Review – Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case
It seems like every two years we’re given another Agatha Christie game. Surprisingly, for taking such beloved characters and brilliant source material, the majority of the games we’ve gotten have been mediocre at best, such as Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders and Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot – The First Cases. Still, every time I hear of a new Agatha Christie game on the horizon, I get excited. I can only chock this up to my deep-seated love of her novels, which keeps me hopeful that one day we’ll get a game that is as remarkable as her works are. Now with Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case on the scene, it’s time to investigate whether or not this is the answer we’ve been looking for.
Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is the follow-up to Blazing Griffin’s Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases. Fans of Christie’s novels involving the famed sleuth will be pleased by the inclusion of Arthur Hastings, his beloved sidekick. Poirot and Hastings are tasked with transporting a valuable painting to London, where it is to be the main attraction in an exhibition. However, things go awry during opening night, with the painting going missing. It’s up to Poirot and Hastings to find the missing artwork and return it to the museum.
I found the mystery in the last game to be extremely predictable. I would argue that the story in Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is much better this time around, but that does come with a pretty big caveat. It takes way too long to really get going, with the actual mystery not starting until Chapter 3, and it not even getting interesting until Chapter 4… out of seven. That’s right, the first half of this game is an absolute slog to get through. To be fair, once things do pick up, it does actually become fairly intriguing, and keeps you guessing until the very end. Plus, unlike the last game, the answer isn’t obvious right from the start. There are a fair amount of twists and turns. Even though I did guess the culprit correctly early on, their motivations were not at all what I was expecting.
As usual, Poirot will have to investigate crime scenes for clues, as well as talk to each character to learn more about their movements and potential motives. One gameplay component that was noticeably lacking from the previous game was the act of interrogating potential suspects. Even though there was no real risk of failing, it was still a fun aspect of the game, and was without a doubt what I enjoyed most about it.
In Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case, it has been omitted almost entirely, with only one occurrence at the very end of the game. Even then, it didn’t seem like there was any way to not pass it, unless I somehow made all the right dialogue choices on my very first attempt. It’s a shame the developers chose to remove this feature, as it added a layer of challenge, even if there was no penalty for failing.
Once more, the Mind Map returns, much to my chagrin. As before, many of the deductions make little to no sense, while others that seem painfully obvious to connect, don’t for some reason. Thankfully, this time around a hint system has been added, much like in Blazing Griffin’s Murder Mystery Machine. If you fail to connect the required two clues three times when making a deduction, the correct clues will become highlighted. This makes navigating the Mind Map infinitely less aggravating than before.
However, that’s about the only praise I can give the gameplay, although adding the hint system was certainly an important (and much needed) improvement. Simply put, Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is much longer than it needs to be. The game takes about eight to ten hours to complete, when it honestly should have been a five to six hour experience. There several factors that affect the amount of time spent with the game.
For starters, there’s the controls. Hercule Poirot saunters like a lazy cat on a hot day. He walks at an incredibly slow pace, and there’s no button to make him run, jog, or even walk briskly. This makes checking every single nook and cranny for clues feel tedious, especially when you add in the fact that he has the turning radius of a school bus. I can’t tell you how many times Poirot would get stuck on objects or other NPCs when trying to steer him around the room.
I also experienced a lot of issues with either not being able to click on items of interest, or the game not registering that I had done so. There were a few crime scenes that I was stuck on for a while, not because I didn’t know what to do or where to go, but I simply couldn’t progress because of this. Luckily, reloading my game usually did the trick, but it was still needlessly time consuming. Hopefully a patch will fix these issues later on, but at the time of writing, this happened a fair amount.
The controls aren’t the only factors that affected the play time. Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is loaded with unnecessary filler. There’s so much backtracking in this game, it’s ridiculous. Many times I knew exactly what I needed to do or who talk to, but I couldn’t until I revisited a location to fulfill some arbitrary interaction. Not to mention there are several missions that have no relevance to the story whatsoever, but you’ll have to complete them anyway if you want to move on. For example, in order to interrogate Bishop Mountjoy, you’ll have to find his missing cat. It’s a fairly long task too, and yes, it involves quite a bit of backtracking. It adds nothing to the game, and provides no other function than padding the runtime.
What shocks me most about Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case, is how big of a step back in graphics it is from the last game. The aren’t anymore hand-drawn illustrations in the dialogue boxes when characters speak to one another. This is disappointing, as that was one of the visual highlights of the previous game. Now the dialogue boxes are just giant black boxes, and depending on how many options there are, they can take up to a third of the whole screen.
Then there are the character models themselves. Hoo boy. They’re certainly… something. They both look and move like puppets or ventriloquist dolls. It’s like watching Team America: World Police or Thunderbirds with a Hercule Poirot theme. The models look waxy, and their faces have almost no emotion and then eyes that cross quite often. Sometimes you can only tell who’s speaking by looking for which character’s teeth are flashing.
Speaking of the animations, characters all have the same rigging. This means only one character at a time will have animations, but then the other will do the exact same animations once they’re done, like they’re mirroring each other. It becomes painfully obviously after watching a few conversations, and further gives the sense that you’re watching puppets interact instead of people.
The sound design in Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case also makes some questionable choices. Like the first game, the music is subtle. Too subtle, in this case. I honestly didn’t even notice the soundtrack at all throughout most of the game. It didn’t help to create ambiance, it was just… kind of there. The voice acting is also somewhat hit and miss, but thankfully, most of the performances are pretty decent. Although, when Poirot is voicing his internal thoughts, he sounds like he’s delivering his lines from inside a wall. It’s really bizarre. Is this suppose to signify that he’s trapped within the walls of his own mind, or could the voice actor only record these lines a small closet with the door shut? It’s jarring to hear these moments when everything else is so clear.
Like so many of the other games inspires by the works of Agatha Christie, Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is largely mediocre. Even though the story and its mystery are much better this time around, its pacing might turn off some players before they finally get to the interesting parts. It also suffers from poor controls and lots of needless filler. Honestly, it might have been an alright game if it worked well and was trimmed down a bit, but as it stands, I wouldn’t waste your little gray cells on this one.
Hideously bad character animations. They look and move like ventriloquist dolls, with almost no emotion whatsoever.
A point-and-click investigative game. The Mind Map returns with many of the deductions still making little to no sense. Poirot moves slowly and there’s no run button.
What little music is present is completely forgettable. The voice acting is hit and miss, but Poirot sounds really muffled when speaking his internal thoughts..
The Mind Map still makes little sense at times, but its new hint system makes it less aggravating. It takes until about Chapter 4 to get interesting, but has a decent ending. There’s also lots of unnecessary filler and backtracking to pad the runtime.
Final Verdict: 4.0
Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The London Case was provided by the publisher.