Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None has shipped to Walmart Stores and will soon be on shelves elsewhere. Is this something to get excited about?


Here are my first impressions.

The game opens with a long cutscene that shows you the various people who have been invited to stay for the weekend on Shipwreck Island. All the characters converge on Sticklehaven, the point on the mainland that is closest to their weekend retreat. There the harbormaster greets these guests on behalf of their extremely shy host, Mr. U.N. Owen, and ushers them to an awaiting boat. The boat is captained by one Patrick Narracott, the character whose role you will play throughout the game (the game uses a third person perspective). There is a mystery about Patrick – actually, probably more than one -- and part of the fun in this game is in getting to know him. You can tell right away that he’s bright and very inquisitive – but is he a hero, a villain, or a little of both?

The mansion on Shipwreck Island is breathtaking. It’s not like the formal, chintz-draped country houses that you see English-Style design books. It’s sleek and modern, something that Frank Lloyd Wright might have designed. You’ll see stylishly carved wood, intricate inlays, cut flowers everywhere, some unusual lamps and clocks, and a creatively asymmetrical staircase railing. If you like messing about in bathrooms, you will be in heaven here, as there are enough bathrooms to float an armada. The guests are very clean, if not all properly dressed for dinner.

Can You Get a Tan from Standing in the English Rain?

There are beautiful weather effects in the game, including rain and fog (of course) and lightning. So far I’ve only seen what might have been a single ray of sunshine. The atmosphere is not the least bit gloomy, though. Here is luxury, a delicate garden, an isolated beach, and lonely paths. And dogging your steps, a sense of menace. The island is larger than I expected. Plenty of places to hide, scheme, mutter threateningly, and spy on other people.

The house also has a feature that I’m sure will be part of gameplay later on – two long exterior balconies that link some of the rooms together. You’ll be peeping from those balconies at the other guests, I’ll wager (I’ve already been peeping at them through keyholes, and eavesdropping on the conversation at dinner). Unlike other mystery games, in which I hesitated to invade people’s privacy and steal their most-loved possessions, And Then There Were None has convinced me to be almost gleeful as I snoop and swipe things to my heart’s content.

Perhaps I am finally getting the hang of this.

Some of the Nicest People You'll Ever Meet...

After puttering about the house while the others are at dinner, the game takes a shocking twist. I won’t describe it to you in case you haven’t read the book or haven’t read about the game’s plot yet. Suffice it to say that each character is manipulated into a passionate response to an accusation, and the mask of respectability and honor (at least for some of the characters) is momentarily stripped away. Amid a scene of very un-British fury, anguish and (what may even be) remorse, two characters collapse. One is dead. Thus the “game,” which has been carefully plotted for months -- even years -- is suddenly afoot, before the “players” realize what is really happening.

Character graphics do a good job of revealing each person’s personality. The emotions expressed on their faces easily draw you into that particular character’s feelings. On the downside, the characters in this game do move somewhat stiffly, their hands can look blocky, and their faces don’t always register emotion as fluidly as I would have liked. This is a minor issue, though, because the voice acting is topnotch and events spiral out of control so engagingly that you don’t focus on an individual bit of animation for long.

Since And Then There Were None is based on a novel, there is a lot of plot to establish, and most of that is done through conversations. It’s also particularly important in this game to get to know each character in some depth (well, the ones that have any depth to get to know) and this is also accomplished through conversations. Care has been taken to keep the dialogs fairly short and to give pertinent information succinctly, with a bit of extra talk for character development and (perhaps) as a means of distraction from certain truths (misdirection was one of Agatha’s Christie’s favorite techniques). Still, this is clearly a game where you will be listening to all kinds of talk.

Up ‘til now, the puzzles in And Then There Were None have been inventory-based. The inventory is unusual. There’s a workshop area where you place inventory items, and then click on a “gears” icon to see if these items will work together. You can also use the “gears” icon to take things apart. So far, I have been much better at dismantling things than at putting them together. The game does also require you to do some careful searching. There is one essential item whose location is unexpected (to say the least).

And Then There Were None loaded without a glitch and continues to play for me without a glitch.

Guilty Conscience? Revenge? The Ultimate Mind Game?

Partway in, I’m brimming with theories. I have a theory about Patrick Narracott. A theory about the house. A theory about the murderer. (No, make that four theories about the murderer.) Surely one of my theories must be right. Mustn’t it?

Why don’t you join me on Shipwreck Island? I could use help from someone like you, someone insightful, logical, experienced. Just a word from me, and I’m sure Mr. Owen will issue you an invitation….

Would you like to learn more about Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None? Read the full review.