Christie: And Then There Were None
Review by Old Rooster
"Ten Little Sailor Boys Went Out to Dine ..."
"One choked his little self, and then there were nine."
Most of us have read or are familiar with the great Agatha Christie
novel, Ten Little Indians, a.k.a. And Then There Were
None. Ten individuals are invited to a weekend "party."
This event is held in a large mansion on a deserted island, with
a storm raging, a scuttled boat, and no communication with the outside
world. Further, the host only appears by way of a most unpleasant
and accusatory gramophone recording. He is appropriately named U.N.
"Nine little sailor boys stayed up very late. One overslept
himself and then there were eight." As this gruesome "nursery"
rhyme, posted over the fireplace mantle, suggests, our guests begin
to die, one by one, presumably at the hand of their host, for crimes
real or imagined. Since Mr. Owen cannot be located in the house
or on the island, suspicion falls on the guests themselves. And
then, as Holmes would say, "The game is afoot." (Or, as
Gil Grisom would say, when discovering a dismembered corpse in the
first CSI"The game is a foot. Sorry, I just had
to slip that in.)
ATTWN, the game, not only builds beautifully upon the Christie
premise, but also takes some twists and turns of its own, including
presenting a different killer than did the book. Using famed writer
and game creator Lee Sheldon, the development team went to considerable
trouble to both honor Christie's work and make an interactive game
that would bring a fresh approach to this delightful murder mystery.
Generally, they have succeeded quite nicely.
"I'm Very Much Hoping You Can Join a Little Weekend House
Party" U.N. Owen
In this third-person, point-and-click adventure, you play as Patrick
Narracott, the boatman who ferries the guests to Shipwreck Island.
But even you are not necessarily who you appear to be. Even you
have depths and hidden motives. Of course, you couldn't be the killer,
could you? And, of course, you'll be sure to survive at the end,
won't you? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Nothing is guaranteed at this
Shipwreck Island party!
Let's discuss some of the technical features of ATTWN. Installation
is smooth and fast, using two CDs and taking about 1.5 MB of hard
drive space. Interestingly, especially for an Adventure Company
product, there is not only no indication of the onerous StarForce
CD protection program, but the game will even run without a CD in
the drive! A single resolution is selected, I believe 1024×768,
with shadow effects, anti-aliasing and other graphic options available.
My very moderate system, with a 64 MB nVidia card, ran the game
smoothly with all options turned on.
Adventure game players will feel very comfortable with the "live"
cursor. The large arrow not only shows footstep directions Patrick
can use, but also clearly depicts a whole range of interactive optionstaking
an object, speaking to a character, opening a door, and even the
unusual peeking through a keyhole and eavesdropping on conversations!
"I Copied the Contents into My Notebook" Patrick
Our Patrick must have some kind of huge and invisible backpack!
You are able to accumulate an amazing number of objects in your
inventory, accessible with a right mouse click or a tab at the top
left corner of the screen. These range from jars, pliers and pouches
to the incredible sheets, tripod and boat oars! The inventory allows
for detailed examination as well as combination of objects to create
a desired outcomebatteries into a flashlight, for example.
This act can get a little picky if you're not careful with location
of materials in the inventory.
"I don't need it; I'm no packrat," exclaims Patrick if
you come across an item that looks interesting but isn't really
needed in the game. Further, Patrick will sometimes comment that
"There's something here I need," and "I'll need to
come back to that later." This all helps your already huge
inventory not become an irrelevant garbage bin. Mr. Sheldon, our
writer, often injects a bit of humorous relief into an otherwise
grim tale. For example, when I tried to have Patrick pick up a whiskey
glass from the bar, he comments: "I shouldn't do that, I need
to have my wits about me." Indeed. Interestingly, he later
needs to come back to that bar and glass.
When Patrick comes across an object in writing (letters, books,
etc.), he can place and examine it in his journal, accessible by
a tab on the upper right corner of the screen. This also allows
for general information about the island and guests to be conveniently
stored. Interestingly, I wondered about what a guest is supposed
to think if an important letter is found missing from the top of
his/her dresser due to Patrick's compulsive snooping about. The
guy picks up most everything he lays his eyes on! Apparently, the
developers show the object as gone for our benefitwe know
we picked that one upbut the guests do not realize anything
is missing since Patrick instantaneously is able to "copy"
the information into his journal and replace the object. A neat
Finally, in terms of technical features, you are able to save anywhere
in the game, and there are an unlimited number of save slots. A
save depicts your exit scene and time. This is a great feature for
experimenting a bit with different responses and approaches.
"Please, This Is a Time for Concentration, Not Conversation"
The opening cinematic, using the graphic engine, demonstrates the
kind of visual richness you'll see throughout the game. Indeed,
like any great story, the first fifteen minutes will draw you in.
Together with a haunting piano theme, the introductory experience
is very compelling.
However, one of the annoyances rears its head early on. Whenever
Patrick has to maneuver in the dark, without his flashlight available
for use, he and critical objects are almost impossible to discern,
even with the brightness setting turned full up. I had to adjust
my monitor to have any chance at all during these "blackouts."
This could be a patch issue, or it could be my system; I'm not sure.
