Agatha Christie was a mystery-writing machine. Over the course of a career that stretched some 50 years, she pretty much created the modern whodunit genre through over 80 detective novels and the creation of two famous sleuths in Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. So you expect good things from Evil Under the Sun, the third in a growing series of adventure-game adaptations of the author's best works. Unfortunately, we're once more left somewhat disappointed by developer AWE Games. The strong story and atmosphere lifted from one of Christie's best books fail to compensate for a ponderous pace and the many clichÃ©s aped from adventure gaming's past.
Nevertheless, fans of Christie's works can't help but get a little thrill from simply being able to guide Belgian detective Poirot through one of his most famous capers. Well, sort of. The plot only vaguely follows the events of the 1941 novel about the murder of a skanky actress at an English resort on Seadrift Island. AWE takes the same sort of liberties here as it did with its previous adaptations of Christie's And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express. All of the characters from the book seem to be in their proper places, but a new ending has been tacked on to keep bookworms guessing. Purists will undoubtedly howl at this sacrilege, although it's hard to see how AWE could do anything else but alter the conclusion of a famous 66-year-old book. A straight rehash of the original would have just bored the core audience to tears. At any rate, this revamped take actually doesn't do any serious damage to the tale.
The game's afoot! Oh, sorry, wrong legendary detective.
Yet that's not to say that the game makes a lot of sense. On the contrary, it comes complete with the pick-up-everything nonsense that troubles most point-and-click adventures. Given that AWE exercised a bit of imagination when it came to playing with the ending, the company could certainly have used yet more creativity when it came to rigging up adventure-game puzzles around the Evil Under the Sun plot points. Everything here is deeply derivative, which is to say that you collect all sorts of apparently useless junk wherever you go and then later throw it together to solve bizarre, impenetrable mysteries.
Poirot isn't so much a detective quizzing suspects as he is a kleptomaniacal MacGyver with a fruity moustache. He swipes rope and ladder posts from a beach to craft a bird blind needed to win the sympathies of a little girl. He steals a spatula from a chemist for the pure hell of it, somehow knowing that it will come in handy to clean mud off a cave wall at a later date. He robs a fellow hotel guest of his mineral oil for kicks, later realizing that it would be the perfect chemical to use to clean oil off a sea bird. At one point, you can actually stroll down the balconies that run alongside the second floor of your hotel and enter most guests' rooms at will, at which point you can rifle through their possessions to your heart's content. Maybe Miss Marple should hunt down Poirot for petty larceny in the next Christie mystery game.