Agatha Christie: THE ABC MURDERS


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by INTERACTIVE STUDIO; MICROIDS; ANUMAN INTERACTIVE; IRM; STEAM;
AGATHA CHRISTIE MANAGEMENT 

INTRIGUING, INTERACTIVE MURDER!

Story:  After receiving a letter signed ABC, challenging him to solve a murder due to occur in a few days time, Poirot contacts Inspector Japp of New Scotland Yard to warn him.   They become involved in trying to solve what appears to be a series of murders based on the alphabet, of the victims’ names and of their locations.  The usual Agatha Christie well-constructed, cleverly interwoven, convoluted plot, with clues scattered along the way for you, as Poirot, to use or discard.

Options: Language, Volume, Video, Controls.  Under Video you can turn the game from High to Low, if your Mouse tends to ‘float’.  This of course affects the Graphics a little, making some  of the written documents impossible to read; and makes  the Game-play awkward at times, but makes the Mouse control much easier.  I had to resort to this on my Windows 10 computer.  I haven’t tried the game on my Windows 7 computer, as I thought that as it was a new game it should be compatible with Windows 10.

Main Menu:  Easy to negotiate – Play; Bonuses; Options; Profiles; with Player Name, Ego Points, Progress in top right. Quit shows as you leave the game.  Help contains the whole Tutorial notes, which you can visit by clicking Pause anytime during the game.

 Music:   Poirot theme versions, but very repetitive.  Can turn it right down so it’s okay.

Character Voices:   On the whole they are similar to those in the David Suchet movies.  However Poirot is disappointing as the French sounds Boer at times – it could of course be Belgian French, but if so, instead of sounding perfect, it sounds wrong.  So Poirot doesn’t quite have the right feel at times, as you’re playing.  Hastings and Japp are much closer to character, and of course the other characters all work well, as there are no expectations for them.

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Bonuses: Timeline; Reconstructions; Trophies.  Although the Timeline and Reconstructions tell you what you’ve already discovered, you can visit these during the game to see how you’re going, or to jog your memory.  If you’re Trophy orientated, a quick scan through after the game should suffice.  And if you miss any Trophies, you can’t collect them afterwards either – you have to replay the whole game again, possibly under a new Player name.

Desktop:   You have virtually the whole screen to play with.  An Arrow bottom right of screen opens to show HELP, Notebook, ‘?’ with which you access respectively the Tutorial, The Tasks, and ‘The Little Grey Cells’ for deduction.  As you gather Items to use – not many each scene – they are placed  in Inventory circles beside the open Arrow.

Tutorial:   Instructions are given initially as you begin, then a Hint at a time each Loading change of screen.  These are rather repetitive, but useful if it’s for something you haven’t done for a while.

Graphics:   As you can see by the Title Graphics at the top, they take the form of comic-book/illustrated novel, with animated linear characters walking through illustrated, perspective settings.  They are rather similar to some of the Sherlock Holmes games, rather than the 3D CG Graphics of AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, EVIL UNDER THE SUN, and MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, but you adapt to it quite quickly.

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Puzzles:   As there are no Hidden Objects (HOPS) this game is rather heavy on Puzzles.  And they need to be done in a certain order as well, which can be frustrating, not to mention cause you to stall altogether.

Tip: For example, the Clock puzzle you have to rotate the Clock and note the stuck Paper in its one Panel; then you have to set the Hands to 12; turn the top right Spindle; open the top Panel; turn the bottom right Leg; open the right Panel; remove the Key and note the Clue inside the Door; use the Key on left upper Gear, right bottom Gear, middle Gear; then use the Key on Metal Disk in the Clock Face; open the Panels.

Hints:  http://guides.gamepressure.com/agathachristietheabcmurders/  I found this Hints site, which gives enough info to get you through the touch spots.

Game-play:   This is a little confusing at first.  Click on all Icons to find out what they do and possibly lead to.  While seeming to be quite different from the other Poirot games (mentioned above), this game is equally interactive, requiring you to walk Poirot, and often beside him Hastings, through the scenes, examining all areas including bodies for evidence collection and the noting of information.  You can double-click for Fast Walk – which isn’t very fast.  You also collect Ego Points when you behave as Poirot would – like checking Poirot in all mirrors so he can see how he looks.

