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Publisher: Oberon Media    Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.3.1    Hard Disk: 166 MB    Graphics: 800x600

Agatha Christie - Death on the Nile
January 29, 2009 | Richard Hallas

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Death on the Nile title screen
Agatha Christie - Death on the Nile is the latest adaptation of a famous Agatha Christie detective novel into the hidden-object puzzle game format, and follows on from the previous adaptation of Peril at End House, which was reviewed by IMG last November. As with that previous offering, this latest game attempts to retell the classic murder mystery with the player in the role of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie's great Belgian detective.

Death on the Nile has long been one of my favourite Agatha Christie stories, which is one reason why I was keen to review this title. I grew up with the film that starred Peter Ustinov, and so have a well-established fondness for that version, but David Suchet has since become the definitive Poirot actor, and his rendition of the story is just as good in its own way. Although the game takes some very obvious cues from the more recent David Suchet dramatisation (the image of the paddle-steamer Karnak is clearly a stylised repainting of the ship from the Suchet drama), it appears to inherit some aspects from the earlier Ustinov film, too.

The action in the game actually ignores the entire first half of the story and begins at the point where Simon Doyle is shot in the leg and Linnet Doyle is murdered. That's fair enough; there's a great deal of preamble and scene-setting in the book and film, of course, which wouldn't translate into the format of this game. Instead we cut to the chase and begin right where the murder mystery starts.

Death on the Nile eschews Peril at End House's use of a somewhat strained comic book format in favour of a 'vintage film' device for setting the scene. The cartoon-story style of the previous game served its purpose in helping the player keep track of what was happening as the story progressed, but seemed very incongruous within the Agatha Christie setting. Death on the Nile instead presents its story interludes in a pseudo-filmic style. This is less exciting than it sounds in that, behind a grainy old-film appearance and a sepia presentation, the characters shown on the film are essentially just static 'cardboard cutouts' that fade in an out with their associated dialogue; although there is some animation present, it's very limited. And the dialogue isn't even spoken; it's just printed as subtitles below the images. So the film interludes seem a little on the half-hearted side, but probably less so than were the previous game's comic pages. They do at least serve their purpose in setting the scene when necessary, and contribute to the atmosphere of a game set in the 1930s.

Gameplay: If only real-life were as simple as point-and-click
Despite its pretensions to being a detective game based on a real book, Death on the Nile is in reality just another example of the recent spate of hidden-object games. The action is set entirely on board the paddle-steamer of the Christie story, and in a series of a dozen investigations you, as Poirot, must uncover clues in order to uncover the murderer of Linnet Doyle.

Each investigation involves searching guests' cabins, and other rooms, on board the steamer for a range of hidden objects. The game is quite generous in the number of locations it provides: there's a couple of dozen rooms to investigate in total, though you'll visit some of them several times, and a vast range of objects in each. I was also pleased to find that the game does indeed put some effort into furthering the actual story of the original book, by presenting suitable clues in appropriate rooms, and thus helping Poirot proceed in his investigation. So, right at the start of the first investigation, you'll have to locate the letter J that the murdered Linnet supposedly scrawled above her bed in her own blood. Later investigations will have you piecing together shredded documents that provide further clues from the actual Christie story.

If you choose to involve yourself in the story (which is the best way of getting the most from the game), you'll find it all quite detailed. As your investigations progress, you will discover new questions that you need to ask the guests, who await you in the Karnak's salon. You choose which person to interview, and are then presented with a series of one or more questions to ask them. It's all completely scripted, of course, and there's nothing clever to be done here. Indeed, you can ignore this section of the game entirely if you wish. However, this feature does make a genuine attempt to involve you in the story as it unfolds, and is therefore to be commended as something that lifts this game well above the usual run of hidden-object offerings. Along similar lines, there's also a clue room in which you can examine the various clues you've discovered during your investigations, and this is similarly worthy as a means of involving you in the story, without being actively exciting.


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