Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None
|And Then There Were None|
|Publisher(s)||The Adventure Company|
|Distribution||2 CD-ROMs, Wii Optical Disc|
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None is the title of a 2005 point-and-click adventure game developed by AWE Productions and published by The Adventure Company for Microsoft Windows. It was the first in The Adventure Company's Agatha Christie series. The game is a detective murder-mystery; it begins with nine people, including Patrick Narracott, the playable character, who meet and journey to the fictional Shipwreck Island. There, two additional onscreen characters are introduced, and the story then follows the events that unfold.
And Then There Were None retains most of the basic plot elements of Agatha Christie's novel of the same name, with the major differences being the inclusion of the playable character, Patrick Narracott, and the creation of a range of possible endings. In order to further the connection between the game and its source material, Christie's novel is included in the North American release of the game.
Reactions to the game were mixed, with many reviewers polarized in their opinions: some calling it a good adaptation of the novel; others, an extremely poor adventure game. Several reviews harshly criticized the game's character design and graphics as being archaic and outdated, whereas others praised aspects such as character dialogue and a captivating story.
A Wii version of the game was released in February 2008. It features several motion-sensitive puzzles, made possible with use of the Wii Remote, in which the player must make a motion that most naturally corresponds to an assigned task. One of the puzzles from the PC version was cut. The Wii version did not include the original book as did the PC version.
Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None was followed by a second game, Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express; also based on a Christie novel, but with a plot unrelated to that of the first game. That game was followed by Agatha Christie: Death on the Nile.
And Then There Were None is a point-and-click adventure game, played from a third-person perspective. Most of the interactive elements of And Then There Were None consist of asking other characters questions, and collecting and combining items. The player can carry items using an inventory system, and use the inventory to combine and examine items throughout the game. Twelve items can be viewed at a time, and there are several screens in the inventory. New items are slotted into the first available space in the inventory. The game's cursor is context-sensitive, and changes into a rotating gear when held over an item the player can interact with and use. And Then There Were None features a 2.5D graphics engine, which combines pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D-modelled characters.
And Then There Were None is divided into 10 chapters. After completing a certain trigger event, the next section of the chapter occurs—after completing the chapter's last trigger event does the chapter then conclude. The developers ensured that nothing essential to the game could be missed during the player's progression, although large sections of gameplay are optional, and the player may ignore many of the side-quests. This divided progression in time adds another dimension to gameplay, as not only does the player have to be in the right place to find a clue or solve a puzzle, but must be there at the right time. For example, an empty room in one act could hold a vital clue in the next.
And Then There Were None features a journal system to aid in the collection and piecing together of clues. The in-game journal records everything that the player needs to advance in the game. For example, the journal records conversations the player has with other characters, so that if they forget what was said, it will still be accessible. One of the reasons for the incorporation of a journal system in And Then There Were None is to prevent the player wandering aimlessly, unable to proceed. Another reason for the addition of a journal was because the developers of the game did not want the player to have to use resources outside of the game, such as pen and paper, to solve the puzzles. The journal is separated by content into several categories. These include a characters page, which lists all the characters by name and includes details about them, and separate pages for important items, documents and books. This information can be referenced at any time by the player, as it is needed.
Another feature of And Then There Were None is the "Suspicion Meter", which measures the player's relationship with other characters in the game. The meter was devised to counteract a common problem in adventure games, where the player can rifle through other characters' belongings in front of them, without any problem. There are negative consequences if the player is caught doing things that other characters deem inappropriate, and this directly affects the "Suspicion Meter". The meter begins at a neutral position with each character in the game. If the player does an unfavorable action, the meter falls to negative one, and if the player does a favorable action the meter rises to positive one. The meter only contains three positions, and depending on the position the meter is at in regards to a certain character, dialogue actions with that character are affected.
The player is able to regain the approval of characters through several "Suspicion Meter" puzzles. These require the player to perform certain tasks for other characters, based on their likes and dislikes. The puzzles include multiple inventory items and combining items and can be quite complicated. The player is sometimes required to talk to other characters to learn about a certain person, or have them influence a particular person.
After completing the game, the player is given one final puzzle. Completing it shows the original ending of the novel.
