I have to admit, I was always dubious of the Sherlock Holmes games. Back in the days of the Xbox 360, I had seen the games in my local videogame shop, but after a cursory look online and seeing mediocre reviews, I never took the plunge. This changed when ‘Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment’ was included with the Games with Gold programme in March this year. Playing through that game, I was impressed with the way developer Frogwares had translated Arthur Conan Doyle’s dry, yet intellectual, stories into a gripping and entertaining game. The game brilliantly mixed sections of finding clues, interrogations, deductions, puzzles, and action sequences. When this new game was announced, I was immediately on board to pick the game up and to write the review.
Gameplay is extremely similar to ‘Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment’. You walk around environments in a third-person viewpoint investigating items, picking up clues, and speaking to witnesses, suspects, and victims. One of the things that set these games apart is the same thing that sets the character of Sherlock Holmes apart – deductions. When you meet one of the main characters in each plotline, you will get the option to deduce a character profile by observing them. What’s more when you obtain evidence and clues, you can deduce links between them that can lead you to more evidence and eventually solve the entire crime. What I do love about this series is that it is entirely possible to solve the crime incorrectly and you can carry on the game as though you are right. The game will let you know if you are correct or not, and will give you the chance to correct your errors, but a single case will not be impassable.
There are a few differences with this game compared to previous Sherlock Holmes title. The first one you’ll notice is that there are difficulty options this time around. Alongside the standard difficulty, you have the option of a harder difficulty that will give you limits (time & attempts) during your deductions and investigations. The next difference you’ll notice is that the character model of Doctor Watson has changed. Quite what the reason was behind this I’m not sure. I don’t think this game is set before the previous game (Watson appears to be younger than in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment’), and I don’t think there was an issue with the way that Sherlock’s companion looked.
When it comes to the graphics in the game, it’s one step forward and one step back. The textures and general look of the game have been given a new layer of polish. The main characters of the game all look great. Environments are given more depth and populated with more items. The whole visuals have been pushed; unfortunately it comes at the cost of some technical issues. The game has more screen tearing than I have seen in a lot of other games. This issue is mainly restricted to cutscenes but I did also experience it during some of the more action-orientated gameplay. I also came across a reasonable amount of texture pop-up, while this wasn’t as prevalent as the screen tearing it was still occasionally distracting.
The style of the plot is similar to the last Sherlock Holmes game, where you solve individual cases which either have a link to a final case, or you will find out a piece of info that has nothing to do with your current case but will link to the final case. In this game, the overarching plot is to do with Sherlock’s daughter. I won’t spoil the twists and turns for you, but I did find it to be more engrossing and gripping than ‘Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment‘. While some of this is because, as a fan of the books, I was always thinking “Sherlock didn’t have a child though”, but the game still kept me guessing throughout. I also enjoyed the greater involvement of Wiggins, one of the Baker Street Irregulars. One person who has significantly less to do in this game though is Doctor Watson. Sherlock’s companion is present at the beginning of the game, but that’s about it until the very end of the game.
I really enjoyed this latest Sherlock Holmes game. While I don’t think that the game will change the mind of anybody who has played one of these games before and didn’t like it, it’s still a great game for new players and fans of the series. For the majority of the time, the game looks great, and when there are technical issues they never interfere with your ability to play the game. What matters more than anything else in a game like this though, is the story and the writing. Once again, that is where this title more than meets expectations. Frogwares have developed another compelling Sherlock Holmes adventure and I can’t wait until the studio releases the next adventure!