Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: AWE Games
Release Date: February 25, 2008
If there is one sentence you're going to read in this review, it should be this — Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None is another of the countless quick, dirty and effortless Wii ports of an older game that isn't worth your time or money. If that didn't stop you, you probably fit into one of three categories:
- You love Agatha Christie products with a passion, in which case nothing I say here will stop you from purchasing this title.
- You love point-and-click adventure games with all your heart, in which case I might at least be able to talk you into playing the better (and cheaper) PC version.
- For whatever reason, you're curious about the game.
For those who don't know anything about it, And Then There Were None is a point-and-click adventure game based on the story of the same name (or alternately "Ten Little Indians," in less politically correct times). For the most part, the narrative sticks fairly close to the novel, only really changing things as you approach the end. There are four different endings, although none of them really stand up to the magnificent one presented in the original story. The title was released originally in 2005 on the PC to mediocre reviews, and a new platform and three years haven't made the game any better. Some of the PC games come packaged with the book so that you can experience the original story for yourself.
As soon as you start playing, you can really tell this is based on an old game, and that the port didn't have much of a budget. If you play on a widescreen TV or in 480p on the Wii, change those back to standard TV settings before you play, as the game has no support for either; it looks quite awful if you run it in HD settings. Right from the get-go, this is the first sign of many that production values on this title were between slim and none. As soon as you start a new game, you're treated to a poorly animated cut scene that does an awful job of introducing the characters, but at least it braces you for what awaits in the rest of the game.
To make the story work, you're introduced as a new 11th character, Patrick Narracott, who is the boatman first and foremost, but he also has his own reasons for being on the island. There are 10 other guests, who are mysteriously murdered one by one as the game progresses. Using the talents of your mind, you're supposed to get off the island or solve the murder, preferably without dying. There is no movement with the analog stick or d-pad here; everything you do is controlled by the A button, using the Wiimote as a pointer or to make some motion.
The only difference from the PC version is in some puzzles being replaced with motion-sensitive actions instead of clicking somewhere. While this sounds like a great idea on paper, the controls are implemented so poorly that I try to get through these segments as quickly as possible so that I can get back to the point-and-press control scheme, which is less broken by comparison. The Wiimote actions don't register correctly, and it really hurts the gameplay experience. You're never even given a hint as to what motion you need to do to solve the puzzle. What should be a tremendously interesting puzzle of cracking open a safe becomes a test of patience as you try to not put the Wiimote through the TV. It's unresponsive half the time and lacks the precision needed for some of the puzzles. Opening doors is my favorite task because it's always a good time when I swirl my wrist eight times before the game recognizes the motion.
Beyond the control problems, you'll find yourself exploring the mansion and island looking to solve puzzles for which you often don't have much direction. Occasionally, you'll be given a hint in the form of a card from the "villain," U.N. Owen (Unknown), but you'll be spending most of your time between story segments just wandering around and looking for puzzles to solve that may or may not have anything to do with the murders. You have virtually no control over anything that happens until the final two chapters of the game, where your actions determine which of the four different endings you get.
At least moving around the maps is an easy task: Just point where you want to go, and press the A button. Just like its PC counterpart, And Then There Were None requires you to find hot spots with which your character can interact. Perhaps the best thing about the game is the item system. Item organization is a bit funky, but you have a very interesting way of solving some puzzles by combining items. One such puzzle involves combining an encoded message, the cipher key, and the cipher itself to yield the solution for a puzzle that you'll encounter later in the game. Sometimes, the game will get buggy and not let you finish the puzzle. I had multiple instances where I would solve a puzzle, Narracott would say something to that effect, and my reward wouldn't show up. Only upon rebooting the system and solving the puzzle again would I actually get the reward. Making that little problem even more annoying is the save system itself. I've never played a game that won't let me overwrite my old save file until now. It actually tells me that I cannot overwrite saves, so if I want to keep my game on the first save slot, I have to delete it first.
And Then There Were None uses a decade-old graphics technique, placing 3-D characters into pre-rendered environments. Back when it was first introduced, this was done because of technical limitations, since hardware didn't yet have the power to show much detail in 3-D. Here we are in 2008, and the game is using an outdated method, and not even very well. The pre-rendered backgrounds range dramatically from bland and forgettable to creepy and good enough to really set the mood. (Shots of the nighttime storm come to mind.)
The maps are generally pretty easy to follow around, although there are a few instances of weird level design when moving between shots. Because the game uses pre-rendered backgrounds, that means you get no camera control whatsoever, and it will remain in place until you move to the next screen. This has always been the bane of this graphics technique, and this title falls victim to it. There are some areas to which you'll need to move, but because of the camera angles, you will only find it simply by stumbling upon it instead of actively finding it.
Because the game doesn't use much processing power on the environments, you would think the 3-D characters would look absolutely stunning. Take the GameCube remake of Resident Evil as an example; those characters still hold up pretty well by today's standards, and that game was released in 2002. However, And Then There Were None's 3-D areas didn't hold up very well in 2005, as they looked (and still look) like something out of 2002. The three years since the PC release have made this stand out even more.
Further compounding the situation are animations that look horrendous and only serve as a reminder that the game put almost no effort into the 3-D elements. Character faces never move, other than perhaps a slight head bob or something that might resemble an open mouth when they talk. No attempt at lip syncing the speech was made. For a game that's supposed to revolve around the characters and their interactions, it's difficult to look past this critical omission.
To a certain degree, redemption can be found in And Then There Were None's audio portion. The music that plays while you explore the environment is hauntingly chilling and perfectly sets the mood for the game. Even the voice acting can sometimes be brilliant.(One particular speech near the end of the games first chapter really stands out) Unfortunately, decent voice acting can't make up for atrocious writing, and as a result, you'll occasionally run into bits of audio where the voice actor sounds confused simply because the line doesn't really make a lot of sense. It's disappointing to see decent voice work wasted on such terrible writing.
While Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None for the Wii tells a very good story and features some decent audio work, the game stands out as a poorly made port of a mediocre three-year-old game. Flawed level design, hasty production values, glitchy gameplay, and an overall lack of effort drag down this game beyond the point where it's worth your time. If you want to know the story, just read the book or play the PC version. Not even the solid 15 to 20 hours of adventure time make it worth a rental.
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