2021 has been a hot summer for detectives. Well, not in the summer. Hot fall boy? Is it a thing? Anyway, I not only played Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, but also an incarnation of Hercule Poirot as a brilliant young man in Agatha Christie – Hercule Poirot: The First Cases. And yes, that name is a bit of a nightmare, but the game itself is very sweet. There is “a gruesome murder, conspiracy, blackmail, union breakdown and a cast of Cluedo-esque characters trapped in a snowy mansion.” And yes I am reusing the poor quality Love Island composite photo I made for a header photo because it deserves the mileage.
In a macro sense, this game only covers two cases – one where a gem went missing, and another later (and in the years that followed, Poirot went from an officer in uniform to a detective in civilian clothes) involving blackmail. before a wedding. But within those, you get a bunch of different sub-mysteries. Who is secretly in a relationship and with whom? What exactly is going on between the journalist and the union boss? Why is a group of servants missing? So you end up spinning a few plates.
Young Poirot, whose fashion is retro and cool enough that he has toured the territory of “Jared Leto would wear this to the launch party of a new perfume”, explores in an isometric 3D view, before conducting nicely expressive 2D interrogations, then retreating into his version of a mind palace. Rather, it’s a mental network, with different clues appearing as you put them together to create a complex and exploded brainstorm. Linking them will help you progress, and the game will usefully point out when you have new links to make – as well as giving you a hint if you have too many balls.
I think what I love most about Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is that he created an original mystery that’s still very appropriate and aware of the source material he’s riffing on (getting snowed in a mansion is very Mousetrap, isn’t it?). Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is somewhat similar, in that it borrows how some of Holmes’ mysteries could be incredibly surreal and silly (you’d be surprised how often the solution in canon turned out to be ” an animal did it, lol “). The First Cases, on the other hand, is suitably warm and charming and a bit ladylike, yet a bit dark. I played this game quietly, happily, every lunchtime for about a week. I went for the same sandwich every time and sat down to eat it while I played, so now Hercule Poirot is inextricably linked with cheese and mayonnaise, and vice versa.
If Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is the tumultuous boy who drinks a little too much and wakes up after accidentally hosting a sex party at his parents’ house, with only three hours before mum and dad come home, then Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is. the friend who really knows how to tidy up, and wouldn’t mind bringing home to meet your parents.