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Lora's Adventure Game Reviews: And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None
(Game release date: 2005)
Fun point-and-click adventure flawed by a time-wasting interface and regrettably few puzzles.

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Highlights: Good characters, gloomy mood, interactive endings Lowlights: Few puzzles, illogical pixel-hunting, annoying interface

And Then There Were None is based on the popular play of the same name, originally written by mystery powerhouse Agatha Christie (based in turn on a mystery novel she had written earlier called "Ten Little N*ggers," which have thankfully been turned into "sailor boys" for the game.) It's a standard point-and-click adventure game, unfortunately saddled with some of the standard point-and-click adventure flaws: long, unskippable, and frequently repeated lines of dialogue; rooms that are painfully difficult to navigate around; lots of boring jogging back and forth across pointless empty screens; and the constant need to pixel-hunt for tiny objects in befuddling places.

The intriguing characters and ominous, gloomy mood of And Then There Were None make it a better-than-average entry in the genre, however. The adaptation of the classic mystery is a successful one-- the way the original story was written, each of the ten characters is potentially plausible as the killer, so changing the story to feature a different villain was a good choice (since so many people have read or watched the original already.) And with only a few awkward exceptions, adding a new character to serve as your own PC worked well. Best of all, And Then There Were None featured a total of four different endings, depending on how well the player does at thwarting the villain in the last two chapters. For an adventure game to include any amount of gameplay interactivity at all is noteworthy, and makes playing it that much more fun.

Style: And Then There Were None is a puzzle adventure game with a third-person view of the environment and a point-and-click interface. The plot is a murder mystery. The game features two timed sequences, though little manual dexterity is required. Combat and leveling are not elements.

Series: And Then There Were None is the first Agatha Christie mystery produced by Dreamcatcher Interactive-- the second is Murder on the Orient Express. There is no connection at all between the two plots, so each stands alone perfectly well and there's no reason to play them in any particular order. You can buy both games bundled together if you'd like to play them both.

Finding And Then There Were None: This game is still in print so you should have no problem finding it in your favorite software store. Here it is for Windows or Wii. You can also buy And Then There Were None bundled with the second Agatha Christie game, Murder on the Orient Express, in this Double Murder Mystery Pack, which is a very good value.

Getting And Then There Were None to Work: And Then There Were None is a is a recent game and ought to be plug-and-play. I encountered no gameplay problems while running it. To the best of my knowledge it is even compatible with Vista.

Hints For And Then There Were None: I do not have a walkthrough page for And Then There Were None yet. If you're stuck on a specific puzzle, there is a terrific hints page at UHS which reveals only one hint at a time, so you won't accidentally learn the answers to future puzzles while scanning for the one you're stuck on.

Pitfalls In And Then There Were None: This is a fairly bug-free game, but there's one frustrating glitch in it: there are three things you need to find for chapter 8 to end, and if you're unlucky enough to find them in the wrong order, you will never be able to pick up an object you will need to achieve the best possible ending to the game, because the chapter will end without giving you a chance. The only way for you to avoid this outcome without getting spoiled is to make a savegame at the beginning of chapter 8 and set it aside; do NOT overwrite it. If you end chapter 8 without discovering and picking up a murder weapon, go back and replay it in a different order. It's an extremely short chapter anyway.

Game Length: 30 hours or so, about average for a graphic adventure.

Age-Appropriateness: This game is rated T (for 13 years old and up), due to bloodless dead bodies, the off-screen deaths of NPCs, and some mild swearing ("damn" and "hell.")

Lora's And Then There Were None Review: (Pretty Good)

Plot and Quests: The mystery plot is pretty good, and wins definite bonus points for offering the player multiple endings. There are also several optional plot discoveries to be made if you're investigative enough. Unfortunately, the quality of the investigative subplots is very poor (most of them consist of making something random, like a jar of honey, for no good reason, then giving it to an NPC for no good reason.)
Puzzles and Mental Challenges: This is a weak spot of And Then There Were None. There are no real puzzles in here (at one point you find an encoded message, and don't even have the option to decode it yourself; the game does it for you automatically.) It's interesting trying to guess who the killer is, but irritatingly, you cannot confront the person until the endgame even if you find evidence implicating them earlier. Otherwise the only mental challenge in this game is finding and using inventory objects, and most of those 'puzzles' range from dull to nonsensical.
Characters: The NPCs are a dynamic, interesting bunch who are easily distinguished from one another soon into the game (that's no mean feat when you have ten characters and mediocre graphics.) I found myself really liking several of them despite their checkered pasts, which made the inevitable deaths have more impact (and the ability to avert some of the murders more rewarding.) The PC and his backstory are near-seamless additions to the cast. All the voice acting is good quality.
Gameworld: The mansion and island have a suitably menacing, isolated feel to them, but the attempts to evoke a sense of time and place with a lot of extraneous chitchat about 1930's topics like Hitler and big band music fell kind of flat.
Gameplay: Generally OK, but rather dull and repetitive-- most of the player's job in each chapter is to revisit every location in the game until you have found all the surviving NPCs and asked them about every conversational topic on their lists. Meaningful interrogation choices, or any kind of variety in the gameplay, would have helped a lot.
Interface: Serviceable third-person point-and-click interface. Navigation is somewhat awkward, with very small hotspots for some of the movement arrows, and there is no navigation map or movement shortcuts, so you spend a lot of time watching your character jog back and forth across empty screens till he finally gets to the one you want. The inability to skip lines of dialogue is particularly grating here since the main character often utters long, pointless comments whenever you click on objects to examine them more closely and you can't do anything till he's finished. The inventory screen wasn't bad.
Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): The animation is so-so in this game. The cutscenes, in particular, often looked worse than the in-game animations. The music is also unimpressive. On the other hand, the drawings of the mansion and the overcast island are excellent and successfully evoke a morbid, ominous mood. And Then There Was None has no truly scary moments in it (a bit odd for a murder mystery) but is frequently suspenseful and often heavily sad, sometimes affectingly so. The book's original depressing ending was changed to something a bit cheerier by Agatha Christie herself for the stage version, but the oppressively gloomy ambience that might have caused the last victim to commit suicide is still present in this rendition.

Lora's Recommendations: I would recommend And Then There Were None to gamers who are already fans of the graphic adventure genre and have built up a healthy tolerance for things like pixel hunting and illogical "put the pickle on the tombstone" kind of inventory puzzles. If you're able to ignore those all-too-typical flaws, you will probably be charmed by the interesting characters and plot of this mystery adventure. But it's not a good introduction to the genre-- for beginning adventure game players, I would recommend starting with the light-hearted pirate adventure Curse of Monkey Island or the lush fantasy epic The Longest Journey, both of which do a good job minimizing frustrating time-wasters and pixel-hunting.

If You Loved And Then There Were None: You might also like Murder on the Orient Express, another Agatha Christie-based mystery adventure by the same design team. The dark horror mystery The Black Mirror is also similar in style, but more gruesome and much scarier. Conversely, the Nancy Drew series of graphic adventures is somewhat more kid-oriented than the Agatha Christie games, but also features clever mysteries populated by interesting characters. A couple of other mystery-related titles you may enjoy are the surreal psychological thriller Sanitarium and the art-nouveau mystery game Last Express.

For a more detailed critique of the game involving spoilers, plot holes, and impacts And Then There Were None could have on the adventure-game genre, please see my Backseat Game Designer page. Happy gaming!

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