Setting and characters
And Then There Were None is set in 1939, the eve of World War II, taking place at "a beautiful mansion on the deserted Shipwreck Island." A quote by Emily Brent in the first chapter indicates the game is set in August ("This same week of August 4 years ago.") The player can explore the two-story Art Deco-style mansion, which includes a secret room behind a bookcase in the library. The surrounds of Shipwreck Island, including a beach, a forest, and an apiary, are also explorable.
The sole player character is Patrick Narracott. Patrick is the game's only character not mentioned in Christie's original novel, although his brother—Fred Narracott—was the one who ferried the guests to the island in the original book. The other characters are the guests; Judge Lawrence John Wargrave, Vera Elizabeth Claythorne, Philip Lombard, General John Gordon Mackenzie, Emily Caroline Brent, Dr. Edward George Armstrong, Anthony James Marston, William Henry Blore, the butler Thomas Rogers, and his wife Ethel Rogers.
The events of the book, with the exception of the killer's identity and the player character, are closely retained in the game. The ending of the game—due to the identity of the killer being completely different—is significantly different than that of the book's as well.
The game begins with eight people: Lawrence Wargrave, Vera Claythorne, Phillip Lombard, Emily Brent, General John Mackenzie (name changed from Macarthur), William Blore, Doctor Edward Armstrong, and Anthony Marston being invited to Shipwreck Island. Arriving at the fictional seaside town of Sticklehaven, they are greeted by Patrick Naracott (he takes over his brother's duty, as he's "under the weather", in the original book it was Fred Naracott) who takes them to the house. The servants, Thomas and Ethel Rogers, are introduced. When returning to his boat, Patrick finds it sabotaged, forcing him to stay on the island. Later, Blore confesses to Patrick that he is the one who broke the boat—because he believed Patrick to be his brother Fred, whom he thought was a thief. At dinner that night, the guests discover that none of them have met—or are even remotely familiar with "U.N. Owen", the enigma that invited most of them to the party.
After dinner, a gramophone record accuses the ten guests of getting away with murder in the past. Moments later, Anthony Marston dies after drinking a poisoned cocktail. That night, Ethel Rogers dies of a drug overdose in her sleep. The deaths are initially thought to be suicides or accidents. After the third death (General Mackenzie), Judge Wargrave determines that the casualties are murder and that the host Mr. Owen (U.N. Owen or "Unknown) is the killer; and that "Unknown" must be one of the remaining 8. Owen is following the pattern of the nursery rhyme over the fireplace, "Ten Little Sailor Boys". After each murder, he/she shatters one of the ten figurines in the dining room. Naracott is now established as the detective of the group since his presence on the island was not expected by the killer. It is also discovered that Lombard has brought a self-defense revolver to the island.
After Thomas Rogers' death by being struck with an axe, Emily Brent – allergic to bee stings – is found dead near the island's apiary. Lombard then announces that the revolver he brought has been stolen from him, and a search of each guest for it turns up nothing. Naracott also discovers he has been poisoned with the fictional drug Solidamide, but he obtains a remedy—a bottle of the fictional medicine "Bellman's Universal Application". At dinner that night, when the power abruptly goes out due to the generator's failure, Wargrave determines that from that point on, only one person may be alone—the rest must collectively remain together as a group. As Vera goes up to her room to get her jacket, she is heard screaming; the guests rush upstairs, and just as Naracott is knocked to the staircase violently, a gunshot is heard—and the remaining guests find the judge with a gunshot wound in his forehead dead. The revolver is found on the staircase and picked up by Lombard.
Later that night, Naracott and Blore see a shadow leave the house; by the next morning they discover that Armstrong, as well as Wargrave's dead body, are missing. Lombard decides to start and maintain a signal fire on Ship Rock (the highest point of the island) in the hopes that someone on the mainland will be able to help them; Vera will stay in her room with Lombard's gun; and Blore and Naracott will search for Armstrong and Wargrave. Naracott finds Armstrong's drowned body washed up on the rocks. He also comes upon Wargrave's body in the mansion's screening room, bludgeoned with his own law book found in the library instead of being shot. Blore is later found with his head caved in by a bear-shaped clock.
