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Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Adventure
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Release Date: Oct. 27, 2005

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As WP's managing editor, I edit review and preview articles, attempt to keep up with the frantic pace of Rainier's news posts, and keep our reviewers on deadline, which is akin to herding cats. When I have a moment to myself and don't have my nose in a book, I like to play action/RPG, adventure and platforming games.


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PC Review - 'Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None'

by Judy on Dec. 27, 2005 @ 12:04 a.m. PST

Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None's storyline follows 10 strangers who are invited to Shipwreck Island only to be accused of murder by a recording from their absent host. Players take on the role of a new 11th character, Patrick Narracott, the boatman who takes guests to the island, and ends up trapped with the others. Delve into Agatha Christie's renowned classic and solve the mystery before you become the next victim.

Genre: Adventure
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Developer: AWE Games
Release Date: November 8, 2005

Buy 'AGATHA CHRISTIE: And Then There Were None': PC

It's pretty safe to say that most everyone has heard of Dame Agatha Christie's novels (and probably name a few), even if one hasn't read any of them. It's this kind of reputation that adventure gaming needs, since the genre's death has been foretold since Y2K was a legitimate concern. The Christie estate has finally come around, and the first product is The Adventure Company's Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None.

ATTWN is based on the novel of the same name (or alternately "Ten Little Indians," in less politically correct times) in which 10 people are invited to spend the weekend in a mansion on a deserted island. The crowd is a motley one, including individuals such as a corrupt police officer, a pious spinster, a retired army general, and a fast-living bachelor. It turns out that each person has had a part in some crime, and they have been lured to the soiree (under false pretenses, of course) to face the ultimate consequence for their actions – death. As an eleventh character created especially for the game, you play the role of Patrick Narracott, the boatman in charge of shuttling everyone from the mainland to the island. After completing this assignment, you find that your ship has been destroyed, leaving no hope of returning to the mainland, so you, as Narracott, must stay and help find the murderer.

ATTWN is a mouse-driven point-and-click adventure title, so you mouse over the pre-rendered backgrounds until the cursor changes over hotspots and shows you the options available to Narracott – footprints to indicate that you can travel in that direction (double-click to run), a hand to signify that you can pick up an item, an eye to show that you can zoom in for a closer look, an opening door to illustrate that you can try to … open the door, a mouth to indicate that you can initiate a conversation with a particular character, a keyhole to signify that you can peek into the specified keyhole to catch the other inhabitants in more candid moments, or an ear, which means you can eavesdrop on conversations without making your presence known.

You wander around the mansion and its grounds and can collect items and store them in your inventory for further examination or use. In the interface, there is an additional row beneath the inventory, where you can drag items to scrutinize by clicking on the magnifying glass icon, or combine or separate by clicking on the cogs icon. The inventory is so well designed that it's difficult to fault, although I did find myself wishing on more than one occasion that newly acquired items would slip into the bottom-most manipulating row and wait to be sorted appropriately, rather than disappearing into the first available slots, which may be multiple pages back.

In addition to his inventory, Narracott also has a journal, which serves as a good reference point for all information he has learned about the guests and island; important documents are stored here as well. Furthermore, if he opens up a book, he can immediately put it away and have already copied potentially pertinent sections into his journal. Both the journal and the inventory icons will flash when new information has been added, and the inventory can be quickly initialized with the right-click button.

Before it starts sounding like ATTWN is handing you the game solution on a silver platter, everything you gather isn't necessarily useful, which makes puzzles slightly more difficult to solve. Additionally, every puzzle answer isn't necessarily in your inventory or journal, so it also becomes important to pay heed to one's surroundings and comments. Puzzles run the gamut, from wordplay clues scattered around the mansion to the combination of items in your inventory to construct new ones.

For the most part, the gameplay in ATTWN is pretty solid. The biggest problem, however, has to do with the inability of clicking through dialogue that I'd already heard. It might sound like a non-issue, but the title boasts four alternate endings, and if you want to access all of them, you need to return to a particular spot in the game and go through the same rants and raves before uncovering whodunit this time. Additionally, after each of the mysterious deaths, you are tasked with interviewing the remaining characters for their opinions and whereabouts. If you play with the subtitles turned on and read faster than the dialogue can occur, the interview process can be an unnecessarily grueling experience.

The developers might have gotten a little overzealous here, but Narracott has a comment for every hotspot. If the hotspot has already yielded a collectable item, it ceases to be active, but if the hotspot is merely decorative, it remains active indefinitely. To illustrate my point, there are radiators throughout the mansion. Everywhere. A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, and a radiator in every room, I think was Herbert Hoover's slogan. If I accidentally mis-click on one of the gazillion radiators instead of the intended object next to it, I get to hear his radiator comment all over again. It was amusing at first, but the novelty had more than worn off by the twelfth time. This wouldn't have posed a problem if I could click, space, or escape out of the dialogue, but my luck seemed to have run out. I wonder if this was a conscious decision on the part of the developers or a decree from the Christie estate; this couldn't have been overlooked during testing because it's a pretty overt part of the gameplay experience.

Graphically, the pre-rendered backgrounds are extremely detailed and well crafted. Cut scenes are quite attractive and artistically rendered, but that doesn't mean that oddities don't crop up now and again. For example, the characters' facial features and expressions are done well enough that suspicion, regret, and doubt are conveyed without a hitch, but the presentation of long hair seems to pose a problem. Miss Claythorne appears to be bald and wearing a long red wig which covers too much of her forehead and not quite enough of the base of her scalp. She has been deemed the attractive femme fatale of the bunch, so it's vastly amusing to watch two of the male characters argue over a woman who's sporting a hairdo that's a cross between Donald Trump and a mullet.

Environmental effects such as the rain, fog, and waves look gorgeous, and the periodic lightning flashes also illustrate the severity of the storm. In a couple of segments, Narracott wanders around the upstairs bedrooms with a flashlight in hand. It's not quite Alone in the Dark, but it's fun, and the dynamic lighting element brings a welcome change of pace.

Ambient sounds, such as rain and thunder, seem fairly realistic. The voice actors were well selected and are convincing when portraying their respective roles; it's sometimes laid on a bit thick, but it works.

There isn't much replay value to be had here, as the four alternate endings occur in the game's five final minutes. The original ending has been included and can be unlocked by completing one last puzzle. The paperback novel of "And Then There Were None" can also be found in the package and is a worthwhile read, since certain aspects just can't be adequately expressed in the video game medium.

And Then There Were None is a good time, although the gameplay mechanics drag down what could otherwise have been a great title. The puzzles are varied and challenging, the graphics are (mostly) of a good quality, the inventory and journal interfaces are well-organized and intuitive, and the voice actors are believable. Although the replay value is limited, ATTWN should offer a good 20 hours of gameplay and is a good selection for the adventure gamer or Agatha Christie fan in your life. While not perfect, ATTWN is a good starting point and bodes well for the four other Christie titles that have been commissioned for development.

Score: 7.3/10

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