When you examine Evidence, you can turn them to examine them by dragging them around.  If you click on an Inventory Item you immediately gain this facility.  In other areas you are required to Look at a character to decide whether he/she is telling the truth, or how they are feeling.  Circles appear then turn green in the right spot.  It is necessary that you carry out ALL these actions within a scene, and that you Click on them all, before you can finally leave the scene.  So if you get stuck check the room again until you find the missed Action – this  may entail you repeating one you have already carried out.

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Player Participation:   You have to ‘make’ the unlocking, lifting, moving, sliding actions yourself.  If you Pause the game you can ‘Use a clue’  to have Poirot make one action for you.  But it is very slow to recharge, and that one action may be in a long list of them.  If I were you, I’d resort to the Hint Link above.  I had it on my other computer, so was able to switch between them without having to come out of the game.  This saved a lot of frustration for me.  But I didn’t need it very much.  Once you get into the swing of the game, especially of rechecking things you’ve already done, the game moves more freely.  Otherwise it is slow moving.

Frustration Factors:   This is mostly caused by the slowness of the scene changes; the constant revisiting of completed actions; the refusal of the game to respond to clicking until you have done so many times – for example trying to make Japp speak in the Lobby towards the end (grit your teeth and persevere).  It’s great that Steam have a Demo for you to play prior to purchases – a thing they rarely seem to have – but after purchase of the game, you need to Start the game from the beginning, repeating thee first murder inquiry.

Satisfaction Factor:   Despite the frustrations of the Game-play; the slowness of the loading; and the stubborn Puzzle games, this is still an enjoyable experience.  It sticks quite closely to Agatha Christie’s novel, which is always a bonus.  If you have read it, or seen the David Suchet movie, then you will already know who the murderer is and how the plot unwinds.  But this doesn’t spoil the game at all.  It adds anticipation.

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I recommend this game to all Agatha Christie fans, and also to others who are into narrative Crime games.

Jud House 10/12/2014

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Posted in AGATHA CHRISTIE GAMES, CRIME & MYSTERY | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

GAME CULLING – THE DEMISE OF CSI GAMES?


Hi CSI Fans.  I’ve been working hard to promote the reinstatement of the PC Disk versions of future CSI Games for quite a while.

I am not alone in not liking the Online CSI formats.   I just tried one on PuffGames.com and you can’t even open up to full screen.  So you are trying to play in about 40x40cms of screen.  It’s ridiculous. And have you seen the format for CRIME CITY?  And HIDDEN CRIMES is another tablet/mobile game.  I asked if they could also release it after conversion to a PC format, for those of us who only play PC games.  But to no avail. There is just no comparison with the original PC format.  It’s as though the CSI producers only care about the up-coming tablet/mobile market, caring nothing for the loyal die-hard fans of the original Series.

I have had a couple of positive comments from Visitors to this judsgamereviews site, re the need to release a new original format PC Download/Disk game, but not the quantity of comments needed to give my stance backing.  I have a contact within Ubisoft, who was willing to help if I could rally enough Customer interest.

But while trying to find an Agatha Christie new game called THE ABC MURDERS – which I found on Steam – I discovered that Ubisoft no longer have ANY CSI GAMES in their Store’s sales list.  I was devastated.  I fear that is the end.  Unless Tell Tale Games have changed publisher/marketing firm.

It is sad.  The format of the CSI games was unique – except for CSI NY – and in its time novel, using 3D CG TV show characters, total interactivity in evidence collection and processing, and with 5 Cases per Game, the 5th being the culmination of the other 4.  I only hope we can get them Remastered some day.  Otherwise we will have to hold on to our older PCs in order to revisit them occasionally.  They are worth revisiting regularly.

I fear that the Agatha Christie games may be going the same way.  The format of this new game is a little different from the other formats.  The three big ones are similar to CSI in that you ‘walk’ Poirot through the locations; while the other four are Hidden Object format and fun in their own right, despite some of the HOs being really tiny.  But BigFish Games which had all of the latter four in their Sales List, have now removed them.  It seems that the Game providers are culling their lists, as new games are added, daily.  Even the HINT Service Sites are culling their lists, so you need to download for older games if you think you may need them later.

