Grab your Deerstalker hat, whip out your magnifying glass and get ready to solve a mystery or a dozen, as you explore the origins of the classic detective, Sherlock Holmes. Developed and published by Frogwares, these guys are also the creators of ‘The Sinking City’, another game I had the pleasure of playing. Straight away you will notice the similarities in gameplay style which helped me pick up this game faster. This action-adventure, mystery game is both a challenge and a thrill to play, with clues needing to be uncovered and people needing to be read. I was super excited that I was the one to be able to play this game as I am a bit of a fan of Sherlock Holmes, myself. I have always admired his brilliance but sympathized with the social disadvantages that came with his condition, which they portrayed very well in this game with the choices you make.
This game is set as an origin story for the man who will become the world’s greatest detective, no not Batman, but the young Sherlock Holmes. The story for this series thus far shows us an early twenties Sherlock visiting his mother’s grave on the Mediterranean Island of Cordona. You soon discover, however, that what you were told as a child about your parents and what happened is not the same. You must use your deductive skills to solve the mystery surrounding Sherlock’s mother’s death, with the help of your trusted friend Jon. Now to be clear this is not Watson, this is an imaginary friend, one I believe Sherlock manifested to fill the void of friendships due to his condition.
The gameplay is similar in some ways to ‘The Sinking City’, so if you have played that, the mechanics of this game will be easy to pick up. If not then it may be a little challenging at first as there are a lot of aspects that I would consider important things to know that aren’t exactly touched upon. But the basics are a sort of detective focus that makes the space around you into a sort of white void highlighting important objects and clues. There is also what I like to call the clue sonar that shoots a radial wave out from you that pings interactable clues. The biggest mechanic of the game is you; you have the in-game casebook that documents what evidence you find, and the mind palace constructs possible theories of events using clues. You are the main component, it’s the little things that are said by all the characters, things that are commented on when interacted with, you need to remember these things as little as they may seem in the moment.
Now, it is not all research and evidence discovery there is some action as well, there are times when you must arrest people and they don’t come quietly. At these junctures, you must use your surroundings, automatic pistol, fists, and most importantly pocket glitter. These moments are very fun and do help give your mind a rest, as it can get pretty draining on your mentality. It is definitely a welcome change of tone in the game and helps keep it flowing. My favorite parts of the fights are the slowed shots where you need to shoot off bits of their amour to be able to daze them so you can knock them out and arrest them, specifically one type of armor, the bowler hat.
Another mechanic of the game I enjoyed was the different ways to gain information or access to areas was the use of disguises. One of the fun parts of any investigation is looking the part. Dressing up as a woman to gain access to a high-end family estate or as a naval officer infiltrating the barracks to get all the intel of a murdered office, are just some examples. Along with disguises, you can also just eavesdrop on a conversation and pick out keywords to piece together a motive or an interesting slice of gossip that will lead to a new clue. So many ways to solve a mystery and with the help of Jon adding in his quips helps keep it entertaining as well.
The imagery is astounding, there is so much detail put into your surroundings from advertisement posters to leaves blowing on the wind, if you wanted to picture a colonial island from the early 1800’s look no further. It is a brilliant sight and an eye-opening one, as it is highlighted in conversation but also the detailing of the socialism depicted from the era. As a note, there is a warning before starting the game that states the use of racial, social and sexist tones and themes. Just use caution and be aware if you are sensitive to these topics, now they aren’t there to hurt anyone as this is just a game but it is to reflect historical truths of the day and age.
This does help the emersion, brings empathy towards people and sadness of the inability to do much than try and get justice for those being wronged. This would be further improved if the voice lines from the common folk were a little more empathized, however, the main cast is beautifully voiced. As well as the music which is textbook Sherlock, if you have watched the movies or the television show (Sherlock not Elementary) you will instantly feel the vibe.
Now, as much as I do love this game there are times where I need to turn it off and walk away to clear my head, as one of my biggest gripes is the case outcomes. Don’t get me wrong I know why they do it, it is part of the game, and to make it more of a choice-based game but the fact that after a case there are multiple choices of guilty parties is strange. You are Sherlock Holmes, by the end of the case, it should be a definitive answer with the singular culprit undoubtedly guilty. The fact that it can become a coin toss at the end was a little annoying as you do all this work to try and see which of the suspects could be guilty only to find that they both still could be, which makes it a little frustrating.
Overall, this is an outstanding game that at its core is an entertaining challenge that is well worth a playthrough. Not only that, but it also gives us a look into the backstory of Sherlock. I am not sure how canon this is, but it is still a remarkable story and an entertaining theory of how Sherlock Holmes became the man we all know. I cannot stress enough how much fun I had with this, there are so many mysteries to solve and even the side quests feel as involved and thought out as the main story mysteries. Give this one ago, I can’t wait for the next installment.
- Fun problem-solving mechanics.
- Interesting characters, some that appear good but give bad vibes
- Insight into the lore and backstory of Sherlock Holmes
- Visually appealing
- Having multiple possible guilty parties sort of ruins Sherlock’s deductive prowess