I first discovered the Agatha Christie mysteries as a
teenager, and I’ve read every one of them over and over again. They
fascinate because of the world they convey -- a world that is formal,
romantic and full of hidden conflicts. Ms. Christie’s characters are
compellingly sketched with a light hand. Beyond the characters and their
world is each novel’s heart -- a series of related enigmas, meshing like
the gears of a clock, with motivation, timing, and plot all working
together -- finished off with an ending where you say: “Of course! Why
didn’t I see that from the start?”
I’ve wondered what an Agatha Christie game would be like. Would a game
satisfy fans who expect strict adherence to the book? Would it be
possible to add new elements to an already intricate story without
creating confusion? And what do you do about an ending where half the
players already know who the murderer is because they’ve read the book?
So it was with anticipation mixed with some apprehension that I clicked
on “New Game” in Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None to watch
the opening sequence unfold.
Getting to Know All About You
The initial cutscene in And Then There Were None introduces the
characters with a Christie-like touch. You begin learning about them from
the way they travel to their destination – Shipwreck Island off the coast
of Devon, England. A motley crew, they range from a recently retired
judge and an aristocratic playboy to a hardworking private detective and a
glamorous young woman eager to take up a secretarial post.
You play from the third person perspective as Patrick Narracott, the
boatman who takes these visitors to the island, and then finds himself
unexpectedly stranded with them during a storm. Patrick shares something
in common with all the other characters – a dark secret that he hesitates
Is That a Skeleton in Your Closet, Miss?
As the guests prepare for dinner (presumably by splashing water on
their faces, since nobody changes into different attire), you explore the
mansion that has recently been purchased by the host, Mr. U.N. Owen. The
mansion is spectacular, built in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. The
architectural detail is modern, exquisite and lavish – an unlikely
combination that works perfectly here. There’s a library, a screening
room, a game room, and a formal dining room, each packed with places to
look for clues – closets, bookshelves, locked drawers. The house is ideal
for snooping, as there are two stairways, plus adjoining bathrooms and a
balcony that links many of the bedrooms. Keyholes are huge, which further
aids the investigative impulse. Yes, there are secrets here, and a
multitude of ways to ferret them out.
After the dinner (during which Mr. U. N. Owen is strangely absent) the
guests hear a disembodied voice that claims to be their host. Mr. Owen
then indulges himself in a fit of startlingly bad manners. As his guests
sit there, stunned, he reads through a list of their most carefully
guarded secrets, complete with details and dates. All of the guests are
taken aback. Within a short period of time, two people collapse; one
Eventually, your attention returns to the fireplace mantle, above which
hangs a child’s nursery rhyme describing the exploits of ten “sailor
boys,” all of whom meet an untimely end. The dining room centerpiece with
ten sailor boys (which the guests had previously remarked upon) is now
missing one figure – sheer coincidence?
The Game’s Afoot
As storms rage outside the island mansion, the “guests” and the
unfortunate Patrick Narracott desperately try to figure out exactly what
game they are playing, and how high the stakes really are. As Narracott,
you assume the role of amateur detective, questioning the other characters
about the details of their past lives, and later quizzing them as to their
whereabouts when certain events occur. You also explore the island during
breaks in the storm and pick up dozens of clues and other objects which
can be used to further your investigation and/or your attempts to escape
Although you confront a smattering of miscellaneous challenges in
And Then There Were None, by far the largest portion of the hands-on
puzzling takes place via the inventory. Some of the combinations you must
attempt are unusual, to say the least. A few of these combinations are so
creative that the game gives you written clues for them. Even with the
written clues, the inventory puzzles can be challenging.
If You’ve Read the Book….
And Then There Were None follows the novel on which it is based
(aka Ten Little Indians) quite closely. There are, of course, some
changes -- but I thought that these suited the mystery so well that even
avid Agatha Christie fans shouldn’t have cause to complain. It was
implied at some point in the development process that the murderer in the
And Then There Were None game might not be the same as the murderer
in the novel. I did not take this fully to heart, as I thought it could
be an elaborate bluff.
The game can and does go beyond the novel, and it does so brilliantly.
There is a parallel mystery in the game, based on references to the
Island’s past which are hinted at in the novel. I enjoyed this addition a
lot. The many strands of the plot, woven in and around each other, build
seamlessly, even as the characters realize the truth of their situation
and react to the mounting tension.
There are puzzles in the game that can be bypassed, so in a sense
And Then There Were None can be played at varying levels of
engagement. At one level, you can play the game as an interactive
reenactment of the novel. You can focus on exploration, pick up clues,
and interact with the characters while ignoring at least some of the many
items building up in your inventory. The game will progress through its
twists and turns and various surprises right through the ending. However,
the game experience can be even richer.
