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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.

Again, these puzzles aren’t very difficult. No part of The ABC Murders is that difficult. But there’s a satisfying “A-ha!” feeling as you pop open the final locks on these fiendish bits of furniture.

After gathering crucial evidence, Poirot usually sends for one of the suspects or other important figures in the case. Before speaking with anyone, Poirot takes a moment to observe the persons facial expression, clothes, nervous tics and formulate a slapdash impression of their mental state—a mechanic lifted straight from the Sherlock Holmes games, as far as I can tell.

Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders

The ABC Murders makes interesting use of these moments though, occasionally introducing crucial evidence or opening new lines of questioning. And thus we reach the interrogations, probably the most intriguing part of the game.

It’s important to say: I don’t think you can fail at interrogating someone, or if you do the game has a backup means of getting you the necessary information. But the interrogations can be difficult. Poirot often has two or three different ways of framing the same question, and your goal is to choose the one that’s “Most Poirot-esque.”

Doing so often means little aside from scoring a few points—and really, who cares about points in an adventure game nowadays?—but there are a few times I’m certain I missed clues because I either pushed too much or too little with Poirot’s questions, and other options only open up if Poirot’s discovered the necessary evidence.

Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders

Bringing all these disparate bits together is another mechanic I’m certain was cribbed (or which at the very least feels cribbed) from the Sherlock games. Poirot will exclaim something about “Using our brain cells” and then you’re brought to a fancied-up flowchart where you plug in clues and make deductions about the crime.

This is also, sadly, the one aspect of the game I think could’ve used fleshing out. I’ve been spoiled by Crimes and Punishments, which built in numerous red herring endings and allowed you to draw the wrong conclusions based on the evidence, accusing or even condemning an innocent person.

The ABC Murders is much more traditional—you just plug in options until you find the one the game wants. It’s great when you guess correctly on the first try, because you feel like you deduced the solution on your own. But screw up, and you’re then left plugging in random clues until Poirot goes “That’s right!” No stakes. No consequences. I’d rather like to see my sloppy detective work factored into the story in some way.

 

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