Agatha Christie, even years after her death, is probably still one of the greatest mystery writers of all time. Within that genre, few have risen to her level and nobody has really broken new ground like she did. Her stories built the groundwork upon what most modern murder mystery stores are based.
Creating a game based on a Christie story is actually nothing new. Almost ten years ago I played Broderbund’s Murder On the Orient Express, which was a cartoon-drawn adventure game. But I believe this is the first time a game is based on the interesting premise put forward in "And Then There Were None."
Originally written in 1938, the original name for the book was deemed too offensive for even that time period. So it was changed to "Ten Little Indians." However, when the book was published in America, the new name was also found to be too offensive (it basically substituted offending one racial group in the original title for a new one) so it was eventually changed to And Then There Were None.
Set in a beautiful mansion on a deserted island, the plot is that ten seemingly unrelated strangers are lured or coaxed for various reasons to a dinner party held by their enigmatic host U.N. Owen, who none have met and does not even show up for the party. Over the mantle is a large painting with a gruesome children’s rhyme about ten sailors (originally Ten Little Indians) and how each one dies.
The guests, all seemingly proper British men and ladies living in the period between The Great War and World War II, are nonetheless miffed that their host did not show up. But after dinner when they learn why, such little things as a missing host are suddenly trivial.
A record is played as instructed to the butler, himself new to the house having never met the owner, and each person at the party is accused of murdering someone and getting away with it. The record details the murders, which range from accidentally hitting someone with a car and killing them, to having a baby die in their care, to murdering African tribesmen while on safari to sending an innocent man to the gallows. None of the murders are actually prosecutable as murders, and each person has escaped justice, at least according to the person speaking on the record. The missing host of the party aims to make justice happen, and since everyone is stuck on the island, there is little anyone can do about it.
One by one, each of the trapped guests is murdered just like the sailors in the rhyme. So if a sailor chokes to death in the rhyme, then someone probably gets poisoned. The way the guests die is similar to the rhyme without being totally obvious. The guests have to scramble to figure out who is killing them, and if one of the guests is actually the killer in disguise – referred to later in the story as Mr. Unknown.
In the game, you play an eleventh character not found in the book, a boatman who is hired to motor the guests to the island. One of the guests it turns out has a score to settle with you, and sabotages your boat to trap you there too. Later on when the person who sinks your boat realizes that a homicidal maniac is lurking in the shadows and that he has just destroyed the only way off the deadly rock, he really kicks himself. But by then it’s too late for that.
Your presence on the island is not planned by Mr. Unknown, and you obviously throw off some of the intricate traps as well as the insidious plans of the killer, but not so much that characters don’t begin dropping like flies.
The game mechanics is typical adventure fare, with you clicking to move around the mansion and the island, finding secret passages and gathering clues into your inventory as you try to unravel Mr. Unknown’s identity. As you get closer to the truth, Mr. Unknown sets their sights on you too.
The game is not difficult to play. The few advanced puzzles are actually optional and don’t need to be solved to reach a successful conclusion, though it makes it more fun. Conversing with the guests and exploring are your biggest keys to success.
You can’t save everyone, but you can save a few if you are very good or very lucky. I was totally surprised by the ending, which does not follow the book. However, once you are done you have the option of solving one more puzzle, and then you get to see how Christie wanted the story to end. I have to say that I kind of like the way the game ended a bit better, though one or two murders don’t quite tie in to the game’s ending quite as perfectly as they did in the book.
It took me about ten hours to solve the game, which is not bad considering the $30 price tag. If you have ever wondered if you could survive in a frightening and wit-challenging situation like the one Christie set out, And Then There Were None will put your mettle to the test. It earns 4 GiN Gems for being an enjoyable and solvable murder mystery, with a touch of class to boot.