Very nearly the perfect crime, a must play for murder mystery fans.
Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders has finally made its way on to the Nintendo Switch, initially released 4 years ago on PC, Xbox and PS4 developed by Artefacts and published by Microids it’s been lovingly ported by Tower Five.
As you may know I’m not a huge fan of Point & Click games but, Murder & Mystery, Those I love. Surprisingly I’ve never read any of the Poirot novels or short stories, nor have I seen the classic television series. This meant I was going into the ABC Murders completely fresh (aside from the odd bit of knowledge) and unbiased.
Now, this review will be light on plot details as well, why play a mystery when I’ve ruined most of it?
The game begins and you take the role of Hercule Poirot (The character model is clearly based on David Suchet portrayal of the detective) as you are called into to investigate a murder. The game wastes no time in teaching you how to play, it basically comes down to the usual point and click but with some fun added features that really let you feel like a detective.
When meeting characters in the game you’ll usually have two options, to observe them, or to talk to them. Observations offer you some insight into the characters state and personality which you can used to inform your line of questioning. When observing people while you aren’t strictly timed failure to uncover the clues in a timely manner will result in the observed making comment of being stated at, while not a huge addition it did add a sense of time to game which most point and click games seem to lack.
It’s not just people you’ll observer, one must of course survey the crime scene. Examining crime scenes is simple enough, simply move the cursor around the screen until it changes colour and the screen begins to focus on a particular aspect, the game will even tell you how many things you should inspect in each scene, the only bug bare is that for some reason after observing all the required items there’s a slight delay between scanning the final one and it actually completing the scene. This wasn’t obvious at first and resulted in my having to repeat the first few scenes over and over until I figured this wait out.
Conversations in the game are fantastic fun as you’re given the choice of which tact to take during each conversation. Now, this may result in you acting in a manner most unsuited to Monsieur Poirot Hercule, something the game will point out to you with it’s ‘Trophies’ which you can view in the main menu.
What also surprised me about the conversations was the voice acting it’s rather good which is a credit to the developers, a game like this needn’t have voice acting at all and if so they could of gotten away with shoddy voice actors but this isn’t the case. Occasionally the dialogue doesn’t match the subtitles, while this isn’t a huge issue it is forever a pet peeve of mine
As well as observation and conversation you have another tool with which you can persue the truth, you also have to “reconstruct” events around the murder which was a feature I didn’t expect, it’s basically a memory game in which you must select the correct prompts based on what your investigation us uncovered before you can move on to the next chapter of the story.
This was a welcome addition as I was able to get to know the character of Poirot and indeed his assistant Hastings very well by the end of game. Having no real knowledge of the character the game revealed to me a charmingly civil and respectful man, even when faced with the most uncomfortable situations and murderous culprits.
Another aspect of the game that helps one get to know it’s protagonist is Ego points. Ego points are earned by “acting like Poirot” having no familiarity with the character this feature was somewhat lost on me to being with, but it didn’t take long to spot the correlation between the action and the amount of ego points awarded.
It didn’t take long for me to become invested in the story, I do revel in a good murder mystery and this was shaping up to be great and was the sole reason I was able to get past the biggest issue with the game. The games controls are slow and sluggish for the most part but given the pace of the game this isn’t really an issue for the majority of play…however, when it comes to interacting with puzzles it’s a frustrating mess, be that turning a crank on a music box or the total joy con throwing rage produced by the burnt letter puzzle.
Speaking of interacting with puzzles, the games biggest mystery to me was why the devil everyone in 1935 England owns so much intricate furniture? As for the main mystery, the identity of the ABC Murderer, well, unfortunately that was rather obvious to me and I had worked it out at the very first time of meeting them, although as I’ve said I do love a good murder mystery and seeing as Agatha Christie defined the genre, it naturally makes sense that her stories have the tropes that are now well, tropes of the genre.
Having said that, my hunch was just that until I actually finished the game and there are enough red herrings and plot twists to keep you entertained right until the very end.
Most of the time I was playing ABC in TV mode and it was fine, but with the switch being a handled I decided I should play it in such a manner, and this is where I found some issues, the game runs fine but seeing as you’re required to “spot” clues I became stuck at one point because the switch display was too small for me to pick out a stain on the floor of a room.
I’ve never been a big believer that a games length really effects it’s value but as many people do ABC Murders clocks in at around 8 hours. Now, that’s just for one play through, unlocking all the games trophies will require multiple plays, although I don’t see why you’d want to once you’ve uncovered the truth.
If you’re a fan of a good murder mystery and well-crafted story in general I couldn’t recommend Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders enough, in fact, such a good job was done with this title that I have since bought the first Hercule Poirot book.