There are four different endings depending on whether Vera and Phillip – one, both, or neither – are saved. If Phillip is saved, he will reveal that his name is actually Charles Morley. He is a friend of Lombard's and assumed his identity when the real Phillip Lombard committed suicide out of guilt for his past crime. Naracott returns to the house to find that the killer, Emily Brent, is actually the famous actress Gabrielle Steele. Years ago, she was in love with Edward Seton, the man Wargrave sentenced to death. Steele wanted revenge on Wargrave and chose to execute her own form of justice. Wargrave, being a judge, would feel especially helpless as people (criminals, no less) died around him. She explains that Wargrave and Armstrong concocted a plan to fake Wargrave's death so he could spy on the house and catch Mr. Owen. Being an actress, she used her extensive make-up kit to trick the guests into believing she died due to an allergic reaction to bee stings. She later beat Wargrave to death with his law book and pushed Armstrong off a cliff into the sea.
After Vera's death or saving, Naracott will kill Steele out of self-defense and the ending will commence. If Vera is saved, she and Naracott return to Sticklehaven (with Morley, if he survives). Vera explains the crime the gramophone accused her of. While she was a governess to Cyril Hamilton, she was not with him when he drowned. Her lover, Hugo Hamilton (Cyril's half-brother) claimed he was "giving a passerby directions", but she suspected he let Cyril drown because Cyril was next in line to inherit the family fortune. With him out of the way, Hugo would inherit instead. Both Vera's and Morley's statements to the police save Naracott from being charged with a crime. If Vera is saved, she and Naracott take the alternate ending of the poem, deciding to get married. If both Morley and Vera are not saved, the Naracott brothers make their escape from police.
Following the game's completion, the player will be given one last challenge that will reward them with the original ending to the book. The original ending to the book is Wargrave as the killer. He has always suffered the psychological schism of being unable to tolerate crime, but never being able to justify harming an innocent person. With his career as a judge he took delight in sentencing criminals and letting the innocent go free. As he grew older, he felt that "killing" someone from the distance of the bench was not quenching his thirst for justice. He longed to actually kill someone. The final straw came when his doctor informed him he had a fatal disease and that it was only a matter of time before he died. Wargrave retired from the bench and spent some time traveling the world, looking for unpunished killers to gather for his sadistic game.
The alternate ending details the events of the book. Each of the guests are indeed guilty of their accused crimes. Most of the deaths are accurate, although Emily Brent is revealed to have been killed by an injection of cyanide in her neck. As the number of suspects dwindled, the remaining guests grew increasingly paranoid. At the end, it was just Vera and Lombard left. Believing him to be the killer, Vera picked Lombard's pocket and stole his gun. When he sprang at her to try and get the gun back, she shot him. In a post-traumatic daze, Vera wanders back into the house to rest in her room. She discovers a noose hanging from the ceiling. With the guilt of having just shot Lombard, as well as the guilt of letting Cyril drown, Vera drops the gun and hangs herself, fulfilling the final line of the poem. Wargrave retrieves the gun and manipulates it so he will shoot himself in the forehead as the guests believed he was. This will provide the impossible mystery of Shipwreck Island. Even though it will be a perfect crime, Wargrave does want some record of the solution available so someone may know how clever he was. He writes a record of everything that happened on the island and seals it in a bottle, throwing it into the waves.
And Then There Were None was announced on February 3, 2005, as the first in a series of games based on novels by Agatha Christie. For the release, The Adventure Company collaborated with developer AWE Productions. Lee Sheldon was named Lead Designer and writer for the game, while Scott Nixon, from AWE Productions, was appointed Managing Director.
Several reasons led The Adventure Company to choose the novel And Then There Were None as the basis for the first game in its Agatha Christie series of games, in contrast to some of Christie's other novels involving famous detectives Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. One reason was the immense popularity of the novel, and the added bonus a popular title would have in marketing the game. Also, the restricted setting of the island was appealing to the designers, as it allows the player more freedom of movement. Instead of artificial barriers impeding the player, the island is naturally barriered, so the setting is less linear than a larger setting would be.
One major obstacle in the development of And Then There Were None was gaining the approval of aspects of the game from Chorion, the company which owns the rights to Agatha Christie's works. The development team met with Mathew Prichard, Christie's grandson, and other members of Chorion. While protective of Christie's license, Chorion was quite open about changes to the plot, as long as they were within the "style" of Christie's novels. These included a change to the identity of the killer and the addition of a player character. Chorion also allowed a change to be made to the figurines at the table, one of which was removed for each person murdered. After being changed from 'niggers' to 'Indians' to 'soldiers boys' with subsequent publications of the novel And Then There Were None, Sheldon wanted to change them again for the game. He successfully renamed them 'sailor boys', to fit in with the boat moored on the island. Chorion did not accept all the changes proposed by the developers, rejecting the idea of a one-man submarine the player can operate as not being in the style and vein of Christie's work.
