The works of the late Agatha Christie are widely regarded as being among the most popular murder mysteries of all time, and it’s great to see her expert tales of suspense working their way to new audiences through an interactive medium the author very likely could not have anticipated. Bringing a video game adaptation of Christie’s best-selling work And Then There Were None to the Wii would have been a great move had the developers taken time to rebuild the title from the ground up for the platform. Instead, players are treated to a barely-altered port of the same PC title released almost three years ago. The result is a wonderful interactive murder mystery hampered by heavily dated gameplay mechanics and visuals that seem out of place on the Wii.
Long-time fans of Christie’s novels that haven’t experienced any of the game adaptations will still find much to appreciate in the Wii version of Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None. The Nintendo console’s mass appeal among casual gamers, and even those who’ve just recently found their way into gaming through the system, makes it likely the title will find its way to where it belongs: in the hands of players who have a strong love of the literature, but don’t have lofty expectations when it comes to current generation presentation and gameplay. It’s this demographic of player who will be able to find the diamond in the rough here.
Like the 1939 classic novel it was based on, And Then There Were None revolves around a gathering of 10 individuals invited by the mysterious Owens family to the remote Shipwreck Island for a weekend dinner party in Devon, England. The game also introduces a new 11th character who’s hired to bring the group to the isle by boat. As Patrick Narraccott, you’ll deliver your human cargo across the stormy channel intact, but you end up in a foul predicament shortly after arrival when you discover someone has scuttled the boat to prevent you from getting back to the mainland. Trapped on an island in a heavy storm is no place to be when murder is in the air. Unbeknownst to the hodgepodge group assembled on the island, it’s the sole purpose of their visit. Each of the 10 guests has their own dark past which is partially unveiled in dramatic fashion shortly before someone takes to killing them off one-by-one. To make matters worse, their grizzly deaths are patterned after a classic nursery rhyme. Players will control Narraccott as he launches his own investigation while the remaining members of the group attempt to stay alive long enough to unearth the killer and make it off the island in one piece.
Sleuthing around the large estate and gloomy grounds beyond is a meticulously slow process. The game progresses in chapters and each typically contains a murder. In between occasional cut-scenes, you’ll guide Narraccott through many of the rooms at the estate to ransack through personal belongings and snatch up anything that’s not bolted to the ground. These scavenged goods are then used in many of the puzzles scattered throughout the game. Since missing any of the more well-hid items can throw a wrench in your ability to move forward, a severe level of scrutiny is imperative. Interrogating guests for clues also comes into play heavily. Expect to be scrolling through tons of dialog and print that’s small enough to make you squint at the screen. Reading documents in the menu and subtitles is difficult due to the small text, but the voice-overs help in the latter case.
Not surprisingly, point-and-click controls are a good fit for the Wii, but some of the other motion features tacked onto the game are shoddy at best. By pointing the Wii Remote at different areas of the screen, the mouse arrow will change as it moves over various hotspots, which allow you to interact with the environment by pressing the A or B button. An eye symbol gives you a closer look at an item or area; a hand symbol means you can pick up something; footsteps let you move to a different area; and so forth. The item and document inventory can be quickly accessed by pressing the plus and minus keys, and the good button layout makes pulling items from your inventory to use in the game a cinch.
AWE included many small “puzzles” throughout the game that require players to use the Wii Remote in various activities such as using a water pump to fill a bucket, making digging motions with a shovel, scooping, inflating a raft, turning cranks, and much more. Opening doors requires you to mouse over the door, grab the knob with the A button, and turn the knob with the Wii Remote. This works well enough, but it can be irritating since opening doors is a near-constant activity. Most of the other motions are practically broken; either they work inconsistently or they barely work at all and require violent shaking of the Wii Remote to engage the maneuver. It’s a missed opportunity.
Fortunately, the game’s numerous real puzzles are far better. Many items can be decompiled into various components and then combined with others to make new things. This is a great mechanic that works well and is a lot of fun to experiment with. You’ll uncover clues to many of the more elaborate constructions by copying down passages into your notebook from books and tidbits obtained through your travels. Frequent and clever use of the tools at hand will aid progress greatly.
When it was originally released on PC in 2005, the game wasn’t much to look at. Three years later – and with no graphical improvements to speak of – this is even more apparent on the Wii. Sure, Nintendo’s console isn’t visually on par with the powerful PS3 and Xbox 360, but there are plenty of games that still look great on the system. This one does not. The opening cutscene will make you question whether you’re actually playing a Game Cube title, and the actual in-game graphics don’t help things much. The character models are a tad rough around the edges on the whole. At a close distance they’re quite ugly, and from afar there’s little interesting detail. The voice acting is actually quite good, but none of it lines up even remotely with the facial and mouth movements of the characters. The interior environments in the estate are nicely detailed and colorful. Outside, there are far too many screens of drab, overcast landscapes made up primarily of sky, grass, and trees.
The game’s multiple possible endings are interesting, though they stray from the original story. Overall, it’s a very lengthy adventure full of plot twists and mystery which should be more than enough to draw-in fans of the work. The simple controls also make it easy to jump into the game which works well for the casual gaming audiences. The problem is almost anyone who’s now accustomed to current-gen console titles will find And Then There Were None to be painfully dated. The quality story holds up over the years, but the game itself falls short. It’s too bad since Agatha Christie’s tales and point-and-click adventure games are a great fit for the Wii. Hopefully next time – and there should be a next time – future Christie games on the console will get the proper amount of attention in the development stage to make the experience truly shine.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.4 Graphics
The outdated graphics, cutscenes, and animations are out-of-place on the Wii in comparison to today’s standards. 3.0 Control
The point-and-click and menu controls work quite well on the Wii. Though they are interesting, other motion control actions feel tacked-on and badly implemented. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Strong voice acting helps make the rough character designs more believable. 3.1
A long and winding quest provides a solid adventure experience, but the other drawbacks make it a disappointment in the long run.
3.0 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.