Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
The other day as I walked through my house, I noticed a tissue box sitting upside down on the floor. ‘How did that get there?’ I wondered. I paced around it, trying to understand what chain of events had caused it to appear there. Had someone come into the house and knocked it down? What was their motivation? Do they have something against my tissues? You might recognise this as the movements of an idiot but I have an excuse – I had been playing Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments and I was just really into it.
I’m also a bit of an idiot. =/
Developed by Frogwares, Crimes & Punishments is the newest instalment of their Sherlock Holmes game series and it’s a great time to release it, with the strong interest in film and TV adaptations. The games in this series, however, are particularly faithful to the original material of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and they definitely prove that you don’t need A-listers to make Sherlock Holmes an appealing character.
You play as the titular character, obviously, and work your way through six separate cases. Most of the popular characters make an appearance, including Mrs Hudson, Mycroft Holmes, and even Toby the dog. Scotland Yard are absolutely hopeless without your help and so you attend crimes scenes, find clues, and interrogate people just to combat your own boredom.
It’s a pretty simple concept but the art is in the execution. For example, the game stresses that the first thing you should do when you meet a new witness or suspect is to profile them using Sherlock’s legendary powers of observation and deduction. Time stops and you highlight sections of their face, clothes, and body to piece together what sort of person they are. You can then use those observations to catch them out when they lie.
There are lots of other parts to the investigations as well. Some clues you find need to be tested with the chemistry set in the office. You also have to search Sherlock’s archives to get more information on events or objects. There’s lock picking and environmental puzzles. To keep track of this, Sherlock has a journal that records what has been found so far and what objectives are left to complete.
When you have collected enough clues to draw a conclusion, you’ll enter a special screen to combine your thoughts. Combine two of them successfully and you have a deduction, which will meld together with other deductions to allow you to progress. Accuse the alleged criminal and voilà! You’re done with the case.
But hold on a minute, are you sure that’s the right conclusion? Although you’re allowed to accuse someone (and have them go to jail or the rope for it), you can’t be sure you’ve got the killer unless you interrogate everyone, collect all the clues, AND combine the deductions the right way.
You then have to decide whether you want to condemn or absolve the criminal. I decided to make my Sherlock sympathetic to the plight of criminals because I’m just that nice. Plus, it annoys Mycroft. The game then gives you the option of going back and picking another conclusion to see how it plays out, which is handy because most people probably wouldn’t play through each case several times just to see each one.
The most painful part of this otherwise excellent game is the loading screens. These force you to pay attention while nothing is happening. It takes a long time to load each area and you are able to access Sherlock’s journal as he travels in a carriage. Unfortunately, the game requires you to press X (or the corresponding button/key on your chosen system) to continue once it has loaded, which brings up yet another quick loading screen. I don’t really need a nice scene of Sherlock reading Dostoyevsky. What I’d like is for the game to load faster.
One thing that struck me is how little faith the game seems to have that people would want to solve the cases on their own. You don’t even have to fail a mini game before you’re offered the chance to skip it, a tactic that reduces adventure games to mildly interactive movies. It makes no sense to skip them because they’re easily solved with a bit of thought and, really, isn’t that why anyone would want to play it?
The characters also tend to be a little broad, with few facets to their personality besides being an alcoholic or an enthusiastic botanist. The voice acting is mostly fantastic, though, even if the facial movements of the characters could still use some work.
Even if you’re just a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I’d recommend checking this one out. The flaws don’t define the game. It’s not a big challenge but the adventure is worth it and you might come out of the experience with fun new ways to judge people.
- Multiple investigation techniques
- Lots of different outcomes to each case
- Faithful interpretations of the original characters
- Long loading screens that force you to pay attention to them
- Too many options to avoid actual gameplay
- Broad characters