We’re really into mysteries; whether it’s finding out who it is that is eating all the chocolate biscuits or if blondes really do have more fun. So when a copy of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun for Wii arrived in our post box we just had to jump up and down, not just once, but twice. After all we were about to become a virtual Hercule Poirot! As you probably already know, Poirot is a (fictional) French Speaking Belgian detective who has a canny ability in solving grisly murders. Evil Under the Sun was a novel first published in 1941, it was made into a film starring Peter Ustinov, and more recently a TV adaptation featuring the most widely recognised actor to play Poirot, David Suchet.
Let’s now look further with our review of Evil Under the Sun for Wii. The first thing to mention is that this is a simple conversion of a PC point and click adventure title developed by AWE Games a couple of years ago; so not a brand new Wii specific title. The original game was mouse driven, and the Wii Remote with its IR pointer capabilities makes a fine alternative, probably why we have seen a number of PC to Wii conversions lately including Sam and Max Season One.
The Adventure starts in Poirot’s office, located in London. The great detective and his trusty English sidekick Captain Hastings of Scotland Yard are having a comfy night in, whilst the whole city prepares for possible German bombings; yes we have travelled back in time to the 1940’s. To pass the time, Poirot suggests an interactive discussion about an intriguing murder case on Seadrift Island. He then goes on to say that in this weird hypnotic-come-virtual reality session Hastings will be able to experience the case first hand, by controlling Poirot – just as if he, Hastings, were there himself. This is an interestingly unique, yet convoluted, way of informing the player that they’ll be controlling Poirot during the game with the Wii Remote. As this is a revisiting of Poirot’s adventure, anything unimportant to the case has been removed and plays no part in the game story (to put it another way: all the extra detail from the original story has been stripped down to leave a straightforward plot – nice). Before you set off on this interactive adventure, Poirot tells you three short baffling stories (in the form of poorly animated cut scenes) which in some way relate to your upcoming adventure. However, having seen the TV adaptation, I note that only one of the cut scenes seems to actually relate to the original story – odd. So it’s safe to assume here, without giving away any spoilers, that the developers have embellished slightly on the original theme in order to create a compelling game. This may or may not be a blessing for players who already know ‘who done it’. You might welcome the few extra twists that offer a somewhat new experience, but on the other hand, you could be a diehard Agatha Christie fan, who would happily strangle anyone caught mangling the original texts. Luckily for me, I don’t mind extra twists and turns around the place – the more time I can pretend to be Poirot the better for me thank you very much.
So, first things first – you can’t just rush into these things. You’ll have to search Poirot’s office for the important items you’ll need to carry into your adventure. This is really a tutorial to get you used to how to control everything and shouldn’t take you long. Once you’re done it’s time to head to the Smugglers Rest hotel, where you’ll be spending your next few days puzzle solving. Note: the grisly murder has still to happen – you’re just here on vacation – so you can’t start interrogating innocent people yet, even if you are Belgian.
You first take control Poirot in his hotel room, where there are just a few things to look at. You can venture outside via your patio doors, or head out of your hotel room door – the choice is yours. Either way, your first task is to explore the hotel, then the local surroundings, and chat to the other guests/staff/inhabitants. It’s not long before some interesting information pricks up your ears. There is noticeable unrest and jealousy between some of the guests, and that can only spell problems in the long run. You’ll find items of use along the way which will help in tasks that the NPS’s request of you (earning you their trust on completion) and later of course (a fair bit later), clues to the crime.
The first major encounter you have is with a young bird watching girl, who wants to build a protective blind so that she can watch the birds and not scare them away with her presence. Your task is simple, find the required materials located around the island and build it for her. Finding the objects you need is just a case of exploring everywhere, pointing your onscreen cursor over everything, until you find something ‘pickupable’; such as a rock, or drinking glass. The lovely hand drawn graphics actually make this harder than you’d expect, as the items you should pickup look just like part of the scenery. You’ll have to explore each location thoroughly to find everything that may or may not be there. If you get stuck at any time, you can pop ‘back to the future’ to ask Poirot for a clue (in his office) – but his hints are so vague that it’s not usually worth bothering. Talking to everyone will yield lots of information; the useful stuff such as, important clippings, general clues and data on suspects will be stored in your notebook for future reference. Your bag of tricks also contains a stopwatch for timing how long it takes to reach various places, an important thing when tracking people’s movements and verifying their stories. Later on in the game you’ll be able to use this in conjunction with the map on the office wall to help you pin point everyone. This is the general structure for Evil under the Sun, and gameplay doesn’t really veer away from this system too much at all. At the end of some sequences you’ll (automatically) be whisked back to Poirot’s office for a little chat before you can do more adventuring on your own – this is how the game marks the transition from one day to the next. It would be more realistic for Poirot to get sleepy and have you send him to bed…unless of course, Poirot never sleeps!
Poirot is easily controlled by using your Wii Remote and the A and B buttons. You click where you’d like him to walk, and also on things you’d like to look at. It’s very simple and PC mouse like. Yes, thankfully there has been no inclusion of unneeded waggle motion control to do something silly like open doors. Having said that, I wouldn’t have minded getting in to a scuffle with someone and controlling Poirot ‘Wii Sports boxing style’ – that would’ve been a little out of character though.
So whilst this is a fun point and click adventure, it’s definitely more old school. You’ll spend lots of time wandering around, unsure of what to do – clicking on everything until something works. More modern-style point and click games do a better job of keeping you busy all of the time, which relieves the frustration of getting stuck and needing to search Google for help (only to find you missed one tiny thing which caused you to come to a grinding halt). Personally I didn’t used to mind a slow progressing game when I was younger. Nowadays however, with work deadlines and general day to day stress, it’s surprising how much you wish you could just get on with the game (instead of spending ages looking for one object needed to kick start the game back into life). If you had a nice spell of time on your hands – say a long weekend with no pressure – then playing Evil Under the Sun for Wii would be quite fun. Having to play through it with a review deadline looming does limit the enjoyment somewhat, it must be said.
The voice acting of Poirot and Hastings is very good – yet the other characters are acted quite poorly and sound stilted. Considering that there is a great deal of speech, it would have been nice if it had all been good, but nevertheless it doesn’t impact too much. The Character model for Poirot is nicely animated, but seems a bit taller and better built than he should be – it looks like he’s just stepped out of a WWE wrestling rin.! Graphically, everything (bar the characters) is hand drawn, and looks of painting like quality – very pretty. The colours however, seem a little washed out, which is a bit disappointing. Besides Poirot, the other character models (and their animation) seem less detailed -which again is unfortunate.
Overall I did enjoy Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun for Wii. It’s a game that needs time and clear thought to play. A relaxing weekend (or three), with plenty of coffee and no worldly worries would be perfect. Yes the game is dated both physically and graphically, but that doesn’t make it a bad game. I think younger adventurers should pass, and leave Evil Under the Sun for their parents (or even grandparents). Certainly anyone with knowledge of classic PC, Amiga and Atari point and click games will be happy here on Seadrift Island. Evil Under the Sun scores a fair 6 out of 10.
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