I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I read many of the books in high school, seen countless movies and even watched a few television shows that featured a modern take on the world’s most famous detective. When I first saw the trailer for The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, I was really excited. It looked to be a rather dark, gritty take on the story of Sherlock and Dr. Watson. Well, I can tell you, the game does a very good job of telling a story about Sherlock Holmes, but that’s about it.
The game is a continuation of the long-running Sherlock Holmes series adventure games. The year is 1898. Sherlock and Watson have become a very popular topic among the people of London. During this time, his popularity has garnered a more infamous reputation. Many believe his methods of solving crimes are unethical, and through the eyes of Dr. John Watson, you slowly begin to see just how far Mr. Holmes will go to solve a case.
For the most part, the game plays out much like the previous game, Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper. You can control Sherlock and Watson, explore locations for clues, solve puzzles, and make deductions from the evidence you have collected. The game is essentially a point and click adventure game in a 3D world.
Gathering clues and investigating crime scenes is a major part of the game. When examining an item, you will get spoken cues to know if you have gathered enough information. If you still don’t know if you’re done examining it, you can always see if the examine icon has turned from blue to green. If it’s green, you know you have all you need form that item.
Listening to the dialog is another important aspect of the game. You need to pay attention to what the characters are saying when examining evidence. When the examinations are over, you then have to go to the deduction board in the menus and piece together the information to rule out thoughts and theories on how the and why the crime happened. When on the deduction board, you are given facts that stem to other facts that have to be chosen correctly to move on. These are all multiple choice and never really too difficult if you have been paying attention to what Sherlock and Watson have been saying during the investigation.
The game does a good job of telling you when you’re done in a certain area or when you need to investigate further. Even without the verbal cues, you can hit a rechargeable hint button to show where every investigating area is on the screen. When you’re done in an area, you can choose on a map what location you would like to visit next. Sometimes it is just back to 221 B. Bakers Street to examine evidence with Sherlock’s chemical lab or investigation tools.
The puzzles range from too easy to very difficult. There seems to be no happy medium. The difficult ones end up being a trail and error game until you find something that works. Of course, there are the occasional puzzles that hit just the right notes, but those are few and far between. If a puzzle does take too long for your tastes, an option to skip the it altogether will pop up eventually.
Frogwares has revamped the graphical aspects of the game from their previous Sherlock Holmes titles. They are a step above the rest, but they are not the best in the world. In fact, some characters look downright creepy, especially the children that are reading the story to each other. The animations are off more times than not, and almost every character in the game acts still and sluggish. The mouths almost never match up to the spoken dialog in the cut scenes or even in the game play dialog. It is rather jarring at times. It is a shame because most of the dialog in the game is acted very well and very convincingly. There will be the occasional annoying character, but Holmes and Watson are played very well.
The controls need a bit of work as well. The game offers up controller support on the PC and even then, it controls very sluggishly. Luckily, there is no requirement to be fast on your feet in this game. It just becomes bothersome when trying to line yourself up to a clue and you can’t seem to turn just the way you want. You can play the game in first person mode, and that helps out a good amount.
Even though the graphical problems are there, and do take you out of the experience, the game tells a rather good story about Sherlock Holmes. It’s nice to see a deeper, darker look into the mind of narcotic-addicted genius Sherlock and watching through the eyes of his best friend as he falls deeper into a more unethical mindset. The story is rather good, and the puzzles offer up a good challenge even if you end up using a walkthrough for the game on some of them. Sherlock fans will enjoy the story and mystery, and puzzle fans will get their fix. If you’re a fan of point and click adventure games and graphics are not a big concern to you, you may want to give this game a shot, but keep in mind; it will not control or look too pretty.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.