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USK: no age restrictions
Patch 6 MB
A review by slydos 11th December 2005
The coast of Devonshire is uncanny when the wind blows over the fields and the beamy waves drive into the cliffy bays. As a child I experienced some warm and sunny days and chirpy trips on a fisher boat there too, but there's nothing like the unreal atmosphere, the El-Greco-colors and changing shades during a tempest over the bare landscape, piloting your fantasy into a particular direction. Unthinkable, that a story, taking place in this mysterious, legend-dripping region, could do without suspense. Especially not, if it's conceived by the queen of whodunnits, Agatha Christie.
When "And then there were None" starts, 8 guests arrive at the fishing village Sticklehaven. They were invited to stay on small Shipwreck Island. Patrick Narracott is their ferryman. He was hired to bring the group to their domicile. It is August of the year 1939, shortly before outbreak of World War II. We watch the arrival of the guests in an intro film, which raises questions and wakes our curiosity, if not even our suspiciousness. The two ladies and six gentlemen are received by Butler Thomas Rogers and his wife Ethel. They hear that their hosts, the married couple U. N. Owen (Una Nancy Owen and Ulrick Norman Owen) are late, what means they are not yet on the island. Then someone vandalised Narracott's boat while a severe weather starts to haunt the island, which is now cut off from the external world, at least temporarily.
Not given much time to make themselves comfortable the guests are confronted with a frightening message from their host on a gramophone record: Each of them is accused of a murder and seems already sentenced by the author. Only a short time later the group actually finds the first corpse and the speculations concerning perpetrator, motives, truth and lies begins. All attenders are hiding something and we, the players, must sharpen our senses to suss out their secrets.
A murderer is around, killing according to the nursery rhyme "Ten Little Sailor Boys". (I was curious for the German translation. It's done well, both concerning gist and verse measure plus rhyme. Example: "Eight Little Sailor Boys traveling in Devon, One said he'd stay there, and then there were seven." = "Acht kleine Leichtmatrosen reisten mal nach drüben. Einer blieb für immer dort, da waren's nur noch sieben.")
We slip into the role of Patrick Narracott, whose brother was already mentioned in the original Agatha Christie story as ferryman Fred. Designer Lee Sheldon uses Patrick Narracott as additional main character. Narracott, not without secrets himself, tries to defy the threatening danger and track down the murderer with detective methods of investigation and questioning.
Despite some modifications the game sticks surprisingly close to the novel, which is enclosed in the North American version as paperback. Who knows the story already, like me, is however surprised exactly the same by the outcome as players without previous knowledge. The original is extremely smart modified with a number of background informations picked up and yarned on.
"And then there were None" is one of the few adventure games provoking a direct demand for immediate replay. Very many details and even optional puzzles, temporal courses of events and nonlinear sections will only get visible when playing again and more and more logical coherences will turn up then. Playing again also lets you find out how to use inventory objects, which remained unused the first time. Lee Sheldon invented many, sometimes subtle details, also several endings and additional final surprises, which one really shouldn't miss, and he understood to maintain the spirit of the novel at the same time.
The game develops in an exciting way, can however put the nerves even of experienced gamers to the test in the advanced chapters. Because the continuation of the story depends on certain triggers, which one can only find and activate by constant rescanning the scenes. At the beginning of the game one is lavished with lots of new information and objects, whereas later on only sporadical new scenes or new objects turn up, also at known locations. Such triggers are e.g. meetings with characters, whose new whereabouts are however not always logically exact derivable, but only by searching the scenes. And one should really look into every corner.Thus some long-winded walk arounds may be necessary in the subsequent part of the game. Nevertheless one forgets this short term frustration very fast through the exciting happenings, after we accomplished to reactivate the ongoing of the story.