Working harder on the combinations of things in the inventory and then
figuring out what to do with the resulting items will give you more
information about the characters, add to the story, and will even help you
guess the murderer sooner. These inventions/processes have certain time
constraints (e.g., it’s useless to give a tasty treat to a corpse), which
makes your inventory work even more challenging.
There are also game cards placed throughout the environment by the
mysterious Mr. Owen. Figuring out what they mean adds yet another level
to the game.
And Then There Were None showcases the developer’s close
attention to detail. Exterior environments are varied, including scenic
rocky cliffs, wild meadows, a beach with crashing waves, skies full of
windblown clouds, and plenty of fog and rain. The writing is excellent.
The game contains a lot of dialogue, but I never felt bored or found
myself wishing that Mr. Owen’s guests would stop talking. Just about
every conversation advances the plot or gives insight into character.
The voice acting is terrific. From reading the novel, I had formed
ideas as to how the characters would sound, and I was surprised that their
voices mostly matched my expectations. I particularly enjoyed the voice
acting of Philip Clark as Judge Wargrave. He gives a masterly performance
as a man of piercing logic, hampered by egotism and declining health, yet
exulting in the mind games that play out on the island. Carolyn Seymour
as Miss Brent was equally entertaining -- this devoutly religious spinster
resembles certain acquaintances of mine so closely that the performance
was almost eerie.
The music in the game does a good job of complementing the time period
and location, though I would have liked more musical variety. And Then
There Were None is one of the few games that I couldn’t wait to replay
as soon as I finished, because I could tell that I had missed clues and
conversations, and I was eager to go back and find what was missing in
order to come to grips with all the nuances. By the second time through
the game, the music had become repetitive, so I turned it off in the
Options menu. I strongly recommend doing this for a second play-through.
Without the music crowding them out, the ambient sounds add a whole new
texture to the game – howling wind, thunder, pounding surf, soft rainfall.
On the whole And Then There Were None provided hours and hours
of enjoyable gameplay in dramatic surroundings. It kept me guessing,
thinking, rethinking as I sat up late into the night, tweaking the
inventory, toying with the order of certain discoveries and triggering
A few quibbles:
The game contains many cutscenes. Most are excellent, portraying
emotion, furthering the plot and heightening the sense of dread. Still,
there are occasions in the cutscenes where character movement is
surprisingly awkward. Character movement during gameplay is smoother,
though the figures are very slightly pixelated, with a few hair and
clothing textures that display a curious swirling effect.
I never did find a way to click through dialogs, so I couldn’t speed
through them when I happened to trigger them for the second or third
time. Another thing that slowed the gameplay down was a lack of a “zip”
mode, particularly for the exterior locations. The game would have been
improved if I hadn’t spent quite so much time running down those long
There are a couple of places in the game where hotspots are missing.
I could only locate the hotspot by guessing that one was there, and then
picking the correct inventory item to use in exactly the right spot.
Also, in an interesting glitch, there is one point in the game where you
can locate a character’s corpse while the character is still alive in
another part of the house. (Editor's
Note: The glitch mentioned above has been removed in version 2.0 of the
game, which is now shipping. So if you want a chance to observe this
interesting phenomenon, buy version 1.0 now.)
And Then There Were…How Many?
The game has multiple endings. Each ending starts out with a core
explanation of the mystery -- one of those harrowing confessions where all
is revealed. How you react to this part of the game (it had me riveted to
the screen) will depend partly on whether or not you have guessed the true
identify of the murderer.
Actions that you take, both before and after this confession, will
affect which cutscene you see after the murderer has been dealt with.
It’s worth replaying the final portions of the game several times to enjoy
each possible ending cutscene.
Quick List for Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None
Sumptuous graphics, linear plot with nonlinear exploration. Topnotch
writing. One of the most complex plots in adventure gaming, expertly
handled. The game follows the And Then There Were None novel
fairly closely, but also contains both enigmas and dimensions not found in
the original story. Multiple satisfying endings.
Third person perspective, point-and-click interface. Excellent voice
acting. Plenty of character interaction. You cannot die. Well,
maybe if you’re more patient than I am, you can.
The game contains many inventory puzzles; some are complex. No sliding
tile puzzles, no sound puzzles, no mazes, though the paths on Shipwreck
Island are a bit maze-like. One optional timed puzzle. No puzzles that
require color discrimination.
Unlimited save slots. Once installed, the game plays from the hard
drive without the need to keep the game disk in the CD ROM drive. No
problems with installation. The game crashed twice.
And Then There Were None is aimed at Agatha Christie fans, and
at gamers who like well plotted mysteries, a varied cast of characters,
and a certain touch of class. A real triumph.
Final Grade: A
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