Agatha Christie is a strange choice of source material for a computer game. The quintessentially English author, born in 1890, wrote over 60 detective novels. She created classic characters such as Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppance, and most famously Hercule Poirot, who featured in 30 novels and more than 50 short stories. You couldn’t really say her stories are action-packed. Her detectives usually solve murders by chatting with people over a cup of tea, and making observations such as the type of perfume a person wears, or how well tended their gardens are. I had no idea how this was going to translate to a video game, but it’s a joy to report that Artefacts Studio have managed it.
‘Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders’ plays like a cross between an old-school point and click adventure and the conversation sections from a game by Telltale games. Gameplay consists of walking around trying to find clues and then having conversations with witnesses and suspects. Despite not having a single car-chase, gunfight, or anything that requires twitch-reactions (or any sort of reactions), I found the game to be quite gripping.
The game starts off with Poirot receiving a letter saying that a murder is going to take place in Andover (a town in Hampshire, England) and is even given the date of the murder. Sure enough, a murder takes place in Andover on the day in question and the murderer has left an ABC railway guide on the body. Playing as the famous Belgian detective, you arrive on the scene and start asking questions and looking for clues.
If you have played anything recent by Telltale games, you’ll be familiar with the conversation trees in the game. You are given at least two options each time, and the choices you make will affect the questions you will be able to ask. The conversations flow quite nicely with particularly good voice acting across the board. Next, you’ll gain access to the crime scene and you will start looking for clues. If anything, these sections are far too easy. You only need to get your cursor in the vague vicinity of a clue for an icon to pop up and get you to look a little closer.
Alongside the discovery of clues, you’ll sometimes have to solve puzzles to find something inside another object. In the first crime scene, you’ll come across two of these. The first is a cash register that will require you to look around the object to find the combination to open the till. Future puzzles will require logic, problem solving, and some trial and error. They offer a nice change of gameplay and the level of difficulty feels well judged.
The graphics for the game are fairly solid if never spectacular. The cel-shaded art style works well, and the characters have a nice variety to them. Poirot himself is just what you would imagine a cartoon-like version of the character would look like. The only real letdown is the lip-syncing, which often bears very little correlation to what is actually being said. I don’t know whether this is because it’s lip-synced in a different language (I played it in English), or if it’s just done poorly, but it is a minor distraction.
I was pleasantly surprised by Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders. It’s an old-school style game aimed at a mature audience, but it does it well. The story keeps you guessing, even when you think you’re sure you know who is responsible for the murders. If you like old adventure games, and fancy a modern take on point-and-click adventures, you’ll find a lot to like in this game. If you’re a fan of reaction-heavy shooters this probably isn’t for you, but if you like to think your way through a game, you will feel right at home here.