Agatha Christie is synonymous with mystery novels, and The Adventure Company is synonymous with — you guessed it — adventure games. It would seem like the combination of these two entities would be a point-and-click mystery match made in heaven. Unfortunately, as good as the source material and pedigree might be, the Wii game Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None is an absolute disaster, a perfect example of an idea that sounds great on paper but goes horribly wrong in execution.
And Then There Were None follows the deaths of 10 characters who find themselves trapped on an island by a host who wants to make sure they’re “reprimanded” for their murderous pasts. As you might imagine when the title is “And Then There Were None,” not a single character survives his or her stay on the island, save for the unassuming boatman who’s left to solve a plethora of whodunit situations by piecing together plot points, conversations and literal pieces of the environment.
That, naturally, is where Wii owners come in. Playing as Patrick Narracott, gamers use the Wii Remote to point and click their way across Shipwreck Island, gathering clues, adding items to their inventory and solving puzzles along the way. The Wii seems perfectly suited for a point-and-click game, with the Wii Remote acting essentially like a PC mouse, and in terms of the pointing and clicking, it does just fine. But the developers also introduce novel gameplay elements such as turning the Wii Remote to open doors, a mechanic that worked just fine in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption but isn’t nearly as compelling here. Many times the Wii Remote fails to register certain movements, from the door-opening twist to a safe-cracking motion, even after multiple tries, and the introduction of these gameplay elements is insanely tiresome as the game’s incessant backtracking requires the same inaccurate motion over and over and over and over.
The amount of backtracking in And Then There Were None is also a problem, if for no other reason than it’s a Wii game, not a PC one. Nintendo Wii owners are arguably casual gamers, as are many PC gamers, with the difference being that PC gamers can sit and play for hours, whereas console gamers generally want their gameplay in more-digestible bites. Sitting for hours backtracking through a mansion or over an island may be perfectly acceptable for PC adventure gamers, but when a Wii owner sits down for 30 minutes, he or she probably isn’t going to want to see the same four hallways or paths the entire time — then see them exclusively again during their next play session. Some of the later stages in And Then There Were None — which is ironically when the game starts to pick up its pace — feature a bit less backtracking, but by that time the game will have long since lost its players’ attention and desire to play.
Ironically, And Then There Were None originally appeared as a PC game in 2005, so this analogy isn’t completely off base, nor is the core gameplay all that surprising. What is surprising is the lack of updates in the graphics department. Few (sane) people would argue the Wii is a visual powerhouse, but even by Wii standards, And Then There Were None looks drab, dated and disappointing. The character models are essentially painted and fattened-up stick figures, the animations are of the “stop-go-stop” variety, and the environments are colorful and detailed in a few spots but generally forgettable and bland. The environments are also rendered, leaving players to maneuver the 3D and stiff-moving Narracott “over” rather than “through” the game world, occasionally interacting with “hot spots” but never controlling the camera or Narracott’s actual movement (he’ll make bee-lines for the hot spots you click on).
The silver lining, perhaps, is that because the development team forgot about the graphics entirely, they were able to spend time getting some great voice actors to read the Elder Scrolls-like amount of in-game dialogue. But if dialogue and plot is what you’re looking for, definitely probably better off getting the original source material rather than this game.
And that’s really what Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None boils down to. The novel may be a classic mystery, but the Wii game is a classic disaster. On the PC and in 2005, this point-and-click style and graphics engine worked just fine. But on the Wii and in 2008, the “isn’t this cute?” motion-sensitive controls are inexcusable and the graphics are downright ugly. And Then There Were None as a concept sounds great, but the actual execution of that concept means the only “motion” you’ll want to make is to turn the Wii off completely.
- Score: 4.2
- You’re far better off reading the book. It’s cheaper, too.
— Jonas Allen