Adapting any kind of famous mystery into a video game is trying at the best of times. The issue always lies in how to keep the story faithful to the original material, while respecting the player’s freedom and intelligence. To help combat this issue, Artefacts Studios took things in a very unusual direction, by adapting Poirot to a video game format.
Following one of the more famous novels, the story sees the Belgian detective combatting a bizarre case of murders directed at him. Challenging letters repeatedly arrive through the post, mocking his abilities and leaving ABC railway guides with each victim.
The story is a classic, and the core essentials of the plot are translated with surprising accuracy. Owing much to the ITV serials, the visual cues, mannerisms and style are reflected brilliantly in the game’s bright cel-shaded aesthetic. This distinct look allows the adaptation to stand out from the often gritty or darker adaptations of late, capturing the lightness of the work. Better yet, the developers opted to reward fans by building a points system based upon how well you reflect Poirot’s behaviour through observations, dialogue choices or even the path you walk. This is tied into the clue system, so the more aptly you reflect his personality, the more chances you’re given in overcoming the various puzzles. Unfortunately, the problem lies with puzzles themselves.
What makes Poirot such a difficult character to adapt is that he leaves busywork to the police, which seems to have been ignored here. Right from the start you’re tasked with doing most of the physical work in analysing murder scenes, but rather than piecing them together a-la Blues and Bullets, these are simple one-shot mini-games. As a result, all too often it can seem like you’re doing all the heavy lifting without any deductive work. This is hardly helped by an extremely uneven difficulty curve; with the game jumping from easy to insanely hard tasks time after time, and the fact the “hint” system completes entire puzzles at a time in your place.
Further problems arise even from the basic presentation, namely the lack of any actual introductions. The developers start without bothering to establish characters or even who is who, which can leave newcomers at a severe disadvantage when it comes to mimicking Poirot himself. However, even older fans will have some trouble with this one, or be infuriated with some of the exceptionally clumsy new exchanges and dialogue, which is meant to point the player in the right direction.
While it certainly has enough here to be casually enjoyed, The ABC Murders is functional but little else. Fans of Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games may wish to give it a look, but otherwise give this one a pass.
AGATHA CHRISTIE: THE ABC MURDERS / DEVELOPER: MICROIDS, ARTEFACTS STUDIOS / PUBLISHER: GRAVITY EUROPE SAS / PLATFORM: PC, OS X, LINUX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW