Reviewing games isn’t always the glamorous job it’s made out to be! I mean, it’s not exactly made out to be that glamorous in the first place – you tend to make people angry, drink gallons of Mountain Dew and eat a lot of Doritos. My point is more that you don’t always get to play just the latest and greatest AAA blockbuster games. Sometimes you’ve got to pay your dues.
And that’s how I ended up checking out Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders, a casual adventure game based on a 1930s mystery novel. That’s not the story here, though; the story is that I didn’t actually hate my time with this one.
ABC Murders is based on the classic mystery novel, of course, so you’ll be controlling the inimitable and handsomely mustached Hercule Poirot. You’ll solve mysteries as only this iconic Belgian detective can, which mostly means by solving puzzles, mousing over crime scenes looking for clues and using Poirot’s brain to make inferences. There might also be some complaining about stepping in puddles and getting your shoes dirty, but that’s all in a day’s work for Poirot.
This is essentially a point-and-click adventure game of the sort that supposedly died years ago. Y’know, the kind that people gave Tim Schafer millions of dollars to resurrect. Oddly, ABC Murders didn’t have a multi-million dollar crowdfunding campaign and it’s still here, so the genre might still have some life left in it yet. Most of the gameplay revolves around picking up items and discovering clues, typically by solving simple point-and-click brainteasers like code-locked doors and puzzle boxes.
When you’ve gotten enough clues, you’ll piece relevant tidbits together on a chart in order to help Poirot come up with new ideas. You can’t miss much, as typically the plot only advances when you’ve done everything necessary in an area. At no point does The ABC Murders become especially difficult, so I could see it being a conquerable game even for adventure novices.
At times you’ll need to chat up witnesses and suspects in order to discover valuable information Acting like Poirot would in these situations will earn you Ego points, which is a cute bonus that encourages a bit of role-playing. If you’re unfamiliar with the character I could see this being an issue, but Poirot’s personality is pretty distinctive and chances are you’ll rapidly get the hang of being a private eye.
The ABC Murders uses a cel-shaded style and muted color scheme to accentuate the 1930s setting. It’s a nice touch, especially since this time period isn’t well-represented in gaming. Animations aren’t especially impressive, particularly with regards to dialogue, but with the fact that this isn’t Crysis in mind they’re serviceable enough. Gameplay and control are standard for the genre as well, including hints if you need them; my one complaint is the minuscule speed with which Poirot saunters about the environment.
You can double-click to have him speed it up a bit, but he’s never going to be the next Usain Bolt. It feels like a solid chunk of the game’s run time is spend waiting for Poirot to slowly make his way over to the next location you’re investigating.
This doesn’t kill the game, though. I can’t offer a sweeping recommendation for Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders, but I’ll freely admit that it does what it sets out to do and does it well. That’s my criterion for the coveted Popzara Yay, and that’s why you’re seeing it at the top of this review. Fans of the author will love spending some time in Poirot’s impeccably maintained shoes, while adventure game fans who can overlook the easy gameplay might also have a good time.