|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Awe Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: DreamCatcher / The Adventure Company||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 15, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: TEEN||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Crime doesn't get a vacation and apparently neither does Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, a famed fictional figure featured heavily in the works of best-selling murder mystery author Agatha Christie. Over the past few years, the Adventure Company has released several PC game adaptations of Christie's classics, and another mystery is now upon us. In Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun, the third and latest title in the PC series, players will finally get to control Poirot directly as they leave no stone unturned in their search for clues to pinpoint the culprit for yet another murder most foul. On an island getaway you're usually always in for a good time, at least until someone dies. In this particular case, tragedy makes the adventure even greater.
One of the unusual aspects of Evil Under the Sun is the entire story has already occurred from the moment players start out. The game begins in September 1940 at Poirot's office just as the Nazis are about to begin a bombing campaign against London in what would become known as The Blitz. Poirot sits with his British friend and occasional sidekick Arthur Hastings as the situation seems most dire. Intent on finding a more cheerful way to pass the time before the bombs begin to fall, Poirot gloats about a recent case he solved in short order and offers to recount the tale in such a way as to give Hastings a crack at solving the mystery himself. He gladly accepts and soon after the actual murder mystery gets underway in the form of an interactive story told by Poirot.
Technically, you'll essentially be playing as Hastings who is controlling Poirot, but it's really far less complicated than it sounds in execution. In the game you move Poirot around to investigate locations, gather clues, solve puzzles, and question other characters. In true narrative fashion, Hastings and Poirot will frequently provide sub-plot, clues, and explanations of occurrences which might not be otherwise obvious. Their humorous back-and-forth jibes also provide comic relief at times.
The mystery itself unfolds on and around Seadrift Island where Poirot attempts to take a momentary respite from his detective duties. Though the island is mostly deserted due to evacuations from the war, a handful of couples, eccentrics, and assorted vacationers still remain on the English coast. After checking-in at the Smuggler's Rest Hotel, there's little time to relax as Poirot gets the feeling his holiday is going to be cut short. His assertions are not far off as the body of Arlena Stuart, an attractive young actress whose magnetism draws frequent attention from other women's husbands, soon turns up on the shore. Evil Under the Sun indeed. You'll arrive on the island just before the murder takes place, and Poirot provides narrative insight into the events as they unfold.
Gameplay starts off slowly as you direct Poirot to explore the hotel grounds and meet many of the game's 20 characters. In later chapters, the action picks up as clues and puzzles become more frequent when you venture beyond the hotel grounds to other locations on the island and across the causeway to the adjoining town in search of a way to out the murderer. Poirot keeps detailed notes of characters in his notebook that can be accessed at any time. The controls are standard point-and-click fare: you'll move around in third-person view through numerous pre-rendered backgrounds. In each screen you can move the mouse over different objects, and the cursor will change to indicate if they can be interacted with. Many items can be either picked up and placed in your inventory, or copied down into your notebook if they're documents.