All aboard the pun-infested review, and let’s see whether “Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express” by Microids Studio Lyon is a thrill ride or a train wreck.
Murder on the Orient Express is one of Agatha’s last and most successful stories, featuring one of the most original plot twists. It’s already been made into a game in 2006 by AWE Games, which was entertaining enough but had some flaws. So, what has 17 years of the adventure genre voyage brought new? Graphics-wise, not much. Backgrounds, animation, cutscenes, lip-sync… everything is on a level seen 10-15 years ago. That’s not to say it’s bad, the locations and train are rather nicely rendered, the atmosphere is there, and it’s done in full 3D. There’s a lot of details to see, and it’s visible they studied the exterior and interior of the famed train thoroughly. Sometimes while walking through it, I felt a striking resemblance to Jordan Mechner’s “The Last Express.”
Regarding the story, I think that everyone already knows it - an unpleasant American businessman who just hours previously sought Poirot’s services (“If you will forgive me for being personal—I do not like your face, M. Ratchett!”), is found stabbed in his cabin. The script mainly follows the original, taking few detours to keep the seasoned Agatha Christie aficionados on their toes. The main difference is that the game is set in 2023, with mobile phones and everything, though it doesn’t change the mood that much - character outfits, the train’s design, and the fact the phone signal is off at the mountain stop will transport you back to 1934. Another radical addition which is well-integrated is a new playable character next to Poirot - Joanna Locke, an American detective who will play the parallel “flashback” story regarding the kidnapping of the little girl Daisy Armstrong in the United States. Those who read the novel or seen the movies, know that it intersections with the main plot at Orient Express.
Voice-overs are “bien”, Poirot sounds cool and looks extra cool - Microids discarded David Suchet’s appearance and brought in the “Tom Selleck” macho type of a guy into the scene. We might argue that Agatha herself described Poirot as standing at “five foot five” tall, with an “egg-shaped” head, which implies at least some level of baldness, but here he is a stud. The gameplay is accompanied by a rather good jazzy music, ambient and with a meditative effect on your little grey cells, which are needed to solve the many “Mind” puzzles and logic games.
Speaking of puzzles, developers jumped on the bandwagon seen already in Frogwares and previous Poirot games, neglecting inventory puzzles in favor of “connecting dots” inside Poirot’s mind, analyzing characters, reenacting situations by putting the right order of things, etc. It’s fun and mostly they’re on track, even though you can brute force it, and the game is constantly railroading you to the next “stop” in Poirot’s mind, which becomes the current objective until you chug along to the next one. Also, there’s no “punishment” for wrong move - just try again and no train missed.
A couple of things bothered me - for starters, you can’t skip lines of dialogue, nor the constant small cutscenes like opening and closing doors. Add to this that Poirot refuses to run fast (“Shift” will make his locomotion only a tad faster), and impatient players like myself are in trouble. For that reason, I almost wished it’s been done in a more traditional 2.5D. There’s also the “Magnificient! aka Voila!” short cutscene with proud Poirot, after successfully solving every piece of evidence - it’s amusing the first or second time, but gets tiresome quickly and leaves a heavy “console game” vibe.
Still, good presentation and research, twists to accommodate both old-timers and newcomers to the story, and plenty of mind/logic puzzles and mini games, with somewhere between 10-15 hours makes this a more good than bad game, hindered only by a rather “caged,” casual premise and some technical drawbacks and cumbersome keyboard controls. I’ll wait impatiently for the next title in the series, wishing them to go full steam ahead and provide an even better game, perhaps bringing along our old friends Captain Hastings, Miss Lemon and Inspector Japp as well.
+ Attention to details
+ Solid secondary protagonist next to Poirot
+ Plenty of fun “mind” puzzles and deductions
- Dubious choice for Poirot’s appearance
Read the review »
Time Played: 10-20 hours
- Somewhat limited research with hand-holding a player
- Lack of skipping the dialogue and animations