The ABC Murderer Forgot To Kill Off Agatha Christie
By Gwendolyn L. Spelvin
It takes a special game developer to create a title that has an awesome, curiosity peaked trailer only to turn back around and make any astute gamer hate the fact that the entire development team’s parents lacked the usage of birth control and therefore are partially responsible for the boondoggle of a disaster entitled Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders their offspring created.
If anything, the latest entry into the Agatha Christie saga has fans rooting for the murderer, if for no other reason, to do them a favor and take out Hercule Poirot once and for all. Sadly, due to the flaws that are ever present every step of the Poirot’s way, it’s less than likely that anyone would make it through to the end to rejoice in such a moot victory.
There is just so much wrong with this game and the overall series, it’s hard to know where to begin. Between AWE Games, Black Lantern Studios, and their publisher DreamCatcher Interactive, there are far too many hands in the pot to produce a spectacular murder mystery. Instead, their lazy programming and lackadaisical approach to a licensed brand almost 100 years old apparently does not inspire any type of optimism in Quality and Assurance to produce something palatable for a controller.
To date, there have been a total of four Agatha Christie series titles released on the PC platform. For mystery lovers, it should be a point and click extravaganza that guarantees hours of self-gratification. Instead, each entry seems to be attempting to play catch-up with the last generation graphics while still implementing a control schematic straight from the era of Journeyman Project Turbo. As time has drifted by, each Agatha Christie entry has become absolutely stunning in graphics, but an absolute pain in the ass in control schematics, character engagement, and overall movement.
At least this go round in the Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders there is an animated, but poorly acted Hercule Poirot that is physically seen; earlier entries lacked a main protagonist and played more like a lost episode of Highlights For Children. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Poirot in the animated flesh would have been absolutely awesome, had he not been programmed to move like a paralysis victim being forced into physical therapy.
Dear developers, no one gives a damn that you finally upgraded to the Unity engine if the gameplay is worse than anything that has been seen since Swordquest on the Atari 2600! Instead of paying that high developer licensing fee, how about hire a dedicated mechanics team that can ensure the character can walk as fast as any of its contemporary peers and not like a tortoise running against a pack of cheetahs.
The tragedy of all of this is the lost potential of the title itself. The trailer showed what it was made of; why the implementation to deliver on such action was erased is beyond any player’s imagination and looks to be a very bad cost cutting measure that tanked the title. Let’s call a spade a spade here. The preceding entries were all ports from consoles and hand held devices. The controls suffered because of that, and of the lazy developers not feeling it too important to ensure PC platform controls worked well, controller usage or not.
However, after slapping the Unity logo willy nilly all over the place, the bar should not drop lower than the golden era of Commodore 64 in all areas. Okay. Agatha Christie series adaptations pride themselves on long drawn out storylines, plot points, and mysteries on top of mysteries to play with your mind. Yet even by those standards Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders is stuck in a slow warp time continuum with nothing to show for pace, storyline, timing, or movement.
After almost 100 years of adaptations, players are not expecting action packed adventures, but are expecting the small nuance of being able to stay awake.
It took a very long time to break from the monotonous boredom of Agatha Christie: Empire Under The Sun, Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None, and the overdone, overworked classic Agatha Christie: Murder On The Orient Express. The nice 2.5D animation entices and teases action and curiosity that promises to deliver based on the opening dialogue and mystery, but epically fails during the first level mission.
Maybe the developers shouldn’t have turned a simplistic point and click entry into a graphic processor power hog that meets similar requirements of low end Triple A titles, perhaps? Or maybe the developers need to just take a deep breath and realize that sometimes less is more. If players wanted to challenge their inner nerd they could go pick up Calculus for dummies versus feign hours of frustration fighting controls trying to open a chest that may or may not help solve one of the murders.
The ABC Murderer is going to be really ticked off. Nobody cares about his intricate alphabetical murder spree and the connection of the victims while taunting Poirot. This puppy is going to be sitting at the bottom of a bargain bin at Walmart waiting for pasture. Well, at least he can concentrate on killing all the hapless successors of this franchise in peace.