Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishment Preview

Sherlock Holmes is a major property right now, with the success of the modern day BBC TV series, the existence of a modern day US TV series, and even those quirky films with Robert Downey Jr., set in the Victorian era. You know, the ones where Holmes dresses up as a lady and does most of his “thinking” with his fists.

Frogwares’ Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series has been going for much longer than this recent flurry of interest in the world’s greatest non-caped detective. Crimes and Punishment is their seventh entry in the series, continuing in the footsteps of the grand overhaul that was brought in with 2012’s The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.

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Though a descendent of the point & click adventure genre, you take direct control of Sherlock Holmes with a control scheme befitting a console controller and third person view point – it is coming later this year to X360, PS3 and PS4 as well as PC, after all. However, while you’ll generally in control of Holmes, it’s not afraid to mix things up and add a little more colour to the world and characters.

My play time actually saw me taking control of Watson under fire, as he moves from cover to cover to disarm the Holmes, who’s busy shooting up his living room while blindfolded. Mentally deranged, you might say, but even blindfolded he’s able to miss Watson with every shot and hit only the vases in the room, because he’s just that good.

It’s not long before Lestrade shows up with the case of Black Peter’s murder, asking for Holmes’ help to solve the mystery as you take control of the detective himself. Just make sure to change out of your dressing gown and into something befitting of a gentleman, before you leave the flat.

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Investigating a crime is largely as you would expect, talking to witnesses and suspects, uncovering clues and gradually piecing together what happened. However, there’s quite a few twists to the investigations that feel a little borrowed from the BBC’s Sherlock.

Talking to a person, you can scan across their body as you talk to them, picking out clues and items of interest, with words popping up to illustrate Holmes’ thoughts, in order to put together those brilliant deductions and unveil their backstory and character in one fell swoop. Doing so successfully can then open up new avenues of discussion that weren’t there before.

Meanwhile, using his “Sixth Sense” puts you into the first person view for when Holmes goes poking around a crime scene. Doing so might reveal a dust free rectangle on a shelf to indicate a small chest is missing, for example, or let you put together the mental image of a smell, to deduce the coastal origins of a particular blend of tobacco.

The case of Black Peter’s murder, in which the poor fellow is skewered on a spear, is supposed to last a couple of hours, but it is just one of seven cases of varying sizes. What makes this game somewhat unique – and certainly different to the past entries in the series – is that you’re actually working a case for yourself and trying to figure out who the culprit is.

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In most detective games, you will follow along the predetermined path, find everything you need to and then watch as the game’s protagonist puts it all together, but here it’s you that’s in the driving seat. You have to find the clues and interpret what they mean to the case, venturing into Holmes’ brain to connect brain cells and synapses to winnow down the number of suspects until you can finally pin the crime on a single person.

It’s entirely possible for you to make the wrong call, but whether right or wrong, your job isn’t quite done. You also have to judge on the moralities of the crime, to decide upon the fate of the criminal and whether you turn them in to Lestrade and Scotland Yard, or if the circumstances under which they found themselves justified their actions and you should let them escape.

The only slightly sour point with my brief time with the game, bookending this one case, was with the controls. The case structure is clever, the Unreal Engine 3 powered graphics looked quite good, while the animation and voice acting did a decent job, but I found the controls to be awkward and cumbersome. There was a lack of obviousness in some areas, while others felt like too literal a translation of mouse and keyboard controls, making a climactic bout of fisticuffs unintentionally amusing as a consequence.

Beyond that, this looks to be a detective game with some fairly intriguing twists. It might purloin a few ideas from modern interpretations of Sherlock Holmes on the TV, but in getting you to actually put together the clues and find the culprit and with ample opportunity to get it completely wrong in the process, this could be something quite unique.

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4 Comments

  1. Is this a sequel or in anyway related to last years’ game on PS3?

    • The last game in this series was The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, which came out in 2012 for PC, 360 and PS3. This isn’t a direct sequel really, but another game in that Sherlock Holmes universe with a string of cases to solve.

      I imagine it’s probably Testament that you’re thinking of?

      • Yes mate, that’s the one I meant – just wondered if it was the same developer etc. Have been waiting to get it cheap, something puzzle orientated to play with the wife – although I could wait to get this new one on PS4.

  2. Have all of them on the PC, although only completed the one with the Cthulu cult. Definitely something I want to get all the way through though. Certainly a more traditional Holmes in the ones I have seen.

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