When I received a game key for Agatha Christie’s – Murder on the Orient Express, developed by Microids Studio Lyons, I didn’t know what to expect. I am not one for what I call “Storybook games,” and I was worried this would be one of those. I booted the game up on my Xbox and quickly became reacquainted with Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot, the one with the fantastic mustache. Seriously, that thing has a life of its own (it’s beautiful).
I began what I assumed would be a quick one-hour game session to get a feel for the game and then head to bed. Almost four hours later, I was immersed and didn’t want to quit. Murder on the Orient Express is a single-player adventure/puzzle/exploration/crime game, and it is all of these things that got me hooked. I mean, how can you not get excited about playing a super-sleuth and outwitting the baddies by solving their “unsolvable” puzzles? There are mini puzzles and clues that allow you to use some deductive reasoning to get a feel for each passenger on board based on their accents and any hints they give away when chatting. Some of the puzzles and clues are pretty easy, while others took a bit more brain power.
You begin in a fancy hotel in Istanbul, where you (as Poirot) are offered a trip home by your friend (Bouc), who happens to be the director of the famous luxury train, the Orient Express (I’ve always wanted to travel by train). After a short tutorial quest to find a hotel guest’s mysteriously lost ticket, you step aboard the Orient Express. The game is a modern version of the classic tale and takes place in 2023.
It’s pretty evident from the title that there is a murder aboard the train, and the train ends up stuck in the snow so that no one can leave, and the police cannot get to them. So, of course, Bouc begs Poirot for help to find a murderer who MUST still be on board. A twist in the story happens when you find out there is a police detective from Massachusetts on board who is doing her own investigation. As she tells her story, you begin to play as Detective Locke (the aforementioned detective) and help her with her investigation, which happens as a flashback. You soon realize her investigation is entwined with the murder and the passengers in the current mystery.
As you play, you take on the roles of Poirot or Detective Locke, depending on where you are in the story, to solve various types of puzzles of varying difficulty. Some are similar to Rubix cubes (which I suck at), and some are just trying to figure out how people and events are tied together, putting them in chronological order. You inspect rooms and interact with items to put pieces together.
I had fun figuring out the big mystery aboard the train. At one point, you think you are at the end of the game, but then you realize there is one more murderer on the train. After disembarking in Venice, Poirot and Detective Locke are thrown into yet another murder mystery tied to the victim on board. After a chase and checking the crime scene, you return to the train to continue the investigation. You then take your investigation to Geneva. Locke and Poirot must split up to get more information on both murders because the train must leave at a specific time. Using clues at both locations, cell phone pictures, and calls between the two, you can recreate what happened and, more importantly, deduce more suspects with motives.
A certain passenger speaks to Poirot, saying he needs his help, and Poirot squints at the man and flatly tells him, “NO. I do not like your face.” I died laughing. And he was right. I never wanted to reach through a game screen and punch someone so hard. So I guess I didn’t like his face either.
What I liked
One great thing about this game is that although it feels like high stakes, there are few REAL consequences. At one point, in Detective Locke’s flashback, you have to diffuse a bomb, but as it’s a flashback, she obviously doesn’t get blown up, so you have time to figure out the puzzle (I failed a LOT..oops). I also love being able to pop into the mind of Poirot to discover mind maps and make deductions, adding extra layers to the gameplay. There are also moments of confrontation. When you catch someone in a lie, you can confront them. These were really fun, because it makes you pay attention to things you may have heard or found in another chapter.
The controls for the game are relatively easy. There are just a few buttons to get to the mind maps, information about characters, and pictures sent between Poirot and Locke to help solve the current puzzles. Each chapter also has several collectibles to find (golden mustaches – how perfect is that?).
Graphics and Sound Design
The game is fully voiced and dubbed in English, French, and German. The voice acting is superb, especially since you have to use the accents as a clue to determine where the passengers are from. The performance is outstanding, from the smug reporter to the hysterical woman who has a brush with the murderer. The graphics are decent for a game of this sort. Every scene is very colorful and well-designed. The sound design is good, and I never had an issue understanding anything or feeling fully immersed. The soundtrack has various styles, from the symphony orchestra to jazz to world music. I’ve had the theme song stuck in my head for days!
What felt off
There were moments where the controls and movements of the characters became a bit janky. During the chase scenario in Venice, the controls felt a little off, and the camera behaved wildly, causing me to lose the suspect. I then had to start the entire sequence over. Some of the puzzles require you to turn dials, and the sticks on the controllers had to be moved in a particular way for the action to work correctly. I swear I nearly pulled them off at one point. Some of the characters would move wildly in moments of excitement, and it looked very robotic and mildly hilarious, but it didn’t deter my enjoyment and immersion in the game.
If you like murder mysteries and a game that makes you think, this would be a fun one for you. I have been playing for hours and have not been bored yet. It is well written, and each passenger presents a new challenge. Uncover the truth and figure out how it all ties together!
You can pick this game up on PC or console for $39.99.
Couchsoup rating 8.5/10