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The ABC Murders review: Agatha Christie's murderous short story gets a gorgeous video game adaptation

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 5, 2016
Elementary, my dear Hastings.

Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders

In Agatha Christie’s autobiography she acknowledged that her famed Inspector Hercule Poirot—at least in his early adventures—cribbed heavily from sleuthing predecessor Sherlock Holmes. Thus, it is perhaps appropriate that Poirot’s 21st century incarnation cribs just as heavily from Holmes again.

The result? The ABC Murders, a delightful little mystery game that nevertheless seems to owe a great deal to Frogware’s work with Holmes—particularly The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and the excellent Crimes and Punishments.

The game is afoot

As in the short story, proceedings kick off with Poirot receiving a letter at his home:

“Dear Hercule Poirot, I’ve heard that you are very good at solving problems which are too subtle for our poor English police officers and their slow minds. So, clever clogs, we are going to put you to the test...In any case, do not miss what will happen in Andover on the 21st of this month. Kind regards, A.B.C.”

Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders

“What will happen” turns out to be a murder, and sure enough Poirot is called to Andover in the summer of 1935 to investigate the murder of one Alice Ascher, a shopkeep. The most conspicuous part of the scene? An ABC Railway guide (a.k.a. a book that tells when trains leave from each station) cracked open to the Andover section. And then another letter arrives…

For the most part, The ABC Murders is your standard point-and-click adventure, albeit done in gorgeous pseudo-hand drawn style. I continue to be amazed by the variety of aesthetics people have wrung from Unity and The ABC Murders is one of the best, barring a few issues with pathing and lip sync.

Anyway, it’s a mystery game. You spend most of your time as Poirot wandering around the gorgeous environments looking for clues—hidden in cabinets, tucked into desk drawers, hidden behind paintings. It’s not overly difficult, given that anything worth examining turns your cursor into a bright red pair of spectacles.

Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders

Occasionally an object will require some further work on your part. These sections actually take a page from The Room and its sequels, featuring furniture bedecked with all manner of overcomplicated locks, gears, and engineering marvels. Need to get into that cabinet? Sure, just a matter of unscrewing two of the decorative fixtures, popping open a side panel, taking the hex key out, winding two gears on the top, and...well, I wouldn’t want to give the whole puzzle away. Suffice it to say, it’s a bit of work.

 

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