Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases – Review
Follow Genre: Point-and-click adventure game
Developer: Blazing Griffin
Publisher: Microïds
Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: Well-written story arc
Bad: Difficulty level is too low for experienced players
User Score
8.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Once again, publisher Microïds is serving up a portion of Hercule Poirot in video game form. We took a look at The ABC Murders last year, which was developed by Artefacts Studio and Tower Five, but Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is brought to us by a different developer, Blazing Griffin. We’re not quite sure if The First Cases is supposed to be set in the same universe as The ABC Murders, as both games still share the same publisher. Nevertheless, we never turn down a good detective game. Join us as we try to solve the mystery of whether or not The First Cases is a title worth adding to your library.

Story

As indicated by the title, The First Cases covers Poirot’s earliest ventures into detective work. We’re going to try and keep this review as spoiler-free as possible of course, because discovering story elements while playing is part of the experience. After a brilliant opening sequence, which sets up the character of Poirot through newspaper headlines, we meet the young detective. The prologue chapter does a great job of introducing not just the game’s mechanics but also sets up the plot of the main storyline, which takes place several years down the line as Poirot meets up with some of the characters involved in the tutorial storyline.

The arc revolves around the Van den Bosches, an aristocratic family from Brussels who find themselves in dire financial straits after the patriarch dies. Young policeman Hercule Poirot is tasked with reporting on a burglary in the Van den Bosch house, but when he discovers the truth, he earns the ire of madame Van den Bosch -and the respect of young Angeline Van Den Bosch. Years later, Angeline calls upon Poirot’s aid when the Van Den Bosches receive blackmail letters, right when she is about to marry monsieur Demir. It’s now up to our young detective to find out who is blackmailing them and why. Along the way, there are other mysteries to be solved as well.

Graphics

Point-and-click mystery games typically aren’t visually impressive, so we were happily surprised to see just how good The First Cases looks. The 3D rendered environments are filled with lush details and gorgeous lighting effects. While we were a bit disappointed that everything is presented from a fixed perspective, and that you’re not able to rotate the camera, it’s still clear that a lot more effort was put into the presentation than necessary. The same can be said for the sleek mind map interface, which gives the game a streamlined and modern feel. The 3D models of the characters do a good job of conveying the hand-drawn designs seen during dialogues as well, and the character designs themselves look great. The only gripe we had is that -apart from Poirot’s outfit change- there are no visual changes to the characters between the prologue and the first chapter, even though there is a gap of several years between the two cases.

Sound

From the opening scene on, The First Cases impresses with its soundtrack, which perfectly fits the atmosphere of the game. The music is of the same quality as what you’d expect from a detective series. The ambient sound effects are suitable but unremarkable, with the exception of those associated with the mind maps, as they felt too modern and out of place. The voice acting is a bit of a mixed bag, mostly because of the accents some of the cast use. Granted, Poirot’s way of speaking has been embedded in the public consciousness thanks to David Suchet’s legendary portrayal in the BBC series, but the several cast members here are hamming it up. It’s especially jarring to hear certain characters, like housekeeper Elizabeth, talk without an accent at all when others are bringing their best ‘Allo ‘Allo impression to the table. The First Cases takes place early on in Poirot’s career and is therefore set in Belgium rather than the UK. Naturally, the game features an English-speaking voice cast in order to appeal to international audiences, so we understand the decision to stray away from Dutch or French. We also wouldn’t be able to say what the worst decision would be: having the entire cast perform with a stereotypical accent or everyone speaking flawless English. Whichever one is the answer, it’s clearly not the strange hybrid present here.

Gameplay

In essence, The First Cases is a point-and-click adventure game. Players take control of Poirot as they collect clues and testimonies, and then draw conclusions based on the information gathered. Just like in The ABC Murders, Poirot’s signature ‘little grey cells’ make an appearance as a gameplay mechanic, albeit in a slightly different form. The First Cases makes use of mind maps which are visual representations of the clues and the way they relate to one another. It’s an elegant system that is surprisingly easy to use, although it’s not very challenging: the game will indicate how many connections a player is able to make at any given time and if you make a few wrong connections, then the clues you need to connect will start glowing. The First Cases isn’t a very difficult game as a result. Seasoned players of mystery games will scoff at the game’s lack of real challenge, and perhaps an option to toggle off the glowing clues would have helped, if only to give players a sense of accomplishment. The same applies to the dialogues where you have to question a witness multiple times in order to uncover a clue -there is no penalty for failing here other than that you have to restart that specific conversation.

It’s a bit of a double-edged sword. The First Cases’ level of ease makes it perfect for casual play, and the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you incentivized to keep playing. Additionally, the gameplay is kept simple enough to feel balanced and streamlined. There are no overly complicated mechanics at play here: This is a point-and-click mystery game in its purest form. The downside of this is that there are no puzzles to really sink your teeth into, unlike in The ABC Murders, where puzzles were a highlight, even though some of those were maddeningly difficult. It’s a case where either approach fails to strike the right balance. Perhaps the best example, for comparison’s sake, of synergy between mystery-solving through clues and dialogue and having to deal with actual puzzles is the Ace Attorney series, and we’re hoping that if Microïds ever revisits Poirot, they’ll take a few cues from Capcom.

Unfortunately, The First Cases also fails to avoid another pitfall of the genre, namely that you’ll need to follow the game’s logic and order of things. There were several moments in the game where we already knew what the outcome of a situation would be, but we were forced to connect the dots exactly the way the developers wanted to even if it meant having to take unnecessary steps to get there. This was especially frustrating when there was seemingly no connection between the task we had to do before we could progress and the part of the story we were at. One of the more egregious examples of this happens early on in the game, when Poirot needs to find out which bedroom is his. We were able to deduce this fairly quickly but the game prevented us from entering the room -without an explanation- as long as we didn’t ask a certain NPC about the financial situation of his fiancé.

Admittedly, we’re being harsh here, because what’s present is still very fun to play through. Peeling back the clues one layer at a time reveals how fantastic the writing is and how great the mysteries are structured. When you’re in the right flow and are following the developers’ logic, you’ll get a feeling for how streamlined the gameplay experience is and the inherent hand holding becomes way less noticeable. The individual chapters are fairly short as well, so you can play this game at a leisurely pace, one chapter at a time. As long as you keep your expectations in check, you could do far worse than The First Cases.

Conclusion

The First Cases is a fun little Poirot game that ultimately has one major flaw: it’s too easy for anyone that has some experience with point-and-click mystery games. It’s a shame though, as the plot itself is wonderfully written and the presentation, from the music to the graphics, is gorgeous. If you’re looking to dip your toes into the genre, then The First Cases comes highly recommended, but anyone looking for a mystery they can really sink their teeth into is better off looking for clues elsewhere.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot: The First Cases - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
SebastiaanRaats


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