Sad.  Sad.  Sad.

Jud House 5/11/2016

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Posted in AGATHA CHRISTIE GAMES, CRIME & MYSTERY, CSI & NCIS GAMES, JUD'S VIEWS & TROUBLESHOOTING | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

DARK REALM: LORD OF THE WINDS


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by MAD HEAD GAMES; BIGFISH GAMES

GORGEOUS FANTASY!

Story:  After centuries of war, you and the leader of the Sky Kingdom have pledged peace. What starts as a joyous occasion quickly turns dark when you’re framed for setting up the Sky King. With a new battle raging, can you find the real culprit before it’s too late?  Continuation of DARK REALM Series. (Big Fish Games Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:   Both are clear and easy to use.  The Standard game lacks all the added EXTRAS of the Collector’s Edition, so the MM looks a little bare.

Music & Voices:  These are both good – the Music varies and is entirely suitable to the game.  The Voices are also really well matched to their characters, and so enhance the story.

Desktop:   Inventory fill two thirds of the bottom bar; all other controls are on the Right – Bow & various Arrows, Objectives, various Maps, Hint, and Menu.

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Tutorial:   This is efficient, and you can opt in or out via the Difficulty Modes.

Graphics:   Absolutely gorgeous.  Colourful, imaginative, intricately detailed in all aspects – settings, furnishings, characters, creatures, the works.  Good Graphics enhance the enjoyment of the game – bad Graphics are detrimental to the game satisfaction factor!

Play Modes:   Breeze; Zephyr; Gale; and Custom – the latter allows a fair degree of choice.

Map:  These change as you find them, move to a different location, are given new Maps.  They are all interactive, allowing you to jump from site to site within each location, and providing Active and Objective site info to assist your decisions.  The Map Info Key is in a drop-down window, which is great as it doesn’t take up too much Map-room.

HOPs:   These were very unusual.  I like that about Mad Head Games – they have tried to make the HOP experience as interesting as possible.  There are a few Interactive Lists, where you find some Items with the help of another Item.  But there are different types of Pairing – Runes, Patterns, Plants etc – and Multiple sites within a site.  Occasionally though there are some Items that are so hard to find.  This is a little frustrating, and if it interferes with the Game-Play then use Hint to find them.

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Puzzles:   These are also very diverse, interesting, unusual, clever, and mostly enjoyable.  Once again if the frustration level rises too far, use SKIP, so that you don’t lose the contact with the flow of the game.  I really like the Puzzle that allows you to steer the Blimp; and the Unblocking the Path Puzzle you use to activate and aim your Retrieving Bow & Arrow.

Game-play:   On the whole this flows well.  It is engrossing, keeping you wanting to move forward, and solve the problems.   You are given various short-term Items – like the Orb which you carry until you can recharge its Power from the King’s statue in order to defeat your enemy; the Seeing Stone you activate to look ahead at what is missing; the Stars you need to collect in three stages to unlock three compartments; and the various Arrow Heads you acquire to use for different tasks.

Player Participation:   This is high – you are required to make many of the actions yourself which is always a plus.  The Maps ease the amount of Pointing & Clicking needed, which saves on the wrist fatigue.

Satisfaction Factor:  This is really high.  To an experienced player, the story shifts and twists are fairly predictable, but that doesn’t affect the enjoyment at all.  It’s just that you are often ahead of the game mentally, while still resolving issues as they arise.  That in itself leads to a sense of satisfaction, and possibly smugness.

Frustration Factors:  The Dexterity required is occasionally a little high, but can be resolved with patience or the Skip button!

Bonus Game:  There is none in the Standard game, though you are left with no doubt at the end that there is more to come in the Bonus Chapter.

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I wish I’d bought the Collector’s Edition of this game.  I highly recommend it.

