Some elementary failings

AGATHA CHRISTIE – HERCULE
POIROT: THE FIRST CASES
From: Blazing Griffin
For: Nintendo Switch
★★

I love murder-mysteries — picking apart a tangled web and seeing all the connections laid bare by the end. But they’re hard to write, as it’s easy to fall back on tropes.

Developer Blazing Griffin has tried its hand at a couple of Hercule Poirot’s early cases in this newest video game outing.

There are two cases overall; one prologue tutorial, and one multi-chapter mystery, with the prologue setting up characters and relationships expanded upon in the main story. I would have liked it to be a bit longer as I beat the game in just over six hours, but writing several large mysteries may have been a bit out of scope.

So, you’re snowed into a mansion with a bunch of people, one of whom is suspected of being a blackmailer. Shortly into the investigation, one of the characters is murdered, and now you have two culprits ... or maybe someone found the blackmailer and killed them? It’s intriguing and I was ready for a fun detective story.

You’re doing one of three things; talking to people, searching for evidence, or connecting existing evidence together to form new information. Occasionally, you have to play a short mini-game where you say the right things to a character to get them to reveal more information. It’s a pretty effective loop, making you move back and forth between different locations and characters.

The voice acting is pretty good. Poirot himself is especially well done.

Unfortunately, the story in this story-based game isn’t anything noteworthy. It’s not bad — it’s just fine. But in a detective game you want a memorable story with big twists and shocking conclusions. There’s no real "ah-ha!" moment; the most important twists are revealed to Poirot by another character just stating something he should have noticed earlier.

The gameplay then, needs to be good to overcome the story. Unfortunately, it isn’t much better. It’s just "look at the object and press A", or "talk to this person about everything" and occasionally ask the right questions.

Where I thought the game would be more compelling is the mind map. This is a collection of the evidence you have collected, laid out in a big grid. You select one piece and connect it with another — easy enough. Eventually you’ll have a large map of inter-character relations, damning pieces of evidence, and interesting thoughts — at least, in theory. In actuality, the mind-map is just a road block you have to go through in order to get the next sliver of information which may or may not lead to the next point.

It never revealed anything interesting that I hadn’t already figured out.

The main problem I had with this game is that you cannot fail. The mind map just plays a standard "I got this wrong" line and then allows you to try again with no issues. Ask witnesses the wrong questions and the game will just move you back to the start of the questioning. There’s no challenge here, which is a complete no-no for a detective game.

If you must immerse yourself in the world of Hercule Poirot, I suggest a trip to your local library.

 - Michael Robertson

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