CD-ROM games never die. They are simply reborn as casual game downloads. Such is the case with 1996’s Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express, a classic point-and-click adventure game based on the beloved murder mystery novel penned by Agatha Christie.
While we admire the game’s attractive graphics and atmosphere, the monotonous tasks and some trite puzzles hurt its overall appeal for both adventure gamers and casual players.
The concept is intriguing enough, however. Introducing a new character into the classic tale, you play as the young and attractive Antoinette Marceau, who follows the adventures of famed detective Hercule Poirot, and not only does she get a chance to meet the Belgian detective in Istanbul, Turkey, but she helps him secure a seat on the luxurious train en route to Paris and gets to solve a heinous murder with the master’s guidance.
Within minutes of boarding the train, a crass Mr. Ratchett makes Poirot an offer to protect him as he believes his life is in imminent danger. Poirot, however, turns down the offer, and the next day Ratchett is found stabbed to death. Marceau must look for clues, crack puzzles, interact with more than a dozen suspects and use deduction to solve this mystery with Poirot’s help.
But even before the train left the station I grew frustrated with some of the silly obstacles I had to work around to keep playing. For example, at three separate instances Marceau is blocked by passengers in a small market, who won’t let her walk past them until she helps them out with something, such as retrieving a lost parasol. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous – like you can’t walk around two people blocking a huge street? Whatever.
You might be inclined to let it slide because of the game’s terrific graphics and impressive voice acting, but gamers will likely grow tired of thousands of lines of dialogue and repetitive acts like going through everyone’s sleeping quarters, collecting passports, getting fingerprints and footprints, questioning and the cross-examining them on their whereabouts, motives and relationship with other passengers. And then there’s the back and forth throughout this massive train, multiple times, which might be a gas for a hardcore fan of the novel but proved dull into the fourth hour or so. And don’t get me started about finding keys or locked compartments.
Not all puzzles are dull or tedious. Some are decent brain teasers such as trying to read words on a burned piece of paper by combining items in your inventory, finding a knife buried in the snow or figuring out how to open a safe. The story is also well-preserved but the developer understandably took some liberties with additional plot twists and a surprise ending.
Similar to other Agatha Christie computer games, And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun, Murder on the Orient Express might please serious Agatha Christie fans but there are certainly better adventure games out there.