The ABC Murders Review – The Subtext

abc murders review

This is The Subtext and I’m Dan. This Christmas the BBC’s airing a new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, starring John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot so I thought it’d be fun to do an ABC Murders review of the 2016 game. Now you’ve probably heard of Poirot from the various screen adaptations of Christie’s books but it’s not often we get to see the little Belgian detective in polygonal form; and as usual, there’re some positives, a few negatives and a couple of caveats.

Hercule Poirot Uses Point and Click to Investigate

point and click video game style

The first caveat being that this is essentially a point-and-click adventure game, so if you don’t like point-and-click adventures this probably won’t do much to change your mind. But if you’re already a fan or you’ve been looking to dip in, this might be a good place to start.

The ABC Murders Review

Now let’s get down to brass tacks – the game takes place across the UK and at each location it’s up to you to search for clues, solve puzzles and make deductions to advance. It comes in at around six- or seven-hours’ length, weaving just enough intrigue into events to keep you glued.

In keeping with the books, Poirot gathers concerned parties for the denouement, and with dramatic flair he reveals all, bringing down the curtain on the story and the game.

Video Game Depiction of Hercule Poirot – ABC Murders Review

hercule poirot

The accuracy of Poirot’s characterisation is, of course, at the heart of the experience. Unlike the upcoming BBC adaptation, where American John Malkovich plays a British Poirot, the game remains more faithful to the books, casting Julien Dutel, a French actor, as the famous detective.

Although Poirot, a proud Belgian, would detest the idea of being played by a Frenchman, the performance sounds quite convincing and is certainly a step-up from the rest of the voicework in the game.

Malkovich’s BBC version also ditches Poirot’s iconic moustache for a rather-less-impressive grey goatee but in the game the well-groomed ‘tache is present and correct, as are many of Poirot’s other mannerisms.

According to the developers, they used David Suchet’s iconic portrayal as a basis for their version, replicating his movements in game – from his rather distinctive walk to the way he checks his appearance in the mirror with compulsive regularity.

Each time you act the way Poirot would, you earn ego points, and these can be collected to unlock a number of little extras. It’s a nice idea and a lot of fun. Similar to Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games, the biggest reason to pick this one up is that you get to play as Poirot, and that counts for a lot.

The Presentation of the Mystery

abc murders gameplay screenshot

On the presentation front, the art style masks a lot of the visual shortcomings. The cartoony graphics are nicely detailed, and the colours are bold – the visuals create a pleasing sense of time and place. But look a little closer and you’ll see the jagged edges, the simple animations and the poor lip-synching – it’s fairly obvious the game was made on a budget.

So how does this version of Poirot stack up? Well, I’ve got some reservations about the upcoming BBC adaptation, and many of the actors playing Poirot over the years have been woefully miscast; on the other hand, David Suchet’s Poirot is wonderfully realised.

The game treads the line nicely between Suchet’s Poirot and Poirot as written in the books. It really is an enjoyable adventure, with puzzles that won’t drive you up the wall and a decent soundtrack to boot. It’d be great to get a sequel at some point down the line.

But that about wraps things up. Don’t forget to let me know if you enjoyed this shorter article in the comments below and check out my other reviews. As always, this has been The Subtext, I’ve been Dan and until next time!


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