Other than those times, the presented scenes are richly detailed,
carefully tailored to the 1930s setting. Character depictions and
animations are varied and appropriate, although sometimes a bit
wooden. This is particularly true of Patrick, as he walks like a
tin soldier from spot to spot. And he can't go anywhere in a room,
only to specific and defined "footstep" locations. Sometimes,
as well, the pathfinding is awkward. Perhaps, though, the largest
disappointment with the game engine is the inability to rotate perspective
around the static scenes presented. Every three to five scenes,
there is a three-second black screen delay while the engine shifts
to another set of fixed scenes. They're lovely, to be sure, and
this is a "character-centered" kind of game, but it would
be nice to have more mobility of view and movement.
As Hargrave implies, there is a lot of conversation in ATTWN.
From early on, it's clear there are layers upon layers with
each of the guests, and even yourself! The script is tight and involving,
with superb voice acting. You'll learn a lot about each guest, and
you will need to make notes even beyond your journal entries. Conversational
trees offer choices, often ranging from a kindly to not so kindly
question or response on your part, presumably something that might
affect how the party you're questioning may feel about you afterwards.
It's been implied in some prerelease previews that how you're received
by the guests (friendly versus a pain) might affect game direction
and outcomes. I couldn't pick that up, even with experimenting.
Generally, you move along from ten to nine to eight to seven "little
sailor boys" with critical item accumulation, conversational
discoveries and related activities being the only obvious triggers
for the next chapter.
There are, however, as advertised, four possible endings! These
are fun, and they occur at "Chapter NineAnd Then There
Was One." Be sure to save at that point so you can work with
"Any Good House Party Should Include Party Games!"
And any good adventure game needs to include puzzles! Thankfully,
the puzzles in ATTWN are as good as any I've experienced
in adventure titles. They're in context, make sense and aren't the
kind of bizarre sorts of mathematical or musical conundrums found
in some titles, which should more appropriately be termed "puzzle,"
not "adventure," games, in my opinion. Having said that,
ATTWN is hard, sometimes very hard. Thankfully, clues are
presented. But still, the occasional need to combine several items
in your inventory can be elusive, as can be hidden door handles
and how to access rooms without clear entrances. Yet the puzzles
are ultimately fair, and you feel satisfied when the resolution
dawns on your tired brain.
"Any Truth to the Accusation Against You?" Patrick
The script and character development are so well-done that I can
see why the Christie estate gave its approval to ATTWN: The
Game. A good part of your deductive experience is spent interviewing,
thinking, sorting though hints and nuances of responses, which may
or may not be fully truthful. Each of the ten has a different background
and story. Each of the ten has something about which they're guilty
or ashamed, or at least ought to be! We have a physician, a retired
general, a judge, a grim spinster, a private detective, and others.
They're all well-acted and nicely fleshed out, and you can see why
someone might have something against every one of them. Plus, to
top it all off, the mansion and island have their own mysteries.
Except for the initial piano theme, the rest of the background
music is forgettable, particularly since it seems to repeat ad infinitum.
The theme is fitting, it's just that hearing it loop over and over
again can become tiresome. You can turn it down or off.
Ambient noises are another matter altogether, and most welcome.
The cold rain coupled with lapping of the waves on the dock makes
you want to run for cover. Thunder and lightening often enliven
the windows of the otherwise static room scenes. Footstep sounds
vary from the ground to a metal catwalk to the wooden hallway floor.
A range of other touches make this factor one of the highlights
of the game.
Thankfully, two maps are included in the nicely done manual. These
are of the upstairs and downstairs of the mansion, and they become
invaluable tools in your initial explorations. You'll spend the
first third to half of the game exclusively on these floors. There
are other locational hints (a potted plant) to give you clues, but
these maps really help.
"Your Whole Story Sounds Like a Detective Novel" Blore
And Then There Were None is, as the developers hoped, a
"loving tribute" to the classic Agatha Christie novel
on which it is based. With a sterling script, fascinating characters,
superb voice acting, beautifully detailed graphics, and sensibly
practical puzzles, it ranks among the best adventure games of the
last couple of years.
What leads ATTWN to fall just short of our coveted Gold
Star rating relates to the game engine. It's dated and not up to
the level of modern 3D and full-movement titles. We've seen this
static scene, restricted point-and-click ambulation approach many
times before. Some may feel comfortable with this style, but we
can do better with today's technology. Further, there seemed to
be some glitches related to item location and brightness.
Still, this is a fine game and highly recommended. With an outstanding
combination of intriguing story and ingenious puzzles, And Then
There Were None is sure to delight Christie fans and adventure
What's Especially Good About ATTWN
- Beautifully written story and script;
- Fascinating characters;
- Superb voice acting;
- Creative, practical, if often hard puzzles;
- Lovely, detailed graphical scenes;
- Manual very helpful, with maps;
- Original Christie novel included with the game.
What Troubled Me About the Game
- The game engine is dated and limited;
- Brightness, or lack thereof, sometimes a concern;
- Musical themes become redundant.
Release Date: October 30, 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
Win 98/ME/2000/XP (XP recommended)
P3 850 (P4 1.8 recommended)
256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
32 MB video card (64 MB recommended)
1.5 GB free hard drive space
Where to Find It
Links provided for informational purposes only.
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