2021 was hot boy summer for detectives. Well, not summer. Hot boy autumn? Is that a thing? Anyway, I not only played Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, but also an incarnation of Hercule Poirot as a bright young thing 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's 'orrible murder, conspiracy, blackmail, union busting, and a cast of Cluedo-esque characters trapped inside a snowy manor. And yes, I am reusing the shoddy Love Island promo photo composite I made for a header picture, because it deserves the mileage.
In a macro sense, this game covers just two cases - one where a bit of jewelry has gone missing, and another later on (and in the intervening years Poirot goes from uniformed officer to plain clothes detective) 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 are there a bunch of servants missing? So you actually end up spinning a few plates.
Young Poirot, whose fashion is cool-retro enough that it has horseshoed back round to 'Jared Leto would wear this at the launch party for a new perfume' territory, explores in an isometric 3D view, before conducting interrogations in nicely expressive 2D and then retreating to his version of a mind palace. It's more of a mind web, with different clues popping up as you gather them to create a complex, exploded brainstorm. Linking them will help you progress, and the game will helpfully indicate when you have new links to make - as well as giving you a hint if you balls up too many times.
I think what I like most about Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is that it's created an original mystery that's still very appropriate for, and aware of, the source material it's riffing on (getting snowed in at a mansion is very Mousetrap, isn't it?). Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is sort of similar, in that it borrows from how incredibly surreal and silly some of the Holmes mysteries could be (you'd be surprised how often the solution in canon turned out to be "an animal done it, lol"). The First Cases, on the other hand, is appropriately warm and charming and a bit genteel, at the same as being a bit dark. I played this game quietly, happily, every lunchtime for about a week. I went and got the same sandwich every time, and would sit eating it as I played, so now Hercule Poirot is inextricably linked with cheese and mayo, and vice versa.
If Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is the riotous lad who drinks a bit to much and wakes up having accidentally hosted a sex party at his parents house, with only three hours until mum and dad get home, then Hercule Poirot: The First Cases is the friend who actually knows how to tidy up, and that you wouldn't mind bringing home to meet your parents.