Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
There’s a little Sherlock Holmes in all of us. Think of that moment when someone’s answer to a question didn’t quite satisfy. When the look on the listener’s face changes to “not sure if…” is the very moment that little Sherlock comes out. People have enjoyed the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary character for over 128 years because of that normal human desire to expose the truth. Frogwares continues the tradition by honoring the “World’s Only Consulting Detective” with a series of adventure games where players get to assume the role of Sherlock himself. Their latest creation, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, has promised to be the most technologically advanced and enjoyable iteration so far. This review, dear readers, will employ Sherlock’s methods of observation and deduction. Once we eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be in the game.
For starters, the game looks pretty gorgeous. Characters appear very lifelike and detailed, even if their movements are a bit stilted in a way that has come to be known in the gaming world as the, “Resident Evil Tank Style”. You can see the despair in their eyes, the pores on their face and the sweat on their brow as the tension mounts when Sherlock starts asking the questions certain suspects just don’t want to answer. The locations are visually convincing, but do suffer from the “invisible wall” issues many adventure games have. There are very distinct areas one can enter, and sometimes when Sherlock dares to venture outside of the boundaries the game shoves him back into place with a nauseatingly wild 180-degree camera spin. Some of the gameplay controls do feel a bit clunky and inaccurate at times and, on several occasions, there is almost enough time to read one of the original stories while waiting through the game’s many loading screens.
The gameplay is the standard point n’ click affair across all six mysteries, where players must examine or pick up any object that is not completely nailed down. Conversations and evidence mounts from the crime scene outward, enabling the player to construct conclusions, Sherlock style, and then piece them together in a “deduction space” (Holmes’ brain) before deciding which one to pursue. The game doesn’t force players into the “right” conclusion, it options to let Holmes decide what the truth is, right or wrong. Players can finish all six cases before having their accusations validated (or, as the case may be, invalidated). Yes, it is possible for the great detective to send an innocent man to the gallows under the control of a hasty player.
The game takes place in the proper Victorian-era England, but does manage to include splashes of the new-style Cumberbatch Holmes in its gameplay. Players can slow down time to analyze a suspect and create a character profile, discover hidden clues and appear to be thinking and moving faster than anyone else. There’s even a mode where Holmes can activate his imagination and visualize his theories as to what happened at the crime scene. The voice acting is really quite superb, and it becomes quite easy to get acquainted with these characters, even if one has their own “favorite” iteration of Holmes from other media.
With regard to the stories themselves, if one is familiar with the original Holmes canon, they may find themselves already aware of the solution before it happens in the game. One of the game’s early cases is one of this reviewer’s favorites, and much time was spent attempting to discover the details that lead to the solution as written long ago by Sir Arthur himself. The cases vary wildly in complexity, with some being an obvious, simple solution while others venture off into what Holmes would have referred to as “ineffable twaddle.” Either way, they are incredibly fun and moderately challenging to complete. Sherlock’s casebook keeps a record of every clue, conversation and bit of evidence encountered in the game, so one could literally stare at the evidence for a while before deciding what solution path to commit to. Sherlock even receives mail from those he has condemned or absolved in previous cases.
All of the Holmes staples are present in the game in one form or another. You can simply stare at the details covering his rooms at Baker Street, finding all of the detailed references to other stories. Sherlock will need to consult his archives, examine letters, conduct chemical experiments and solve complicated puzzles from his comfortable leather chair on many occasions. Watson, Wiggins LeStrade and even Toby have their roles to play, and to see this all come together on next-gen game systems in 2014 is a treat indeed.
Is it worth the money for a purchase? Absolutely. Potential buyers should be aware, however, that this is not a fast-paced, “twich and react” style game. You will be traversing across Victorian era London, slowly, in search of subtle clues that will allow you to introduce a murderer to the hangman’s noose. Fans of Sherlock Holmes as he was originally portrayed will find this game as delightful as a Blue Carbuncle stuck in the crop of their Christmas goose.
Reviewed By: Russell Garbutt
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
This review is based on a digital copy of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments for the PlayStation 4 provided by Focus Home Interactive.