Apart from conducting conversations the story is of course also driven by solving inventory-/object-based puzzles. And there are some really fine drafted kind. Beyond that we must also solve some decoding puzzles. But the possibilities to manipulate objects spread a very special charm. One can take apart objects, reassemble them and take them apart again, in order to use them several times on different occasions. Some inventory puzzles don't serve to continue the story, but only to deepen it. I had a lot of fun to think through and try out the possibilities. The puzzles are particularly enjoying because they are varied and imaginative and tried to deviate from the usual patterns. In a desperate situations unusual actions are possible ways out. And if Narracott tries to flee from the island, he avails of such unusual methods.
The puzzle solution is made more difficult because not every hotspot is indicated by a cursor change. If it's an exclusive hotspot for using an inventory item, the corresponding cursor gear wheels appear only, after you've selected the object in the inventory and then move it across the appropriate screen area. This kind of approach corresponds to rather advanced, adult players, who can abstain from constant hotspot references on mouseovers and rather become active independently whenever story and logic and not graphics require it. At long last it's an adventure game, which does not approach the players with the minimum challenge from the start or reduces challenges to the least common denominator.
Another, as I would like to call it, grown-up feature is the great freedom and non-linearity concerning puzzle solution, dialogues and scene access even beyond chapter limits. This results in different playing experiences for each gamer as we know it from Sheldon's earlier adventures, for example in Temujin or Dark Side of the Moon. Similar to Gabriel Knight 3 it's possible that we either reach our goal without fulfilling certain subquests. The necessary complex network of interdependences is well under the control of the author (up to a story-/logic issue in the English version, which no longer recurred in the German version).
We control our character Patrick Narracott in 3rd-person-view using point&click. Our mouse cursor is context sensitive and assumes different shapes depending upon the kind of hotspots. The common shapes are hand for taking up things, mouth to speak with characters or the eye cursor to look closer at an area. A door cursor shows accessible scene exits and there's even an extra icon for climbing stairs. More unusual are two eavesdropping icons: an ear symbol and a keyhole icon. Leftclicking with the foot cursor lets Narracott walk, a doubleclick makes him run faster.
At any time during the game it's possible to access the main menu by ESC, where we can save/ load games and open the options menu for various graphics and sound settings. Here we can adjust music and voice volumes seperately and change graphic effects such as fog, rain, lightnings, water animations as well as switch on/off sub-titles. The main menu also offers a back button to the starting menu, which additionally contains a credits and exit button.
We can store an unlimited number of savegames, of which the newest is always on top showing a screenshot and a time stamp. Furthermore comfortable that we can label our savegames, however limited in length and use of some special characters. An overwriting warning tops off the positive impression of these functions.
Everything you must know, from installation over a short bio of Agatha Christie to a walkthrough of the first 5 minutes is contained in the illustrated, 24page manual which leaves no questions open. You will even find the floor plans and the history of Shipwreck Island here, what will be helpful later on.
The inventory takes about 1/3 of the screen and opens, if you click the rucksack-icon in the top-left corner or use the right mouse button. 12 items are visible per inventory page. You can arrange the objects after your own gusto on different pages, to keep a better overview. At the lower edge of the inventory window we find a bar with 4 empty cells to place items and group or ungroup them at the same time. With the magnifying glass we examine things closer or copy e.g. texts into our journal, which is always visible as icon in the upper right screen corner. The journal is likewise clearly structured into topics and contains information about guests, documents, books as well as other texts, e.g. the title-giving rhyme. It would have been nice, if the journal could be closed exactly the same way as the inventory, namely by right-click.
Controls and handling are nearly perfect. Only the fact that the dialogues couldn't be skipped interfere with the perfect general impression.
The installation of the 1.5 GB works fast. Afterwards you don't need to leave the CDROM in the drive.
Technical issues: At one point (German version only), when trying to read the contents of a book, the game comes to a full stop. Since this text serves only as knowledge consolidation, this bug can be neglected. Compared to the English version corrections/improvements were made concerning some graphic and logic errors, so that the available version runs on my machine without other noticeable problems.
Who plays and installs the game several times, will perhaps notice that the file names during the copy procedure are 'too descriptive' and would better not have been displayed.
