by Ben Petchey
reviewed on PC
Being an Agatha Christie game, you’ll play as the egotistical, moustache-twirling, Belgian detective – Hercule Poirot. The ABC murders will see Poirot and his companion, Arthur Hastings on the trail of a serial killer that sends taunting letters before each of his murders. You’ll travel to various different 1930’s locations such as a tobacco shop, jazz restaurant, and an ocean side mansion.
The 1930’s setting is a welcome change, and is not nearly used enough in video games. You will explore these locations in a standard point-and-click fashion, looking for clues as well as talking to witnesses, suspects and police men. You click to move Poirot around and mouse over objects to interact with them – fairly standard point-and-click stuff. The gameplay is split up into three simple parts: Observation sections will see the player moving the mouse around until the camera focuses on a clue. Thinking sections are where you solve a puzzle, and in interaction sections you talk to people and receive “grey cells” that are used later on to piece together clues in order to come ever closer to the solution.
At the end of each case you use these grey cells to piece together what happened, and in what order; creating a little flashback reconstructing showing how the crime played out. And although there is no real way to fail at this as you have unlimited tries, there’s a nice satisfaction you’ll get from working out people’s motives and getting it correct on the first try.
The voice acting is a bit all over the place. I found that Arthur’s voice acting was a couple of decibels higher than everyone else’s – I fear the poor chap may be going a little bit deaf. All of the other voices other than Poirot himself were poor and the delivery was badly acted and emotionless. However, the art style is nice and suits the time period, but some levels feel quite empty.
The puzzles are somewhat uninspired, and you will spend most of the game unlocking some sort of box or cabinet. There are also some maze puzzles every now and then too, which, if you’re like me and suck at maze puzzles, were quite challenging. One of the most frustrating parts of this game is that you have to do everything in a level before you can proceed. In order to continue you must find all clues and interact with everything. This makes for some dull wandering through rooms you have already been in and fighting with the camera to try and find what you have missed.
Repetitive puzzles and unnecessary gameplay mechanics like having to hover over specific objects with your mouse to find clues in just the right way, otherwise it doesn’t work feels like the game tries to replicate a similar mechanic featured in LA Noire, but in this case, it just doesn’t work. The story is good, but after time, these interactive elements became an obstruction to progression, rather than a part of it.
My main gripe with this game is how easy it is; searching an area will show a piece of UI that displays how many of the total clues you have found – meaning there is no real risk of missing something. As well as this, you can’t proceed further into the game until you have found all of the clues, perhaps a new level of difficulty could have been introduced by not showing how many you have found and making cases harder to solve later on without these clues. The game holds your hand too much, and it’s essentially a “Find all of the objects in this level” simulator. The puzzles, while challenging at first become, like previously mentioned, an expendable piece of gameplay that only hurdles progress. Solving a case is impossible to fail too as you have unlimited tries at dragging and dropping the little grey cells into order.
Perfect for mobile
I truly believe that this game would make for a good mobile game - the observation sections and box puzzles that require you to push, pull levers and buttons all share strengths that would work perfectly on a touch screen. But as a PC game ABC Murders unfortunately falls short in terms of meaningful interaction, and instead you’re left with repetitive point-and-click game that has poor voice acting and staggers enjoyment with heaps of filler puzzles.
Great story, art style.
Poor voice acting, little challenge, repetitive puzzles.