entire alphabet!
Although there’s a killer on the loose, there’s a general melancholy about the gameplay due to its point and click nature. Taking your time to survey the crime scenes and surrounding areas for any and all points of interest is certainly encouraged throughout. Dependent on what you interact with, by moving Poirot and the cursor around, it could engage you into one of three different things to do involving observation, thinking and interrogation.
The observation tasks are really simple; Poirot has to study a person’s demeanour in order to figure out their current mood or create a profile of their lifestyle. You’ll have to move the cursor to their dark eyes or clenched fists etc. It’s rather straightforward until the game decides you haven’t perfectly lined up the cursor, until it eventually realises after some waggling that you were correct. Alternatively it’ll get you to visually assess items, possibly containing a piece of useful information, but again it’s super simple, to the point where you may just end up needing to rotate the item a little.
Interrogating suspects offers up multiple lines of questioning and statements in order to put them under scrutiny. Some of the options are purposefully in there to throw people off and with my limited knowledge of Hercule Poirot, I feel this embodies the characteristics he’s become known for. Using a couple of brash, direct questions, consisting of genuine queries to the occasional white lie and random outlandish statements, to provoke them to tell the truth or reveal something of importance to the case is what Poirot does best.
When it comes down to the more intellectual sections of ‘The ABC Murders’, the puzzles are very much hit and miss. Most of the time, these involve unlocking an item of interest by solving a puzzle which then allows you to breach it and discover something useful. It may be a simple padlock with the code needed being either on an item you’ve picked up previously or hidden somewhere in plain sight. Other times there’s a certain patterned layout that needs to be formed correctly by rotating parts or flipping them over. I found the interaction here to have poor responsiveness, leading to additional unwanted movements and occasionally it just won’t interact at all which made me thought I was mistaken. It was only when I would use a clue – which has a cool-down timer but can be used without limit – that I’d realise it was completely the game’s fault.
All the best detectives can make deductions on the spot based on the evidence presented in front of them and of course this does at times require you to put those ‘little grey cells’ to good use, finding the answers to theoretical questions using the information gathered. There are no penalties for choosing info which is incorrect and so if there are more than one logical choices you could just try them all until it concludes that you’ve chosen correctly. I remember doing similar in the Crimes & Punishments Sherlock Holmes game and this portrayal of piecing evidence together is lacklustre in comparison.
A clever idea they’ve tried to implement is a reconstruction of the crimes committed. You’ll need to direct the scene to recreate how the evidence suggests that the deadly action happened. Again though, it’s just extremely basic with literally a handful of button presses leading to a poorly animated scene
Visually the developers, Artefacts Studio, have gone for the cel-shaded style for this take on early 20th century England. Although I’ve certainly seen worse graphics in my time, ’The ABC Murders’ lacks a dash of texture refinement, especially in the environments Poirot finds himself in. Something which stands out on the newest generation of consoles as being a little out of date. And whilst we’re on the topic of out of date, some of the voice artists accents trying to sound from the era this is set in are frankly just plain terrible.
It doesn’t take a detective to figure out, after reading all the evidence I’ve provided, that Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders isn’t very good. From the lacklustre crime solving to the puzzles that could be great, until becoming frustrating due to the game mechanics and controls issues, it has committed a crime unto itself. At least Agatha Christie’s legacy in storytelling remains intact with the narrative shining through at every chance it gets. There are twists and turns galore which keep you guessing at the identity of A.B.C. and why they chose to alert Poirot to their every move.
If you are into the works of Agatha Christie then this may someday be worth picking up. Only when a hefty discount has been issued should you consider experiencing this adaptation of a classic novel, otherwise I’d highly suggest looking elsewhere for a spot of crime solving… maybe Baker Street.