Hercule Poirot: The First Cases

  • Computer game, published by Microids, 2019
  • Availability: Steam

(Review posted on Steam)

Murder is not a game, Hercule Poirot once told his associate Captain Hastings – but in that, for once, the little Belgian sleuth was wrong. The detective story was (in John Dickson Carr’s words) the grandest game in the world, and Christie played the game better than almost anyone. And now Poirot appears once more in a game, only this time in a mystery not based on any of his creator’s works.

Hercule Poirot’s First Cases takes place at the turn of the twentieth century, a time when Hercule Poirot is a young man, intelligent, passionate about justice, but not sure of himself. After a shootout in Brussels (an incident mentioned in Curtain), Detective Poirot is sent to the countryside in disgrace; nothing more interesting than judging vegetables is likely to come his way. But a bracelet is stolen from the home of Mme van Bosch, and Poirot investigates. He solves that case easily, but not to his satisfaction; the culprit escapes, and a servant must face her ordeal by innocence. Years later, Poirot again is summoned by the van Bosch family: the daughter, Angeline, about to be married, is being blackmailed. And after dinner, one of the guests is found murdered, stabbed to death in the study…

I greatly enjoyed this game, although with reservations. It is fun to play the young Poirot. The situation is pure Christie: a snowbound mansion, full of people with secrets and agendas: two Turkish brothers, an Asian industrialist, an American journalist, a Comtesse, and a union leader. There are knowing nods to other, later Poirot cases (one line of investigation suggests the conspiracy of a famous novel, another theory is a possibility in Hercule Poirot’s Christmas). But J.B. Priestley is almost as big an influence; the case might even be called ‘A Detective Calls’. We have the engagement party, the workers’ strike, the interrogation of privilege, the concern for the working class, and the drawing-room denouement that finds the upper classes guilty of selfishness, if nothing more.

From a mystery standpoint, the solution is an anticlimax, although thematically apt. Christie’s murderers tend to be cold-blooded, calculating, premeditated; the first murder is usually followed by two more, of people who know too much. We do not get that here. ROT13: Gur pevzr vf pbzzvggrq va frys-qrsrapr, naq vf abg cerzrqvgngrq. The trick with the cigar is almost a classic Christie device (vzcrefbangvba sbe na nyvov), and the killer is (as so often in Christie) the most unlikely person and someone we should have suspected; like those magnificent moustaches, they are right under our noses. But Christie, I can’t help but feel, would have added another twist. The solution presented here would have been a red herring for the smart reader.

There are a few ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥: the grammar is sometimes atrocious (as a member of the Detection Club, Christie swore an oath to honour the King’s English); characters wear hats indoors; and some of Poirot’s Mind Map connections are neither logical nor intuitive. But these are minor blemishes.

This is a game written with great love of the detective genre; the mystery is rich and tantalising; the characters are complex and sympathetic; and we step into the patent leather shoes of one of the greatest detectives. May this be the first of many little grey sells to come.

And that asterisked-out word is “niggles”. Given a certain 1939 novel’s title changes, this would be amusing, if it weren’t annoying. (And as further proof the world is going mad, the ESRB classification warns players against Alcohol Reference and Use of Tobacco.)

5 thoughts on “Hercule Poirot: The First Cases

  1. Thanks for sharing this review. I had been looking forward to playing it last week only to realize that the US release date is later so I have a bit longer to go. Glad to know that it seems like it will be worth my time when I finally get my hands on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Glad to have this brought to my attention, and to hear that it’s a decent detective game – I’d heard nothing about it. I’ll have to check it out. Despite being “the grandest game in the world”, I find puzzle mysteries struggle to translate to video games, but I’m always eager to check them out.

    Liked by 1 person

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