The ABC Murders takes a page out of almost every Agatha Christie book – you play as unique and distinct Belgian detective Hercules Poirot who is dangerously close to a caricature but also egotistical. In his latest case, Poirot has been taunted by a killer who has been sending letters to the detective before committing a murder. The killer is playful, taunting Poirot with the murders that they’re more or less committing right under his nose – almost as if he wants to be caught. It’s an intriguing story and is a faithful adaptation of Agatha Christie’s source material, which is arguably one of the frontrunners of the genre.The killer is systematic, murdering people based on the alphabet – taking into consideration the names and the cities that they live in before choosing their victim. The whole journey to find the killer is an enthralling one, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as Poirot investigates each case and gets closer to unmasking the killer. But those who have read the book will know the outcome – or those who have simply become familiar enough with these kind of police procedural (be it novel or television or film) will also probably have a good idea of how things will end. Still, it’s entertaining, so that’s a start.Unfortunately, presentation is not The ABC Murder’s strong-suit. Taking on a bold, bright and colourful visual style, the game looks like a comic book of sorts that really pops on whatever display you’re playing it on. This highly stylized look is clearly a way to compensate for the game’s lower budget, but the locales and environments that Poirot will visit throughout his investigation are unique and areas not usually visited in games. For that reason, it’s hard not to commend them.
But what definitely took a hit with this more modest budget is how the character move. Animations are stiff and lifeless, sometimes characters don’t even more their heads or lips when speaking dialogue and everything feels oversimplified. This is an unfair comparison, but games like LA Noire were successful in establishing tension because of how witnesses and suspects behaved. In ABC Murders, there’s very little to indicate such things – the more “human” elements of the characters have been simplified to the point where it actually takes you out of the experience.
The voice work is similarly quite inconsistent. Poirot himself is fantastic – you can get into and believe the characters’ dialogue and reactions to the event of the game as it’s twists and turns unfold. Most of the supporting cast is fairly dull, however, and it leads to many lines being delivered in an awkward and jarringly unnatural way. Once again, this can usually be ignored in certain games but unfortunately given how much The ABC Murders relies on its story and underlying drama to be compelling it can take away from the experience significantly.The ABC Murders is largely a straightforward game. It’s nowhere near as obtuse in its logic as the adventure games of old but it’s also not as “guided” an experience as recent games like Firewatch or Gone Home. You’ll enter locations, survey clues, make observations and deduct what may have happened by putting all of these facts together. The systems in place are fairly straightforward – you’ll simply hover your cursor (or mouse, if you’re on PC) and Poirot will make an observation. You’ll sometimes be faced with a choice too – but these are largely superficial and don’t really impact the case in any way beyond a slightly different line of dialogue.