Developer Frogwares has been producing Sherlock Holmes games since 2002 for the PC, PS3, Xbox, DS and 3DS. I have not played any of them, not because of any negative reaction, but rather, because I admit my ignorance in not knowing about them (or not paying attention if I actually saw them). I decided to give their newest game in the series, Crime and Punishments, a try after seeing some preview videos earlier in the year.
I am beyond pleased that I did.
Crimes and Punishments takes Sherlock and Dr. Watson through six cases of varying circumstances. One involved a murder complete with an archaeologist killed in a locked steam bath with clues leading you into secret catacombs in search of an ancient weapon while another has you investigating the disappearance of a train before your very eyes. Part of the fun is that the beginning of each new case brought a new “ what will this adventure bring” feeling to it.
The character of Sherlock is a bit in the middle of well known performances. Not quite as eccentric as Cumberbatch, yet not indomitable like Rathbone. I can’t say as much for Watson, who is very much less a memorable character. Funny how I can learn to like different versions of Sherlock, yet Martin Freeman has ruined me on Dr. Watson. He is merely there for the ride and beyond a few short sequences where you swap to play as him, he could have been omitted from the game and I would not have noticed.
Most of Crime and Punishments is a point and click adventure at its core. You will go around a myriad of different locales, a garden-centric county cabin, Roman baths, multiple trips to Scotland Yard and your famous home at 221B Baker Street, walk around collecting clues trying to piece together the events that led to the crime. Sherlock has many tried and true methods at his disposal including a special vision ability that can see things ordinary eyes can not as well as piece together previous events at your location when evidence has been found. It is nothing new, but helps in your gameplay as the world’s greatest detective.
Two places the game really lets you live out your “virtual Cumberbatch” is with the character profile feature and Sherlock’s mind palace. Whenever Holmes interviews a suspect or victim you are prompted to inspect them while the camera goes over various parts of their body. You will learn of their intentions, way of life, even where they have been in the previous hours by the look of their clothes, facial features and more. It really is another mini-game in a game full of them, but it furthers the connection with you being Sherlock.
When you have enough clues you are prompted to enter Sherlock’s mind and see which clues fit together. This is well done by appearing as firing synapses in Sherlock’s brain. When you near the end of cases you must connect clues with suspects and must deduce who committed the crime and what their motivation was. You can easily accuse the wrong person, so be careful. There is an option at the end of every case to check your findings and see if you were right in your assumptions. If you are wrong you can go back into Sherlock’s mind palace and try another way, so there is really no way to lose. In a game like this, it is not necessary to always be right, but I have to be.
If you are looking for a fast-paced action title, Crimes and Punishments will disappoint you thoroughly. If, however, you are wanting a search and find adventure and don’t mind lots of mini-games that are well used, give Sherlock a try. You will end up pleasantly surprised with the fix it gives in between the waiting for Season 4.
Oh, the waiting.