Review: Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express

AgathaChristie_MurderontheOrientExpress

While the majority of licensed, movie-based videogames continue to wallow in misery, games based on popular novels, though certainly more niche at this point, have fared much better in comparison. Many of the book-to-game adaptations have been entered into the classic PC adventure genre (which explains their niche status), and the budding series of Agatha Christie mystery adventure games from The Adventure Company and AWE Games has thus far led the way, first starting with 2005’s And Then There Were None and now with the remarkably compelling Murder on the Orient Express.

As one would expect from a book-based game, Murder on the Orient Express is much more focused on captivating you with its cinematic narrative and atmosphere rather than a lot of action, and thankfully it is in these areas that this game is at its best. In the game you take on the role of Antoinette Marceau, a brand new character not seen in the novel, who works as an employee for the train company and eventually winds up helping famous detective Hercule Poirot solve a vicious murder aboard the Orient Express, en route to Paris. Like the novel, the game’s story is thoughtfully told, laced with twists and turns (especially an extended ending new to the game – novel purists beware, liberties were taken with the plot in the adaptation process) and held together by an intriguing cast of diverse characters that are brought to life through beautifully rendered models and great voice acting through and through (despite a few goofy accents), all led by none other than English actor David Suchet himself, who reprises his role from the Agatha Christie TV series as Poirot.

To crack the case at hand, it’s up to you as Antoinette to interview the onboard passengers, gather their passports and fingerprints, examine every nook and cranny of the train for clues and evidence, and report back to Poirot–who’s knocked out of commission after suffering injury when an avalanche blocks the tracks and forces the train to suddenly stop without warning–to discuss the findings and gradually piece together the ingeniously crafted murder mystery that unfolds. Being a very character-driven story, much of the game involves questioning the passengers-turned-murder-suspects, and consequently there is a TON of dialogue to click through and digest, so be ready to do a lot of watching and listening before diving in.

Moving back and forth among the train’s cabins and interacting with the lavishly detailed environments and characters is all handled using the tried-and-true point-and-click adventure game control mechanics, and overall the navigation has been thoughtfully implemented. With the game environment almost exclusively limited to the train (some time is spent outside the train, but not much), there is quite a bit of backtracking involved in searching the train, however the developers eliminated any form of tediousness by providing a Quick-Access Taskbar menu at the top of the screen that shows a map of the train and lets you instantly travel to and from any of the train cars you’ve previously been to at the click of the mouse. Even when traveling from room to room you can double-click at the transition point to the next area to load said area without having to watch Antoinette do the walking.

Puzzle solving also factors into cracking the case, and even though the emphasis on puzzles is slim compared to most adventure games, the puzzles that do crop up are well crafted (except for some silly fetch-quest type objectives early on). As you collect evidence and other items, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time examining it all piece by piece in the inventory and occasionally assembling (and disassembling) objects in MacGyver-esque fashion to further the investigation. At times like these, unfortunately, the game’s inventory system does show some minor faultiness, as you are required to constantly drag items back and forth between the separated inventory and item assembly menus rather than being able to examine and combine items all from one menu like you should.

But this small error is but a few in what is an all-around outstanding interactive mystery novel adventure. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before in many other adventure games before it, but when it comes down to it Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express is a splendid showcase of richly compelling narrative and atmosphere at work, and is likewise a title I wouldn’t hesitate recommending to any adventure game fan! Plus, the game comes with a free copy of the book it’s based on as an extra little bonus – what more could you ask for?

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!