Agatha Christie's classic novel has made the leap to modern consoles and now gamers have the chance to enter Poirot's fascinating world of murder and intrigue. Do you have what it takes to solve the mystery of the ABC murders?
A woman named Alice Ascher is found dead in Andover. Poirot and his chum Hastings are on the case to find out whodunit. Before they do, Poirot receives a letter from the supposed killer stating that there will be another murder in Bexhill. Poirot attempts to prevent the murder from happening but fails and thus the ABC killings begin. Soon after, a third letter is received informing him of a suspicious death in Churston. Before a fourth victim can be found, Poirot and Hastings must do what they can to prevent it by interviewing everyone connected to the previous killings, collecting evidence, creating logical conclusions and solving some puzzles while they're at it.
If you've ever played one of the recent Sherlock Holmes games, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this murder mystery caper as it manages to hit all of the right notes. You control Poirot; a chubby, prim and proper French private detective who's seen in many Agatha Christie novels and even has his own television series. In this game, he emits familiar personality traits such as knowing how to push people's buttons and forever pursuing tidiness and order. You can even approach all of the mirrors in the game and press a button to correct Poirot's mustache. You'll visit the crime scenes for each murder as well as other relevant locations such as a cafe by the beach where a victim worked and the home of the Clarke family. Your goal is to gather clues that can be chained together to come to conclusions about each case and eventually form a profile of the serial murderer. To do so, you observe corpses, talk to victims' family members and acquaintances, note various objects in your vicinity and sometimes even solve quite complex puzzles. The puzzles seem a little out of place, but they are a good level of challenge and fun to complete; even though it's quite a coincidence that every victim was a fan of storing their belongings in obscure mechanisms. The story follows the book very closely except there did appear to be a scene missing near the end. The whole journey was a decent length and it didn't feel like the extra scene was necessary to tie up the plot.
I was surprised by the unique art style, especially when I expected something akin to the Sherlock Holmes games where they vouched for realism above all. It reminded me of Ni no Kuni and other Studio Ghibli artwork in a way. When the camera pulled back to show the Clarke mansion grounds or focused on the cliffs at the third victim's crime scene, I quite enjoyed the level of detail that went in to each location. On top of this, the voice acting is convincing and fit each character's personality very well.
Fans of the Poirot character himself will be especially pleased when playing this game. At many points during the mystery, you have the choice to react to something or do an action in the way that only Hercule Poirot would do. For example, you can choose to get mad at someone who's causing a mess at the risk of losing their trust in you. When you perform an action like this, you're awarded ego points. However, there didn't seem to be any reason to collect these points other than attempting to get the maximum of 600. Achievements / trophies also play an optional role in the game and you're prompted to look through them often. Earning all of the awards will mean that you managed to smooth-talk each interviewee and get every drop of information out of them and that you observed every nook and cranny within each environment.
There aren't many negative points to say about Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders. The story is very linear, but then I'm not sure how much I would have enjoyed it if it wasn't. I haven't yet seen a detective game that allows you to optionally waste time investigating a lead that goes to a dead end (which also isn't possible to do in this game). I must say the only thing that really got to me was the control scheme. I was halfway through the second murder investigation before I figured out how to look closer at an object and fiddle with a puzzle. You control Poirot with the left stick, but when you actually want to interact with something, you can't just walk up to it. Instead, you have to use the right stick to point the cursor at the thing that you want to take action on. When it comes to the screens where I was piecing together clues, I never understood which direction I was supposed to move the stick in order to navigate between the available clues and place them where I wanted them to be. There is a general lack of intuitiveness, though the game is slow-paced enough that with some patience, you'll either eventually learn or just fumble your way through it.
My time with Hercule Poirot and his pal Hastings was memorable. Once I picked it up, I couldn't stop playing until I discovered the true murderer. If you're a fan of murder mysteries and are wondering what it's like to be the detective then consider this a must-buy.
- + Interesting art style and great voice acting that suits each character
- + Stays true to the original story
- + Just the right level of challenge
- - Awkward controls that you might never become fully accustomed to
- - Very linear story progression
- - One scene from the book is missing