We at Just Adventure love a good mystery, so we were thrilled when we heard French publisher Microïds, most often celebrated for its character-rich stories like Syberia and Still Life, had teamed up to pixelate one of the best sleuths in the business. Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders follows the writer’s quirky Hercule Poirot as he trails a killer who advertises his future crimes before they happen. It’s a frustrating, devious case that puts you into the head of the famous detective to find the solution in time.
I recently got the opportunity to pick the brain of the game’s project manager, Alexandre Migeon, who has produced and managed a number of games in his storied career that are available on the PC and Nintendo DS.
Just Adventure: Congratulations on the imminent release of Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders! I’ve been a fan of Microïds ever since I first picked up Syberia so it’s always exciting to see a new endeavor from the studio. To start things off, some of your most well-known titles like Syberia and Still Life feature original protagonists. How did you decide to adapt an existing property, and what drew you to Hercule Poirot as a character?
Alexandre Migeon: We wanted to make an investigation and adventure game with a rich plot and charismatic characters. Who better than the best-selling author of all time, nicknamed the "Queen of Crime," to provide the best inspiration? Hercule Poirot, the favorite hero of Agatha Christie’s novels was an obvious winning choice.
JA: Of all Agatha Christie’s extensive body of work about Poirot, what made you choose The ABC Murders as the basis for the game?
AM: The ABC Murders, recognized by the community as one of the best of Agatha Christie’s books, features a killer who defies Hercule Poirot. By extension, it’s like a direct attack and teasing to the player! What better motivation for him to investigate, unmask and stop the killer.
JA: How did you attempt to capture the essence of Poirot in the game?
AM: In addition to studying the character in various books, we worked with Agatha Christie Limited (the people in charge of the writer’s legacy) for a maximum of information about his history, manners and expressions. We had the great pleasure of discovering it more deeply to design, animate, and give life to his polygonal incarnation.
JA: One of my favorite features of the game is the “little grey cells” component, where the player uses logic and deduction to connect different observations and pieces of evidence to answer questions about the investigation. Was getting into Poirot’s head an important part of the player’s experience for you?
AM: It’s very important for us to ensure that the player will understand all of the investigation and the murderer(s’) malice. In addition to having to investigate through observation sequences, dialogues, manipulation and interrogation, the player will have to assemble the clues to answer key questions that the detective will ask himself. We wanted the player to feel as strong (intelligent) as Hercule.
JA: Which of the colorful cast of characters is your favorite?
AM: Of course, Hercule Poirot took a big proportion of our time and we are proud of the result. We tried to have a cast, easy to identify and that you will remember. You’ll love some of them and won’t give your trust to others.
Some characters, like the vegetable market seller, were funny to design. She is rude, unfriendly, but not so nasty at the end (guys in the team say, “a little bit like me.”)
However, Hercule Poirot demanded most of our attention and his brightness, humour and manners make him a very precious character.
JA: How did you decide on the branching possibilities of the ending?
AM: We decided to include many branches in the game, not only at the end. Of course the alternative ending has the most impact on the scenario but it’s important to make the player feel that he can input the investigation his own way. During an interrogation sequence, the player can choose a question or an answer. This generates « Ego » points and changes the trend of the discussion.
JA: What are some of your favorite adventure or mystery games? Were they inspiration for The ABC Murders?
AM: As it’s an investigation game, it follows specific « codes » that are different than in more traditional adventure games that are references for me.
It’s not because I work at Microïds, but Syberia remains one of the most epic adventure sagas for me. And I love a lot of different adventure games from Maniac Mansion, Sam & Max to The Wolf Among Us….
JA: What do you hope you have added to the mythos of Hercule Poirot and the world of Agatha Christie?
AM: With the art direction and game design, we hope that we have succeeded in providing an interesting new way to discover one of the trickiest Agatha stories.
JA: Do you see yourselves making another Poirot game in the future? What other Poirot books or stories could you see yourselves adapting? Would you ever create an original Poirot story?
AM: Of course, we would be glad to continue on Hercule Poirot’s adventures. I can’t give any information about a possible next project but adventure & investigation games are precious to Microïds.
We worked with a talented team on an the existing source to write texts, dialogues and adapt the scenario but we don’t have the pretension to write an original Poirot Story without the talent of the original author.
JA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
AM: We hope that many players will enjoy the game. We tried to produce an accessible game, fun to play alone or with a companion or family.
Responses translated from the original French by Cyril Berrebi.
Agatha Christie - The ABC Murders Review - February 4, 2016