Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes – Hopes and Impressions
Title: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments and Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter
Available on: PC/PS4
If you have read any of my past reviews and opinion pieces, it will come as no surprise that one of my favourite game genres is the mystery-solving type. There are so many games out there that test that good old grey matter that it's hard to choose from.
With that said when it all comes down to it, one character stands out among all others, the true epitome of the mystery sleuth, the one, and only Sherlock Holmes. It might come as a surprise but there have been several attempts in the last 2 decades to bring the master detective to video games by Frogwares games.
Truth be told I was not aware that Frogwares were the sole creators of the Sherlock Holmes games, it was after seeing some news where they ended up in a legal battle over licencing control of the franchise with Focus Home Interactive.
While the battle seems to be over now, the tensions between both companies appear to be strained, and the Sherlock Holmes games which had all been pulled are now seeing a reappearance.
It was around this time I tried out Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments and more recently I played Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter. I decided I would do a review piece on both games in one and hopefully the reason for this will become clear.
Elementary, my dear reader!
I began playing Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments and for any fans of Sherlock, you will instantly be asking, what kind of Sherlock am I going to be playing. With so many different takes on the character you might be asking, is it the smooth-talking Robert Downey Jr, or the cold and calculating Benadryl Cummerbund.
I am personally thankful (as a huge fan of everything Sherlock) we get a good old-fashioned trip back to Victorian England and Sherlock feels more like the classic Jeremy Brett of the 1980s TV show (yes, I am that old!).
There is a real charm to the characters, and I get the feeling that the minds behind this have not held on to the franchise without knowing a thing or two about our beloved detective. Another cool way that speeds up character development is the signature Sherlock scan, much like in the modern-day TV show, Sherlock is able to read a person and find out more about them before they even open their lips. This is a neat mechanic as you still have to pick the correct evidence you find to support your claims, but I found every time I did you got the same gobsmacked impressed expressions from the characters.
Connect the dots…
The deductive mechanics are the star of the show by far and give you that real sense of playing around with clues in your own mind palace. As Sherlock, you move around the scene and pick up clues in various ways, and with Sherlock vision, you begin to crack your cases. Sherlock vision comes in 2 modes with the ability to be super observant and find the tiniest of clues or view the scene and visualise what might be missing from a shelf based on some missing dust or the direction something was moved based on some scuff marks.
As you progress through each case it's up to you to take your clues and build a picture in your mind as to how the events of the case unfold, and this in itself is one of my favourite things about the game, you can use the clues to comes to multiple conclusions, you also have a choice on what you do with said deduction, be it a moral or rational choice.
The only sad part is these choices don't really seem to impact the game as a whole, as each case is very much self-contained, so it would have been nice if this had built towards an overarching story and giving some pay off to the choices you make on your adventure. One can only hope with new games in the franchise that this is something that changes.
The game is afoot!
The cases you face are nicely broken down with the exploration and various mini-games that are quite varied enough that they give you a fresh challenge every time. While some are difficult, you don't feel like you are having to learn a new game every time. I can understand that this won't be everyone's cup of tea as constantly changing up the puzzles can be frustrating. Personally, I loved this, I mean this is coming from a guy who taught himself advanced Mahjong just for a mini-game in Judgement on the PS4.
There is a really awesome scene where Sherlock visualises the inside of a model and you get to navigate through it with some nice action elements, but I still found the puzzle side of things more fitting for the setting.
Sherlock to be or not to be!
There have been so many interpretations of Sherlock over the years and everyone will have their favourite, so it's likely this Sherlock might not fit into your ideal impression of the character. I would still encourage you to look past that and let the game speak for itself as I fell in love with the gameplay, and my only wish is that there had been more cases and some overall connection with the choices that are made.
I mentioned before my experience was with Crimes and Punishments and the Devil's daughter. The one thing you may notice from trailers is Sherlock's personality does seem to shift a bit more towards the more modern take we are used to from the TV and movies. You would be forgiven for thinking this, but the change is actually more plot-driven, and I won't spoil that for you!
Do the Crime, you do the time!
While I enjoyed both Crimes and Punishments and the Devil's Daughter, they were not without their own faults. Each game had 6 cases, which still feels a little short. I think I finished Devil's Daughter in a little over a weekend, so it would have been nice to have more.
Crimes and Punishments felt more traditional in Sherlock lore and I enjoyed the cases and the directions they took me in, but some of the puzzles were jarringly complicated sometimes, so I can see this frustrating some people who might want a greater blend of action and puzzle-solving. I was happy to see that the Devil's Daughter does have a bit of an overall narrative going on in the background, so it's nice to see that Frogwares is learning and leaning more into this. We just need more of this in the future and have the conclusions of the case have a bigger effect on the story as a whole.
Sherlock's future and past!
So that just happened! I saw this trailer to Frogwares newest take on Sherlock and I am equal parts excited and terrified at what I saw. It seems that the next entry to the Sherlock franchise will come in the form of a younger Sherlock at the age of 21 starting out making a name for himself in Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One.
There is still a lot up in the air about this, but it does seem like we will be getting an open world mystery solver with similar mechanics to before, but more action thrown into the mix as well. I'm still not sure how I feel about this, as Sherlock has always felt like a more natural fit when set in the slower more methodical problem-solving scenario instead of the fast paced quick time events that we have seen in the last instalment of the game.
That said I do love change, and I can't wait to see this franchise shaken up and given a new fresh coat of paint. Time will tell, but with a 2021 release, hopefully, we won't have to wait much longer.
Play this game if:
You like puzzle games
You like a good detective mystery
You are a Sherlock Holmes fan
You want your own mind palace!
Be sure to sign up on the site for all things Casual and create your own Casual Game Community profile.
Have a great content idea that would be perfect for CGC? Contact us here and we’d be happy to chat!