Agatha Christie’s ABC murders is a game released by Microids on PS4, Xbox One and PC/MAC. I played the Xbox One version. I will say that a big reason I reviewed this game was because I’m a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s Belgian creation Hercule Poirot, for many years I have loved David Suchet’s portrayal of this beloved character. I also love police/crime procedurals in general, Sherlock Holmes, Criminal Minds, Murder She Wrote and many more, you put a mystery or a seemingly unsolvable crime in front of me and I will watch it for hours, really hours, I have watched entire seasons of the stuff in one sitting (thanks Netflix). I was however a little nervous that because of this love that the game would not live up to my expectations. I was half right.
We begin the game in the famous Whitehaven Mansions where we meet Poirot and Hastings, I was not entirely happy with this introduction, Poirot who is known for being vain and particular about his appearance and that of his apartment appeared to be sitting at a rough wooden table in a room with an equally rough wooden floor. I mean this is Poirot, the man who habitually dusts things off with a handkerchief before sitting down! As the game progressed I did eventually get over this disappointing first impression and the rest of the apartment did look much better but it was not an auspicious beginning.
The game looks a bit like borderlands crossed with both the art nouveau and art deco periods which I felt was slightly strange, the colour palette seemed too strong and harsh. Poirot himself looked the part and the other characters weren’t too bad, Hastings and Japp seemed to be the weakest visually but that could have been because I am used to seeing the characters portrayed by Hugh Fraser and Philip Jackson respectively. The other characters seemed fine, though the possible main antagonist was way too obvious with dark shadows under his eyes, Ben even remarked when he was watching me play the game “oh that’s the bad guy then!”. The sound design was very peculiar, one character, a vegetable seller that Poirot questions sounded like the voice had been recorded in a train station or next to a road. The rest of the voices were better, a bit lacking in enthusiasm perhaps but then most of them have just had a loved one murdered!
The interaction between the characters was fairly believable, again it appeared the Poirot had the most time spent on him and felt mostly right, he was witty, vain and used random french words as you would expect. His french accent however caused me a few problems when he was pronouncing english words, they sounded strange and made Poirot appear uneducated, something that is clearly untrue. Hastings was good and Poirot’s fondness for his friend was certainly apparent but it was all a bit lackluster and Japp was just terrible, agreeing with everything Poirot suggested leaving no opportunity for Poirot to shoot off any witty observations, all the character and charm seemed to have been sucked out of their interactions. This was especially disappointing for me as the Poirot/Japp relationship as slightly antagonistic friends can be very funny and would have made Japp appear less like a simpering idiot..
The actual gameplay was strange, moving Poirot around with one thumbstick and moving the cursor equivalent (a circle) around with the other. The main issue I have is with the solving of the puzzles that make up a significant portion of the game, they are clunky and took me out of the story, did the entire population of england hide their secrets in puzzle boxes and secret compartments with elaborate opening mechanisms? Not only this but none of them could remember themselves how to open them and conveniently left clues for themselves laying around! I will admit solving puzzles like this is not my favourite pastime and this may have biased me against the mechanic, but I still feel that the amount of these puzzles in the game was excessive.
I also felt that the clue mechanic that was supposed to help you was half-assed. I tried it on a couple of occasions and instead of getting Poirot to suggest something helpful in a contextual humourous manner it just solved the first part of any puzzle for you, again taking you out of the experience. If I need a clue I am already frustrated and simply solving a part of it for me is going to annoy me even more. If anything the clue mechanic needed to be more complex, perhaps with several options or levels of “clues”, others might just want the answer but this just aggravated me, If I am playing as the world famous Belgian detective having the answer handed to me does not help the little grey cells!
I enjoyed the actual story and the questioning of the witnesses, one of my favorite parts of the game was using the famous “little grey cells” which in this instance is turned into a fun mini game in which you have to select various clues that you have gathered to come to the correct conclusions. Playing as Poirot himself was also very enjoyable, I loved exploring and finding clues (annoying puzzles notwithstanding) and Poirot’s little comments to himself and the player were well, very Poirot!
I did enjoy this game, I got to be Poirot after all! But the various annoyances and oddities did draw me out of the experience more times than I would have liked.
Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders was reviewed with a download code of the Xbox One edition, provided by Microsoft Xbox