It’s been a while since Agatha Christie: Evil under the Sun
was released, and after finally making time for the game and getting help with a bug from AWE Games, I’ve finished playing through it. While many of the components in Evil under the Sun
are the same as in the previous titles, I think AWE Games is definitely headed in a better direction with this latest installment in the adventure series. There are definitely things that still need to be improved upon, but I can say without a doubt that this game was more enjoyable than Murder on the Orient Express
, which I previously reviewed
In the Fall of last year I wrote a preview
for this game, and before I move on to the rest of the review I must note that there was one mistake I made in it. A 2404 reader pointed out that I had erroneously written that David Suchet is the voice actor for Poirot in Evil under the Sun
but, in fact, his voice acting is now done by Kevin Delaney. Poirot’s voice did indeed sound different to me when writing the preview, but I believe IMDB, the site where I checked, initially had the incorrect information. I’ll get back to the voice acting further on, but I felt that I needed to mention that up front.
Agatha Christie: Evil under the Sun begins in Hercule Poirot’s office, where the famous detective is chatting with his friend Arthur Hastings about a recent murder mystery he was able to solve very quickly while vacationing on an island at the Smuggler’s Rest Hotel. The year is 1940, in the midst of World War II, and many of the seaside resorts have been vacated because of the many dangers that come with war. The Smuggler’s Rest Hotel is one of the few remaining resorts that is still open but has a small number of guests. Poirot wonders if Hasting would be able to match his skills and soon puts him up to the challenge of trying to solve the mysteries of Seadrift Island.
After playing for a bit you, will soon discover that there are several mysteries surrounding the hotel, several possible motives for murder, and other mischievous events that are taking place. There are reports of Tom Cutter’s ghost appearing – a pirate and smuggler who used the island and inn as his base of operations at the end of the 18th century (a bit of a legend on the island), a man that sails regularly around the island with different colored sails. There are signs of strange rituals being performed in the monastery ruins on the island, threatening letters, and doors to passages that lead to underground tunnels. Although Poirot is only vacationing, he feels the need to start investigating these strange things on his own. It is only a matter of time before Colonel Anthony Weston, at the local police division, puts him in charge of solving the mystery of the murder of actress Arlena Marshall.
"...it is still easy to get stuck on menial things."
One of the main things that I found disappointing in the previous title was the linearity. While the game is still slightly linear, you don’t necessarily have to do things in a particular order and are free to explore the island and Lethercombe Bay. It’s not a particularly large region but much better than the couple of train cars you are confined to for most of Murder on the Orient Express. Basically, the game is divided into 8 Acts and to proceed to the next Act, you will need to complete several tasks. These tasks aren’t necessarily laid out; rather, you make discoveries and have conversations on your own for a good portion of the game. If you get stuck you can jump back to Poirot’s office, where you can use the finger of suspicion, a little “magical” device that Poirot came up with that lets you know how you should interact with a character. You can also talk with Poirot at his office, but I found most of his responses to be quite useless. There are also Poirot’s basic instructions in your notebook, which can be helpful. Even with this help it is still easy to get stuck on menial things. Each Act won’t end until you specifically complete all the tasks you need to, and it can get frustrating. So, for example, if you don’t look out both windows at the top of the Hotel with the binoculars or forget to pick up the brochure at the store in Lethercombe Bay (quite minor things) the Act will not end and there really isn’t any help for little things such as this. Another thing that some players might find annoying is the fact that characters disappear when you are done speaking with them in an Act. So, if you’re stuck at the end of an Act, the island and the bay appear to be a ghost town, which can really increase frustration levels if you happen to be stuck.
The other main aspect of Murder on the Orient Express that I didn’t enjoy was the fact that you weren’t able to play as Poirot. You kind of play Poirot in Evil under the Sun, but you actually play Hastings as Poirot, basically following in Poirot’s footsteps on the vacation. Your character, or game avatar, appears as Poirot, but you’ll often hear the voice of Hastings and Poirot discussing each move you make. This, at least to me, satisfied my desire to actually play as Poirot.
Most of the other game components are very similar, if not identical, to the previous titles. You still have the standard inventory, you have a notebook instead of an objectives menu this time around – and the notebook is quite useful – and there is still quite a bit of back and forth and pixel hunting. It plays like a standard point-and-click adventure title and is in the third-person perspective.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I got stuck with an extremely frustrating bug in the game at the end of Act 4. I was referencing a walkthrough and I had completed everything that needed to be done in order to continue, but several of the next steps were just unavailable to me. I looked around the internet for people who were experiencing this same problem and there were other cases. A patch
was released for the game, which must have slipped under our radar because we missed the announcement, but installing it didn’t seem to help my situation. I did go back to a previous save after installing the patch but still didn’t seem able to progress. After hunting around a bit more I finally contacted AWE Games and they were able to send a fix to me, but I did have to re-play Act 4. I’m not discounting the game for this because AWE Games was able to quickly resolve the issue, but it was very aggravating when I didn’t realize it was a game error. If you’re stuck at the end of Act 4, send me an email, and I can send you the fix.
Graphically, Evil under the Sun seems mostly the same as Murder on the Orient Express. It might be slightly better because of the new and open location, but cut scenes, characters, etc. could really be improved upon. If you didn’t have a problem with the previous titles, then it shouldn’t bother you. Unfortunately, you are still unable to change the game’s screen resolution, making the 1024x768 default look stretched on my widescreen monitor.
Sound remains one of the stronger points of the series, in my opinion. Even with the loss of David Suchet (the character who plays Poirot on TV) as Poirot’s voice actor, Kevin Delaney does a good job as a replacement. It will definitely be a disappointment to Poirot fans, but people who are unfamiliar with the actor may not be able to tell a difference. Other characters seemed well represented and even though some dialog can get repetitive, I really can’t think of anything that I found unsatisfactory in terms of the voice acting. Music also seemed solid, and I’m happy to report that one of my annoyances with Murder on the Orient Express has been resolved: music plays in the background throughout this entire game. There are also changes in the music during certain points and Acts.
"...definitely an improvement over the previous title in the series, albeit a slight one."
Overall, Agatha Christie: Evil under the Sun is definitely an improvement over the previous title in the series, albeit a slight one. The graphics and some gameplay aspects still could be improved upon quite a bit. I don’t really find pixel hunting to be fun, and I think the characters should stick around, and possibly even help or give hints, instead of having them disappear when the conversation in an Act has been completed. Fans of the game series will definitely want to add this to their collection, but I’m not sure that the adventure genre community on the whole will be able to be as appreciative of the game. Hopefully, the series will continue to improve.