Jud House 31/10/2016

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HIDDEN EXPEDITION: THE ETERNAL EMPEROR – Collector’s Edition


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by EIPIX ENTERTAINMENT; BIGFISH GAMES

INTRIGUING, INVESTIGATIVE

Story:   [As a H.E.L.P. Operative] You’ve been called to China to help in the excavation of the ancient Emperor Qin’s final resting place. What starts as a simple mission quickly turns into the experience of a lifetime when your colleague’s lives are put in danger. Can you uncover the secrets of the Qin dynasty and save your friends before your time runs out? (Big Fish Sales Blurb)

Options & Main Menu:   These are both good – Options are complex with many choices.  The MM is well arranged, with enticing, colourful graphics inviting you to press Play.

Music & Voice-Overs:  These are excellent, and extremely appropriate, though as usual I turned the Music down as I don’t want it to take over the playing experience.

Extras:   Play Puzzle, Play HOP, Collectibles, Play Bonus Chapter, Video, Pictures, Music, Souvenir Room.

Play Modes:   Explorer, Adventurer, H.E.L.P. Operative, Custom (with lots of choices, including turning OFF the Penalties).

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Desktop:   These have become quite complex lately in most games with multiple access often requiring all sides of the screen.
H.E.L.P. Box  (Achievements, Message, History) Fact Cards, Map, Guide, Menu (L); Inventory and Lists (C); Collectibles, Hints, and Morphing Objects in HOPs.

Tutorial:   Well worth using – I just used the Special Features Only option.

Graphics:   Delicious.  Vibrantly colourful.  Imaginative. Innovative.  Authentically Chinese.  Creative settings that make you feel you are really immersing yourself into and exploring Chinese locations.  They are a huge factor for the success of this game.  If only the Video Graphics weren’t fuzzy due to low Pixel count.

Map:   Interactive, fairly logical so easy to use once you’ve grasped their format.  Also informative and saves a lot of time and back & forth clicking.

HOPs:   Interactive.  There are not a huge number of these, but many of them are Multiples – sites where you find a few shaped items, then move to another part of the page, or zoom in, often more than once.  Each main HOP has a Morphing Object that you need to find – though upon completion of both games you can go to Play HOPs in Extras Menu, and find the missed Morphs as you replay each location.  There are also Story HOPs – the Fact Cards give you provide background stories of the Emperor’s rule and you find elements within them.

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Puzzles:   These are on the whole enjoyable and logical.  They usually serve a variety of purposes, e.g. to open a locked gate, to assist you on your way through the game.  But they can be Skipped, especially if they are of the few random-clicking kind.

Collections:   Dragons (40); Fact Cards.  These continue into Bonus Chapter.  Any missed ones can be found upon completion of the Main and Bonus games.   They then unlock the Souvenir Room, where  you revisit locations to find one more Item in each.

Game-play:   This flows well, driven by the story as it should be.  There are times when you think the game is drawing to a conclusion, but then of course there is another twist that sends you after the villain or accomplice again.  It is a bit predictable, but that’s okay.  And of course don’t be surprised to find yourself talking to the characters when you can’t make them do what you think they should be doing – this is just a great way to let off the Frustration Factor steam.  Some things need to be done in a certain order.  Though you might be able to see what should be done, you may not be able to do it until something else is found or opened first.  A bit FF.

Player Participation:   This is full on.  You are completely involved down to little details, opening things yourself, climbing walls, etc.

Frustration Factors:   Mainly caused by the odd Puzzle, by the need for some things to be done in a certain order, and by the low-quality graphics of the Movies.

Satisfaction Factor:  This is high – despite its predictability it is very satisfying reaching the end, though the culmination is over very quickly after your final battle puzzle.  I wish they wouldn’t do that.  The fact that the Bonus Chapter follows concluding it properly, doesn’t help someone who has only bought the Standard game.

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Bonus Game:   As mentioned, this concludes the game, once again predictably with the nuisance character from the main game.  (I’m trying not to cause a SPOILER here.)

I highly recommend this game.

