And Then There Were None

Review

posted 7/1/2008 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
Platforms: Wii
If there is anything in the gaming world that has a worse reputation than games based on movies (or, for that matter, movies based on games) it has to be games based on novels. "And Then There Were None" is a murder mystery written by the venerable Agatha Christie many, many years ago, back when the novel's original title wouldn't have gotten it banned from bookstores and libraries across the country. The book is described as The World's Best-Selling Mystery of All Time, and that could, indeed, be the truth of it. The problem is, of course, that the elements that go into creating a best-selling murder mystery are not necessarily the same as what it takes to create a good game. The temptation to use a famous novel as a means to develop and sell a mediocre game is every bit as irresistible as it is to use the same idea in filming and releasing a crappy movie.

That glowing introduction to this review of The Adventure Company's game of the same title recently released for the Wii is what mystery writers call a "clue." You can probably already tell that it's going to be an uphill battle for the Wii version of "And Then There Were None" to receive a favorable score, and if you are one of those that picked up on that clue, well, it doesn't exactly make you the equivalent of Hercule Poirot, but it does show that at least you're paying attention.

The most obvious problem with games that follow novels is that they are games that are, to put it bluntly, nothing more than a re-packaging of the novel. If they were to stray from the story, they wouldn't be true to the original work. If they rigidly follow the original plot, then you might as well sit down and read the book. Unless, that is, you don't like to read. Your second option in that case would be to find a movie based on the story and watch that. If, as is the case here, there is no movie, well, then you'll need to play the game. WHich, I suppose, would be ok if the game was cleverly designed and fun. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this situation. The Wii version of ATTWN (pardon the acronymization, if you will) is nothing more than a collection of still scenes through which you will walk your character, gathering up every item that isn't nailed down. At some point, you will use these items either individually or in combination to solve parts of the game. For example, you might find a flashlight, but for some reason it won't have batteries. You may also find yourself in a kitchen pantry, and for no other reason than idle curiosity you will scoop through a bag of flour. Lo and behold, there are the batteries! Now tell me, are you satisfied with the logic and native intellect you utilized to follow a trail of subtle clues to discern the location of a set of batteries for a flashlight that you don't even know that you;re going to need, or are you, like me, left scratching your head as to why anyone would keep batteries in a bag of flour?


Of course, being on the Wii means that the designers have to use the unique capabilities of the controller, whether it makes sense to or not. In this case, the controller is used to open doors, a twisting motion that I could get to work about 2 time out of 5, until I learned that it has to be a very exaggerated movement. It was obvious that the controller would be needed to scoop the aforementioned flour, but what was far less obvious was what exactly the required motion was. I'm reasonably certain that it wasn't what I ended up having to do, which was shake the controller around like I was trying to flick burning napalm off of my hand. Other than that, it's basically used as a pointer, and that part worked well enough.

The box promises "over 20 hours of engrossing gameplay that will keep you on the edge of your seat." In my case, three of those hours were spent on the first level completely stuck because I hadn't taken a certain path early in the game, a path that was then outside of the locked front door of the mansion. It required a complete re-start of the game to find that path and get to the next level, a fact that I wasn't very happy with. I think it is pretty poor design to allow a player to reach a dead end by having missed an unintuitive step in the story and not have the opportunity to rectify the situation.

My advice: read the book. It was written in 1937: it's probably darn close to being in the public domain by now.
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