The starting menu receives you with a dark picture of the messuage on Shipwreck Island and a large, dangling loop, accompanied by a frightening thunderstorm and expressive piano music. The other music themes are likewise suitable, but not very varied. However, you can repair the radio and thus provide at least a cheering up tune. The sound effects such as wind, rain, water, fire or steps on different ground are very realistic.
Though the location is limited due to the circumstances the premises are multifaceted. In the ground floor of the mansion alone far more than 30 camera angles were installed in circa 18 rooms. Every room has 2 to 3 different views, not counted the zoom-ins. We find the same in the rooms of the upper floor. The guest rooms are furnished in very different styles but modern for the time. They are equipped with a set of acessoires and works of art deriving from former owners. There is a well equipped library, the kitchen, a billard room and the dining-room with the 10 porcelain figurines, which follow their human counterparts into death. Balconies, terasses, the garden, fields, beaches, cliffs, abandoned huts and many other scenes, which are too wide-ranging, to be able to keep everything always in view, especially when a murderer is on the gad ...
We experience the island during a wuthering thunderstorm with rain, wind and lightnings. The sky darkens and gets brighter in gradation. Sometimes the rain stops, so that you can explore the area, without catching your death, as Rogers says. The prerendered backgrounds reflect the dark and uncanny atmosphere of the story. The background graphics are of excellent quality.
In contrast the 3D-character design is only mediocre, showing less realistic proportions, details and movements. Unfortunately some hair-styles rather resemble party hats and the character movements are puppylike stiff. Rather than any other, slightly corpulent judge Wargrave with his coiled plaits and facial expressions was truely matching his self complacent speech. More lifelike, although a bit more blurred, the characters and their movements look in the cutscenes.
The dubbing results are extremely satisfactory. The peculiarities of the individual characters are well worked out, presented clearly and full of expression. Only Narracott's voice appeared to me a bit too old for the probably youngest member of this distinguished group.
The texts of the English version sometimes even keep to the novel literally and the German translation adheres again extremely exact to the English texts. In many adventure games you find a number of identical, completely useless objects, which are however clickable always and everywhere. In this case it's the radiators! I want to consent Narracott, one can really not have enough of them ; -)
While you may resent about the little resourceful comments of Narracott in the English language version, you will be positively surprised by the speech diversity in the German version. If Narracott commentates an action that cannot work, then he chooses from at least six quite different sentences - always going down well, for example: "It's neither the time, nor the place" or "perhaps another time". Other situations produce likewise several different answer phrases, which even don't bore sworn-in 'multi-clickers'. I also enjoyed the adjustment of texts to the circumstances: normally our hero comments the numerous light sources surrounding the house, that he is surprised to find so much modern technology at this place. When it comes to a power outage and you click on the lamps again, he explains us why they - in his opinion - nevertheless still shine: they are gas lamps! By the way we should rely with our conclusions rather on our own intuition and not necessarily always orient at Narracotts comments - if we want to find the solution faster than him. He sometimes interpretes clues ... let's put it this way ... from his very personal, male perspective.
Agatha Christie fans will be delighted by the closeness to the novel and mystery fans to find a game to rack their brains, keeping suspense up to the very last scene. Seasoned adventure gamers finally won't feel unchallenged and enjoy the replay value. 'And then there were None' is a game, which runs problem free even on less modern computers. A shining prelude of the Agatha Christie series planned by TAC, to which one can look forward unconditionally. It's a capturing, logical story with several possible endings. No reason thus not to recommend this classic whodunnit most warmly to all those, who somehow from afar fancy the role of a hobby sleuth.
My rating: 88%
(For those, who cannot get enough of the ten-little-whoever-theme, I recommend the yucky bloody and hard, but nevertheless ingenious-thrilling island stay in the movie Mindhunters.)
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP Pentium III 850 MHz 256 MB RAM 1.5 GB hard disk space 16x CD/DVD-ROM-drive 32 MB graphic card 16-bit Soundblaster compatible sound card Mouse, keyboard, speakers
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Soundcard DirectX-compatible
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