Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders – Review
Follow Genre: Mystery Game
Developer: Artefacts Studio
Publisher: Microids
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders – Review

Site Score
7.5
Good: Good variety of puzzles
Bad: Story is very linear with little freedom for exploration
User Score
7.5
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Agatha Christie’s oeuvre has been adapted in all forms of media, proving her stories are timeless. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that her murder mysteries are excellent source material for video game adaptations. 2016 saw the release of Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders, from Artefacts Studio. This game now arrives on Switch, courtesy of Microids. It’s the second time a game inspired by the Poirot novel hits a Nintendo console, after the unrelated DS title of the same name in 2009. Is The ABC Murders a mystery worth solving?

Story

Based on the 1936 mystery novel of the same name, Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders puts players in the shoes of famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. Poirot’s intellect is challenged by the enigmatic ABC, who tells him of the murder he is about to commit through a letter. When said murder happens and Poirot investigates the scene of the crime, it quickly becomes clear that he is dealing with a serial killer. It’s now up to Poirot and his assistant Hastings to track down ABC and make sure he is put behind bars. 

Graphics

Despite being fully rendered in 3D, The ABC Murders’ aesthetics are very reminiscent of classic Franco-Belgian comic books in the vein of Tintin, which is something you’d expect to be a 2D thing. Characters are defined by relatively heavy outlines adding to the comic book feel of the game. This stylized approach works very well for the setting of a mystery adventure set in 1930s London. Going for this simplified graphical style also means the game isn’t too taxing on the Switch, although we did encounter some stuttering while autosaving. 

Since its original release on PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2016, the game has received an extensive graphics overhaul. This is especially noticeable in the lighting effects, which have been reworked completely. The updated graphics are present in the Switch version, of course, but if you happen to own the original release on one of the aforementioned platforms, you’ll be pleased to learn that a free update is also available so that your version matches up to the improved rerelease. 

Sound

One of The ABC Murder’s strong suits is the voice acting. From Poirot’s accent to the snooty air of chief inspector Japp, the characters are really brought to life by strong performances from the voice cast. Of course, if you’re a fan of the legendary tv series where David Suchet played the titular role of Poirot, your mileage may vary as the performance isn’t an exact match but overall, the cast does an admirable job. The same can be said for the music, which is very fitting for the game and feels acceptable for the time period depicted. 

Gameplay

Games like this one are hard to categorize as they tend to combine elements from various genres. The ABC Murders is a mystery game at its core, but it has its fair share of puzzles of course, alongside point and click sections. The point and click parts of the game involve looking for clues at crime scenes, which you’ll then need to connect together in order to hypothesize what happened. The clues you find aren’t always the ones you’d expect either. Since this is set in the 30s, you’ll have none of the usual tools that would be available in a more modern setting, so instead of scanning for fingerprints or analyzing blood, you’ll have to use logic to deduce the killer’s modus operandi. This way of reasoning is very true to the way Poirot is depicted in Agatha Christie’s novels, where the detective uses his “little grey cells”.

The player is encouraged to emulate Poirot’s behavior, with ego points being rewarded whenever the player acts the way Poirot himself would. Poirot’s little grey cells are represented in a mechanic where players link evidence together and are asked logical questions about the crime. These are never too difficult and also serve as a way to recap events. In addition to making deductions based on evidence, Poirot is also able to analyze the people he encounters on his search for ABC. By looking for small cues in their body language, the way they talk, or their expression, you’ll be able to analyze the best way to approach them. This then enables you to obtain the information you want by changing the manner in which you question them.

Meanwhile, puzzles encountered take on a more classic approach. The earliest example is an interactable puzzle box, fully rendered as a 3D object, that you’ll need to figure out how to open. There is a huge variety in the puzzles presented here. Apart from the puzzle box, other examples include letters that need to be compared and secret compartments in rooms that require discovery. The puzzles are plentiful but spread out over the course of the game, ensuring things never get boring or monotonous. 

Once all the necessary evidence is gathered, you’ll enter reconstruction mode. Here Poirot will recap what happened, and you as the player are tasked with choosing the correct flow of events. Correctly reconstruct everything, and you’ll be able to progress the story. Overall, The ABC Murders presents you with solid gameplay and plenty of clever brain teasers when it comes to its puzzles, but the game does suffer from being a very linear affair with little margin for error. While it’s perhaps commendable that developer Artefacts Studio went for a very straightforward take on the cases, we would’ve liked the inclusion of some pieces of “useless” evidence or other red herrings to ramp up the game’s difficulty somewhat. 

Conclusion

Fans of mystery games will have a field day with Agatha Christie – The ABC Murders. The game captures the feel of watching an episode of Poirot on a rainy Sunday afternoon, except here you are required to actively participate. The overall flow of the story is perhaps too linear and apart from the puzzles themselves, the game never really gets difficult but if you enjoy the genre, you’ll have a lot of fun with The ABC Murders. 

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Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Agatha Christie - The ABC Murders - Review, 7.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats
Sebastiaan Raats


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