Adapted works seem to be fueled by two kinds of creative energy. There are those done out of reverence for the source material, and there are those done in a spirit of revisionism, seeking (at their best) to use the source as a springboard to something greater. AWE’s interactive adaptation of And Then There Were None (originally Ten Little Niggers, and later Ten Little Indians) is a curious exception, at turns adhering to the original almost word for word, and then making such drastic changes as to jeopardize the entire narrative, and in so doing, runs the risk of disappointing those in both camps.
Agatha Christie’s original work has remained a staple of the murder mystery genre since its publication some 7 decades ago. It tells the bleak story of 10 strangers summoned to an island mansion by an unknown host, accused of murder, and then executed one-by-one according to a grisly poem, until none remain. Since it lacks a real clear cut protagonist that would work as a playable character, AWE has inserted a new, eleventh character, Patrick Narracott. Patrick is the ferryman who shuttles the cast to the island, and is subsequently stranded when the suspicious Mr. Blore scuttles his boat to keep him close by. Patrick is not supposed to be on the island, and thus isn’t accounted for in the killer’s scheme. This makes him a bit of an impartial observer. Unfortunately it also removes some of the tension of being killed (and on that note, why wouldn’t a homicidal maniac just eliminate such a meddler right away, anyway?)
The gameplay itself takes the form of a classic third person point and click adventure, a fine choice of format. Unfortunately, as with many games in the genre these days, the interface is extremely streamlined, and ends up restricting the player. Generally only one type of interaction is available with each object, and most objects that are not "useful" cannot be interacted with. Simple inventory puzzles make up the bulk of what is needed to progress, with only a scant few "real" puzzle-based challenges. For the most part things are terribly easy, with the occasional oddball or unintuitive challenge, and a few parts that require illogical and mindless re-exploration of your environment.
What it lacks in gameplay, And Then There Were None is twice as deficient in production values. The graphics are a mix of 3D characters with pre-rendered backgrounds that actually integrate fairly well. Unfortunately the characters are ugly and unexpressive, with garish Lego-person hair, and eerie wooden faces that almost make you glad to see them die. This isn’t even the result of limited technology, but simply bad artwork. The backgrounds look much nicer, although they use a fair amount of streamlined architecture for an art deco look that seems too modern for a mansion that is supposed to be old already in the 1930s. The musical score is refreshingly excellent, however, and does much to help lay on the thick, dramatic atmosphere the title needs.
Unsurprisingly the strength of And Then There Were None lies in its narrative, which remains as chilling and suspenseful today as it ever was. Sadly AWE bungles this a bit in the final chapters as well. Presumably to surprise the viewer, or to maintain suspense, AWE has changed the events near the end of the game, as well as the identity of the killer. This is wholly unnecessary, and, as one might predict, the new ending is a bit of a stretch. A cinematic reel explaining the original ending is available to players upon the game’s completion, but will only serve to leave gamers wondering why they didn’t just stick with the story as it was written.
In light of titles like Indigo Prophecy and Dreamfall, the bargain-bin sensibilities of And Then There Were None really seem unacceptable. Devoted Christie fans will likely enjoy much of the game, but even they will find some of the revisionism in poor taste. Adventure diehards, too, will be disappointed by the lack of solid puzzles, and general ease. Although it seems to have the best of intentions, And Then There Were None is less than successful in its efforts to bring the appeal of Christie’s work across media.