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Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (PC) artwork

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (PC) review


"There's a lot the game does right to endure itself to pre-existing fans of the genre, but it doesn't contain nearly enough correctly or differently to endear it to a new audience or indeed help it stand out amongst the crowd."



I think I'll be lazy and let a slightly-edited Wikipedia article do my job for me on this one:

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is a video game created by The Adventure Company. The game is based on the book of the same name by Agatha Christie. It was released on November 21, 2006.

The game is in the first third-person perspective of a train company employee named Antoinette Marceau. The game consists of several puzzles that can be solved using the mouse. These puzzles can consist of finding an item or investigating suspects.

6/10. Off you go.

...No? Fine!

Like most working females in the 1930's, Antoinette doesn't have it easy. Her numerous requests for promotion within the trainway's governing body are continually denied and she seems doomed to a life as a common clerk until her employer gives her a kill-or-cure chance for advancement. She is to board the famous luxury train, the Orient Express, and see personally that brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot's journey from Istanbul runs without a hitch.

Readers of the book will raise an eyebrow here; Ms Marceau's inclusion is game exclusive and she played no part whatsoever in the famous novel. The role she plays here overwrites that of Monsieur Bouc, the railway owner, onboard the train, but, more importantly, she becomes your on-screen avatar. Readers will know more, still; she'll find Poirot's room onboard taken by an unlikely influx of travellers that have flooded an off-season train, an avalanche of snow that buries the tracks when the train is halfway into Yugoslavia and a grim murder in which the victim is littered with a fury of stab wounds as he sleeps.

That promotion is starting to look very unlikely and unemployment beckons.

It's during this avalance that portly Poirot is thrown from his bunk, twisting his ankle badly, forcing him to remain bedridden for the voyage. With the world's greatest detective crippled, the legwork of gathering clues and interviewing suspects falls into the lap of Antoinette, anxious to keep her job and impress such an important figure. In doing this, Murder on the Orient Express brings the intellectual stimuli that an ongoing crime investigation would supply, but along with it comes the trudging repetitiveness of recycled tasks and enough dialogue to crush the entire supporting cast under. Much of the sleuthing revolves around questioning the varied suspects aboard the train who include a loudmouthed middle-aged American busybody, a Russian Princess and her maiden, a retired General stationed in India and an Italian car salesman. Luckly for the player, the voice acting supplied is of a high quality and even secures the services of one David Suchet who plays Poirot on the excellent BBC television series.

But where the ears are saved, the feet are not. Poor Antoinette will find herself treading along the same handful of train carriages through the majority of the game, the only reprieve being the tutorial-like epilogue in an Istanbul marketplace, a silent train station the Express stops at before the avalanche and the snowy landscape surrounding the train after it is forced to halt. While she's made to explore old territory over and over again, she also needs to continually interrogate and cross examine the suspects on board. Where were they during the night of the murder? What did they observe during those hours? Do they want to change their story in light of new evidence? When she's not questioning them or searching through belongings, the game makes use of the genre-standard inventory puzzles.

Which in itself is hit or miss. Puzzles range from tempting a hungry goat away from a parasol with a handful of grain to reconstructing a ham radio with a punchbowl full of orange juice and a bent butter-knife with a nail hammered through the handle. Whether they take you seconds or hours of lamenting over, each completed tasks brings with it a sense of completion as well as a sigh of frustration. Rather than use the tried and true method employed through the genre of combining items by clicking them together in your inventory, Murder on the Orient Express employs a different sub-screen for the chore that has you place items in a line then click a cog item to construct or deconstruct them. This means that you will find yourself constantly having to flick between screens to do a task that in much older games is achievable with the simplest click and drag on your mouse.

There's also an added subplot that was tagged onto the game to give readers of the book a new tangle to work torwards. This presents itself subtly throughout the game, but the conclusion is decidedly underwhelming and feels cheap and tacked on just to give knowledgeable players a little shock ending. Grand idea, sloppy execution.

There's a lot the game does right to endure itself to pre-existing fans of the genre, but it doesn't contain nearly enough that's done correctly or differently to endear it to a new audience or indeed help it stand out amongst the crowd. Murder on the Orient Express' biggest strength, the awesome plot, is told at the expense of a landfill of words and recycled actions, but even more damagingly, at the expense of your ultimate gratification and sense of closure. When all the clues are assembled, the witnesses queried and the alibis examined, it is not Antoinette that solves the mystery, rather it is Poirot that concludes the case, leaving you to simply stand witness and observe as all your hard work amounts to a tubby Belgian hogging all the credit. The book's famous ending is made all the weaker by these factors: a superfluous addition to the plot that leaves things endgame sickly-sweet and a disturbing lack of conclusion as you discover you've not been solving a murderat all; you've been collecting a laundry list of clues so as someone else can solve it for you.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is a video game created by The Adventure Company. The game is based on the book of the same name by Agatha Christie. It was released on November 21, 2006.

The game is in the first third-person perspective of a train company employee named Antoinette Marceau. The game consists of several puzzles that can be solved using the mouse. These puzzles can consist of finding an item or investigating suspects and little else.

6/10. Off you go.

Rating: 6/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (February 15, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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