Jud House 15/09/2016

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MORTIMER BECKETT REVISITED


by PAPRIKARI; GAMEHOUSE; BIGFISH GAMES

I want to let you know that I’ve just completed and re-purchase and re-play of all four MORTIMER BECKETT games on my Windows 10 computer.  I have already covered quite comprehensively the way these games appear and play on Windows 7 – see https://judsgamereviews.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/mini-reviews-mortimer-beckett/, https://judsgamereviews.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/mini-reviews-mortimer-beckett-the-crimson-thief-premium-edition/  – but thought it was time to see if they’d been updated at all.  Recently, BigFish have been advertising them on the W10 sales page – if they aren’t compatible, I’ve noticed that older games don’t appear in W10 while doing so in W7 on the same day.  The older games are substituted with newer games.

Graphics:    So, playing the first two games, SPOOKY MANSION and TIME PARADOX, on W10, the Graphics are a little fuzzy, but definitely not too unclear, nor any more annoying than before.  I was surprised that both these games actually played on W10, but I put that down to the possibility that they’d been Up-dated.  Both games play without any extra problems than those already discussed in my previous reviews.  The Graphics for LOST KING are fine, clear as before in W7.  I think it is the best of the games in many ways.  And of course the 3D CG characters are much improved, and very enjoyable as are their Voices.  But the Graphics for the latest game, CRIMSON THIEF, are less clear in places, though the characters are still good.

Game-play:     However, my main concern is that the Game-play in the latter two games has a speed glitch.  The Cursor Arrow, instead of pulsing at it points at Items or Exit-points, flashes at an incredible rate.  When you click on an Item it snatches and flies in a flash to its destination, whether that is into the Inventory or from the Inventory to its needed position.  While this is a little disturbing, distracting and disorientating, it can be coped with.  It certainly speeds the game up!  Until you get to the Mini-Games/Puzzles.

Puzzles:   Some of these play okay – just.  In LOST KING, you are just settling down to this weird Game-play action, when you are faced with three Puzzles, in which there are no SKIPS:
the Nut Beneath the Cups  which goes so fast that you can’t see which cup to choose, though, as you need to tackle this later when the Nut glows, you can at least complete this game;
the (TIMED) Mirror where the clock has been sped up so that you don’t have time to find all the Differences between the multiple Mirror images, so that you just can’t complete it;
the Concentration Deck of Cards where they flash so quickly face-up face-down that you can barely discern any of them at all.  If you manage to pick one Ace, you certainly can’t pick the other to make the Pair so you can complete the game.

So you cannot proceed any further in the game.  At all!!

In CRIMSON THIEF, this isn’t quite so noticeable, and with some games there were Skip buttons.  There were a couple that required selecting Items in a specific order:
Hitting Items in a shown order that flashed faster for each of 3 levels;
Copying Karate Moves where you had to snatch a flash of image to try to match Mortimer’s moves with those of the Master;
Picture Swapping Jigsaws had completely pixelled Graphics where the image was a series of tiny coloured boxes within the small boxes you needed to swap around.

I did however manage to complete this game, but it wasn’t very enjoyable due to the annoyance and frustration of the poor Game-play.

HOPs:   These played normally except for the swift flashing as Items sped from place to place.

I did try to reset LOST KING by using W10 Troubleshooting program, which allows you to reset an older game back to its earlier version Windows program (hopefully).  But when I finally found a way in to this facility, in its list of programs that needed modifying, the only action it would allow any of the games was Uninstallation – eg it has Uninstall Mortimer Beckett as its title, instead of just Mortimer Beckett.  I tried it – it uninstalled the game from my computer (surprise, surprise), so I reinstalled the game, resumed Play and found the Glitch in the Puzzles was still there (as expected).  So no help there I’m afraid.  if I should resolve this, or if BigFish are able to access a Patch for the game I will let you know.

So, do I still recommend this Series?  Yes if you play it on Windows 7 or XP.  I didn’t try it on Windows 8, and I guess it should play on that somewhere between W7 and W10.  I find it strange that the first two games played through normally (for them) while the later two games played so haphazardly.  I thought the first two might not play on W10 at all.

It’s up to you.  But I don’t recommend you buy them for W10.  If you play the Free Trial, make sure you do so till the end of the trial so you can see what I mean about the Puzzles.

 Jud House 6/8/2016

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Posted in ADVENTURE, JUD'S VIEWS & TROUBLESHOOTING, SPOOKY GAMES, TROUBLESHOOTING PC GAMES, UPDATE | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments