Developed by Blazing Griffin and published by Microids, Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases tells an origin story of sorts for the legendary character by the equally legendary author. It’s out now for PCs, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, with full forward compatibility for next gen consoles.
Although Microids isn’t an “adventure game publisher”, they’ve given us some excellent example in the genre before, including Pendulo’s Blacksad: Under the Skin. Blazing Griffin recently wrapped up Murder Mystery Machine themselves, so this was a collaboration we were very much looking forward to. After all, the character of Hercule Poirot has seen a bit of an unexpected surge in popularity recently, with the 2017 Kenneth Branagh film as well as an upcoming sequel.
As you’d expect, Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases stars a young Poirot, who is a guest at a high profile wedding. Agatha Christie likes enclosed places for her mysteries, so it’s not long before a snowstorm locks everyone inside a mansion and a murder takes place – kicking of a tale that sees Poirot take his first steps in deduction and crime-solving.
After the gameplay mechanics are explained through the theft of a necklace, your attention is quickly turned towards the main (and only) case – a murder. If you’ve played Murder Mystery Machine from the same developer then you’ll recognize the isometric perspective in which this unfolds – though cinematic cutscenes break up the gameplay every now and then. Poirot moves from room to room to look for clues and details that are noteworthy to him, which he later has to connect to one another in order to form his hypotheses about what happened.
While that sounds complex on paper, this process is rather streamlined, and Poirot will tell you when you’re combining clues that don’t logically go together – so even if you have to rely on trial and error, you’ll eventually move forward. But while this makes for a somewhat linear story (during which you can freely roam around the mansion and interact with clues and characters) that only revolves around one case, it’s a rather lengthy narrative that branches out and features plenty of twists and turns.
The quality of the writing is excellent, and does the source work justice. The same can be said for the audiovisual style, which makes the out of its isometric perspective with lovely interiors and good lighting effects that help set the mood. It makes navigating this story intriguing and fun from start to finish, even though you get taken out of the immersive nature of the mansion when it’s time to explore Poirot’s mind maps – the place where he makes connections between clues and observations.
Making a connection always had us eager to jump back into the mansion and follow up with questions or more clue searching, partly because of a narrative that will definitely appeal to fans of Poirot and Agatha Christie. The nature of the game gives it little replay value, but figuring out its mystery is empowering – a good sign of any detective game.