"Peril at End House is another of those “search and find” experiences so reminiscent of the puzzles in old issues of Highlights for Children. You're presented with a list of objects, then must locate them by carefully poring over a cluttered photograph. Within the context of this particular game, that simple approach actually works fairly well. It's easy to imagine a stereotypical sleuth doing the same thing with a magnifying glass in hand."
Most people who have read it will surely agree that Peril at End House is a timeless classic. Almost 100 years after the novel's initial publication in 1932, the characters remain compelling. The mystery at the center of everything hasn't grown any less devious, either. You'll find all of the elements of the exemplary whodunit: a beautiful damsel in distress, a corpse, a devious mastermind and a detective just clever enough to possibly catch a murderer. It's the sort of story that earned Agatha Christie her name.
Now someone has decided to turn the classic book into a video game. Like its literary counterpart, Peril at End House on the PC starts by depicting its two principle characters enjoying a meal outside of the hotel where they are staying. The men--a retired Belgian police officer name Hercule Poirot and a discharged military gentleman named Arthur Hastings--are contemplating what mystery next deserves the former's attention. They haven't ruminated for long before a particularly striking possibility falls in their laps in the form of a beautiful young woman named Magdala Buckley (her friends call her Nick). Aside from the fact that she recently inherited a local mansion known as End House and has built up a posse of friends who visit her there, she's remarkably down-to-Earth. Her chief concern when she bumps into Hastings and Poirot is a recent confrontation with an angry bee. There's one small problem, though: the insect that she recalls pestering her was actually a bullet. There's a hole in the side of her hat about where her head should have been.
Clearly, the lovely Miss Buckley is in a lot of trouble.
Peril at End House depicts those opening moments with a comic book's flair. Text bubbles and character portraits fill several colorful panels and you can shuffle between them to view the whole story... as far as it goes. After only a few short pages, you'll be asked to actually start playing. This is an interactive game, after all. And just how do you get involved? By finding hidden objects, of course!
That's right: Peril at End House is another of those “search and find” experiences so reminiscent of the puzzles in old issues of Highlights for Children. You're presented with a list of objects, then must locate them by carefully poring over a cluttered photograph. Within the context of this particular game, that simple approach actually works fairly well. It's easy to imagine a stereotypical sleuth doing the same thing with a magnifying glass in hand. Often the objects you're asked to find make no sense, like when you have to discover four butterflies or line up fish on hooks, but at least the notion of closely examining a variety of environments rings true.
As you comb the various settings depicted, you'll often find one clue that will help you to build your case against the individual responsible for the recent 'accidents' that could have ended so badly for Miss Buckley. These hints aren't as valuable as you might hope, though, since they generally follow gaps that the novel covers but that the game does not. Even when you' reveal something genuinely useful like postcards that highlight how very Australian a couple of characters try to be, it's difficult to really put that within any sort of context. Right through the final summation, assembling the evidence can prove daunting. Without first reading the novel, you'll probably be in the dark most of the time.
Peril at End House is more than just a collection of story sequences and hidden objects, though. As you progress through the adventure, you'll also access bonus rounds. These feature other gameplay styles. In one situation, you might be asked to piece scraps of paper together to form a news article that someone tore to pieces. Another challenge involves fitting words onto a random note, while yet another requires you to rebuild a radio. With the exception of that last diversion--which is vague and frustrating beyond anything that words can adequately convey--these little sidelines are quite welcome. They also can be skipped if you'd rather just keep the story going.
Clearly, the main attractions are the numerous portraits. They're rendered with definite attention to detail. Sometimes there's animation to liven things up a bit, such as the fireworks that fill the night sky as you attend a dinner party. Even interior shots have nice depth, like shots of a long hallway or views of city streets outside. Such portions of a given picture may be easy to overlook and can cost you precious seconds as the timer ticks down toward zero. Early investigations end pretty swiftly without much cause for concern, but the final cases can prove particularly tense as you have to find upwards of fifty objects hidden throughout five destinations. That's a lot of detecting, especially since you'll never have more than five instant reveals available to you. Spending too long searching for any one item can quickly turn into a disaster, but wasting your resources too soon could leave you stuck if an even tougher challenge comes along during the end game.
Such challenges give you reasons to keep playing, of course. Peril at End House could easily have grown boring if all of the answers were simply given to you. The fact that the artists and developers force you to work--or perhaps squint--for your solutions is definitely appreciated. Though some of the mini-games and storyboards in between scavenger hunts can be decidedly underwhelming, nothing really leaves a person with the sense that this was a half-hearted effort. If you love both Agatha Christie novels and “search and find” games, then this one is worth a quick investigation. Just make sure that you read the book first.
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 25, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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