The survival of Vera and Lombard, and the change of the General's name from MacArthur to MacKenzie, were both used by Christie herself in a 1943 stage adaption of the novel.
The introduction of Patrick Narracott as the eleventh character on the island was a major plot change to And Then There Were None. One reason for Narracott's introduction was the developer's desire to explore a semi-romance between him and Vera Claythorne, an attractive young woman on the island. Another reason for Narracott's addition was that the developers wanted the player to connect to a more human character, rather than a nameless one.
The main concern designer Lee Sheldon had with the game was the emphasis placed on story and dialogue. Early on in the game's development, Sheldon had played around with the idea that the killer could change every time a player played the game. The idea of open-ended, modular gameplay was quickly discarded, as Sheldon thought it didn't pay homage to Christie's work, and it wouldn't have made sense. The orders of the murders then forced Sheldon down a linear path, and the numerous cut scenes, cinematics and long dialogues in the game were needed because the novel is composed largely of dialogue. Sheldon strived to make the puzzles a seamless part of the game's environment and plot, and hoped that they wouldn't seem tacked on simply for the sake of a puzzle.
The designers of And Then There Were None decided to leave the game in its original time period, in the lead up to World War II in the 1930s. Sheldon was firmly against updating the game to a modern time period, calling this "a futile attempt to attract an audience that really doesn't care anyway." One of the main attractions to the past for Sheldon was the ability to explore its culture and mores. The mansion in the game was researched using architecture books as references, and 30s Art Deco in general. Christie described the mansion in the novel as stark and modern, and this made Sheldon turn to the work of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and in particular his house "Fallingwater".
And Then There Were None was shipped to North American stores on October 27, 2005. The game received an ESRB rating of Teen (13+). The Adventure Company announced on March 19, 2007, that And Then There Were None would be ported to the Wii console. This version of the game features an ability to spin the Wii Remote to turn safe handles, and the ability to unearth clues by imitating a digging action.
And Then There Were None has received widely varying reviews since its release. Metacritic's weighted average score for the game was 68% on the PC and 50% on the Wii, indicating "mixed or average reviews", and showed individual reviews falling between 20% and 90%, representing a wide range of opinions. One aspect of And Then There Were None which has garnered some criticism is the game's graphics. 2404 denounced the game's environments, commenting that "there are graphically better games that were made two years ago." An aspect of the game's graphics which was more heavily criticised was the character models. GameSpy decried the character models, saying: "The 3D models used for Mr. Owen's guests are crude and simplistic, with silly, sausage-like fingers, hair that looks like blocks of wood, lousy animation, poor lip-synching, and bland faces with barely any facial expression."
Adventure Gamers also found many faults with the character designs, describing them as ugly, and no more attractive or realistic than the characters from Sierra's Gabriel Knight 3, released six years previously. However, not all reviewers were as disappointed by the character models. Just Adventure commented that the characters are nicely designed, with detailed facial expressions during close-ups, but could have been better by current standards. Opinions on the character voice acting were generally positive. The voice acting was praised by Adventure Gamers for injecting life into the wooden character models, and ICGames commented that the voice acting was well done and made the characters convincing. However, GameSpy denounced the game for not allowing faster readers to skip through dialogue, instead forcing them to sit through hours of spoken words they have already absorbed through text. Sound in And Then There Were None received mixed reactions, with Game Chronicles calling the sound decent, and also commenting on the realistic weather and animal sounds heard throughout the game. 2404, in contrast, said that the game's music is pleasant and unannoying, but never captures the emotions and tensions in the game.
The puzzle aspects of And Then There Were None have received varying reactions. GameOver called the few puzzles in the game bad, complaining that often the solutions were obscure and illogical. GameOver complained that many puzzles did not advance the plot, and led to nothing. GameSpot criticized the puzzles in And Then There Were None, saying that the player is "regularly tasked with backtracking back and forth across the island with only a vague notion of what to do in order to progress the story." 2404 was more encouraging, saying that although the game was formulaic, there was a welcome lack of mazes and slider puzzles in the game, making it more accessible to a wider audience.
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- Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None at AWE Productions