REVIEW – A few years after the game adaptation of The ABC Murders, a new and original Poirot story has arrived, in which the detective is given a rather complex case (while he is still young), although at first, it doesn’t seem like one. Microids’ Francophone licensing rampage has done it right this time.
Thanks for the French dub! It is possible to play the game in full English, with the characters speaking in French or German. And since Poirot is Belgian, it’s no coincidence that he has a few French utterances here and there, n’est ce pas? (Now I’m doing it, too…)
The first section of the ten-chapter game, the prologue, provides an introduction to the gameplay. This short story and investigation ties into the main events but can also stand alone. As Poirot is on patrol, a servant runs up to him and asks for help: a bracelet has been lost in the influential Van Den Bosch residence. The widowed woman of the house accuses another young servant girl, even though she is not entirely clean. I won’t spoil what exactly happens, but this outlines what to expect in Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases.
So we get isometric gameplay, and at first, we’re supposed to explore the garden. Poirot highlights on screen what he can explore, and there’s a loud (mhm, aha, oh) reaction at each point alongside his subtitled thoughts. Alongside these, of course, he has to question the characters about what they know. Sometimes, though, they have a defensive stance, and you have to break their “shield”, which is possible by choosing the correct dialogue option. For example, you can have a sincere or more aggressive comment from young Poirot. (And if you get it wrong, there’s not a game over per se, you’re just thrown back to the beginning of the dialogue; if you fail in the last chapter, I think you don’t get the epilogue summing up the characters’ future when the detective has the picture all put together.)
It wouldn’t be a Poirot game if the detective’s brain weren’t exploited. Indeed, his little grey brain cells (he uses the term himself; for style and tone, I think he nailed David Suchet’s style, which is very good!) have to be used. In the top right corner, when the exclamation mark pops up, there are new elements that can be connected, and if you need help, after three mistakes, the game will highlight what is connected to what (e.g. one character saw the other two arguing; thus proving the alibi of all three), and so the mind map slowly comes together. We also usually get one or two new ones per chapter. When we find new relevance, this repeatedly leads us to investigate a scene or talk to someone again, which rolls our investigation along. Don’t fret: as I said, there is little chance for a game over, and the investigator himself never gets into a life-threatening situation.
I’m going to throw the soundtrack in here. I think it brings the atmosphere we’ve come to expect from the TV adaptations.
The music is good, the sound effects are sometimes weird, and I noticed that Poirot’s voice quality in both English and French is relatively low (I switched to French because in Blacksad: Under The Skin, which is another Microids game, the cat’s English voice was weak, while the French was excellent…), if you mess up the mind mapping, or if you succeed (seriously, it’s like 22 kHz instead of 44…). The dubbing quality is fair, I think, but the French words in the English dubbing are there, but there are some differences when switching to French, but it’s just nitpicking from me.
The atmosphere is alright, but I think Poirot moves slowly, which is distracting when you constantly have to move between two floors. Oh yeah, the more prominent case: this time (a few years later), Poirot gets a call now as a detective to investigate the blackmail letters. Angeline, the daughter of the Van Den Bosch family, is about to get engaged. Although the dinner is pleasant, a murder takes place, adding another layer to our investigation. It turns out to be a pretty serious case, which is why you will spend no less than nine chapters in the castle.
In short: we have Madame Van Den Bosch (Cassandra) continues to be dismissive of us; Angeline has turned serious; the murdered person has/had a serious role with both VDBs; Comtesse de Vos seems at first to be an entirely positive character, but over time, she shows a rather dark side; Archibald Sterling and Rehana (the butler and the cook) are tough nuts to crack; Gedeon Demir (Cassandra’s son-in-law) and his brother Zakariya are two very different characters (the latter is not a drinker by accident); Jackie Conrad is a stern character (I would say a media magnate at the time), who we first run into as she fights with Hugo Beckers (the worker also has a role in the background events); Ernesto da Silva doesn’t say much, but he does so in vain; then there’s Inge (the servant girl of the castle). And in the case of the bracelet, I felt most sorry for the accused servant girl: she was innocent and lost her job and livelihood.
Despite the isometric view, I think the game is somewhat ugly (and while the drawn characters express emotions during dialogue, though, for example, I was not too fond of Poirot’s grimacing face…), it is not weak in length. It takes about 9-10 hours to play it through, but it’s still a bit lacking in terms of location. Perhaps it could have had a little more variety.
No joke: I wondered whether it should be a six or an eight out of ten during the credits. But then I thought about it for a day and settled on 8. The story is good, well written, and not a nine because of some audiovisual shortcomings. Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is recommended for Poirot fans, and for those who want a detective game, ditto: the developers (Blazing Griffin) have taken some elements from their previous game (Murder Mystery Machine), but I don’t think that’s a problem. Strangely, Poirot never goes up/down the stairs, or we don’t see him open/close the doors…
+ The style’s adaptation is excellent
+ The story is complex; you wouldn’t guess the bad guy at first…
+ Three languages got dubs; it can improve the ambience
– I think the game looks somewhat ugly
– Poirot’s “inner voice quality”
– Traversing feels somewhat slow
Developer: Blazing Griffin
Genre: isometric investigation
Release date: September 27, 2021