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Genre: Point & Click drama      Developer: Microids , Artefacts Studios   Publisher: Kalypso

ovels featuring the dapper little egg-shaped Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Poirot is called in to assist (read "solve") the baffling mystery of the A B C Murders, crimes which are committed in different places ,, in different ways, but possibly by a single killer. Each body is found in a public area with an open copy of the Train Timetable, the A B C Guide, positioned on them, open at the page that relates to the name of the town. The curious thing is that the names of the towns and the names of the victims begin with the same letter; Carmichael Clarke in Churston for example.

The game is a mixture of running your cursor around the room until you detect a hot-spot and then when the camera zooms in on the scene you again move the cursor until the reticule glows green, remember not to move the cursor away until the clue has appeared on screen in text. There are usually 1 -3 clues to be found by this observation, but on a few occasions there are as many as 7.

Once Poirot has discovered enough clues at the scene he decides it is time to use his Little Grey Cells and this enters you into a new part of the game where you are presented with a number of circles linked to a single circle, all of which are in greyscale. Above these circles is a question and below tem a number of pictures, also in circles. By clicking on each picture you can read what Poirot has deduced. When you are happy that the deduction is to do with the question you move the picture up into one of the circles. Collect all correct pictures and the single circle blossoms into a picture of Poirot and the circles and tracks to Poirot all glow green, a cluee of sorts - the answer to the question, appears in text to the right of the picture, et voila! your notebook automatically fills with the necessary details.

As Poirot finds clues and solves puzzles he gets EGO points (a fun way of letting you know how you are doing and well in keeping with the Poirot character from Christie's books). Speaking of the Poirot character and indeed of the other characters; Poirot is dressed impeccably in the manner of David Suchet from the excellent television programme. He has a magnificent moustache, though perhaps more Albert Finney than the Hercule Poirot of the books, and a rather large hooked nose, which I didn't expect (this caused me to re-read Christie's description and a pink tipped nose is often mentioned but large and hooked ?) and of course the patent leather shoes of which so much fuss, and occasional merriment, is made. 

The vocal talent is excellent throughout, though a search through Wikipedia and Google failed to bring forth any actors names, which is a pity as they deserve full credit for authenticity, style and grace. One character in particular stood out, though I think this may be the game publishers playing a little jape on us, as the looks and features of Donald Fraser were extremely similar to the actor David Tennant and unsurprisingly the voice accent of Donald Fraser was Scottish. Put the looks and the voice together and you have a caricature of the famed Dr Who personality (or is it all just in my mind ?).

The game is, as you would expect, slow and dogged. You can do little to speed it up and to be honest there is no reason why you would want to make it go at any different a pace. Poirot takes his time knowing he cannot prevent what has already occurred and only makes haste when there is a possibility of saving another life.

By going to the Pause Menu you can select Reconstructions and Timeline which allow you to view the drama as it unfurled and to deduce how the murder took place, through a series of video-imagination-talk-throughs and snapshots. These are necessary as they give you Ego points but also set up some of the questions and answers for the Little Grey Cells scenes.

Throughout the game there are many question and answer sections. The majority of these allow you to select a question to ask, unlike many other games you rarely get to ask other questions from the same selection unless it is relevant. However there are some times when all you can do is sit and watch as the game automatically continues without you.

There is one scene that occurs after the second murder which is a cut to a typical old-school Bed & Breakfast place where an insignificant looking man is viewed to be acting suspiciously, plus he has a copy of the ABC Book. This scene lasts only a few seconds but seems oddly out of place, except to allow you to make a note of this "suspect's" name: Alexander Bonaparte Cusp (ABC). Okay it may or may not be a red herring, I'm not saying, but there appeared to be no reason to include it in the story at that juncture.

Fans of Agatha Christie's Poirot will enjoy the way this game is presented and the fact that they get to portray Poirot through the questions they select to ask in the way they perceive him to be. Fans of point and click drama stories will enjoy the clues finding and fans of puzzles will enjoy the unique, if not often totally abstract challenges of the puzzles. In all then this is the perfect point and click, problem solving, adventure challenge. Okay it may not actually be perfect, but it's darn close.

   
Hastings & Poirot hear of the first murder                    They travel in style by train

  
They meet Inspector Japp of Scotland Yard                  Questioning a shifty shop-keeper who sells bad fruit

  
Poirot arrives at his apartments                                     Hastings & Poirot review the murder at Andover


The killer taunts Poirot by sending him a letter ....

 The map shows Poirot where Bexhill is

  
A windbreaker hides body number 2 but Poirot's interest is in the run of Beach Bungalows, particularly No.6


This is indeed a puzzle mon chere Hastings ....


Poirot gathers the suspects ...

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015