It’s a strange thing to say for a game that’s ostensibly about investigating and solving a crime, but one of the things I enjoyed most about Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter was being able to dress Sherlock up in a variety of different ways. There’s plenty to like about this investigative adventure, but this facet of his character isn’t what would typically spring to mind when someone is asked about him.
Most people would home in on his intellect, his incredible deductive reasoning, his companionship with Watson, or any of the myriad film and TV interpretations over the decades. But when it came time for Holmes to leave his Baker Street flat to do some investigating out in London, I made a beeline for the closet. Between changing his hair, beard, moustache and whether or not he’s wearing glasses, you can have Holmes look like a vagabond, a foreign tourist or, well, himself.
Then there’s several different outfits, so he might look like an Agent 47 lookalike from behind – less the barcode – a funeral director, a dock worker, and so on. I was off to Whitechapel, so I tried to look as 21st century hipster as possible. Watson’s looking pretty suave these days as well, with his impressive moustache and whiskers.
The costume doesn’t really play much of a role in the first half of the first case, though, as Holmes tries to help find the father of a young boy. He went missing a few weeks ago after taking on a “special job”, and Holmes could do with the mental stimulation of a case to bring him out of his – drug induced? – malaise.
It all starts when young George is introduced to Holmes by his new neighbour, Miss Alice De’Bouvier – a newly created character who’s central to the overall story of the game – with the initial questioning coming from your early observations. Scanning across his person, you pick up on the kid’s appearance, from the patches on his clothes to the weak left arm and sickly looking eyes. Some points are open to interpretation, letting me make a poor judgement and incorrectly conclude that the boy suffered from malnutrition and had conjunctivitis.
Making these kinds of small choices and decisions can come to play out later in the case, as you’re given the freedom to read the facts in different ways. As the clues come together, you can enter into Holmes’ mind and take the key points from the investigation, twisting them together to reach your own conclusion.
There’s plenty more investigating to be done before you can reach that point, though. You have to head out to the dwelling where George has been making do for the last few weeks, in Whitechapel. One thing that stands out is that, though not a sprawling open city, the locations are given more of a sense of place within London. You actually walk out of the front door and onto Baker Street, and find a horse and carriage to take you to where you need to go. And when you get to Whitechapel, there’s a few streets there that you can wander down, with a handful of different place in this area that come to play a part in the investigation.
Once you’re done trawling through the small flat in which George has been living, dredging up all the clue via Holmes’ ability to highlight objects of interest, clues lead you to a nearby pub, where you can overhear nearby conversations about these “special jobs” that have led to a few disappearances. And that’s where the rough edges really start to show in the game, for me. Sherlock is so unbelievably indiscrete in how he wanders back and forth from pillar to post and listens in to people, and this leads into a stealth section that could have been ripped straight out of an early open world game.
Making use of his network of contacts, you take control of the street urchin Wiggins to tail a man Holmes is interested in. It just feels like a half baked throwback, as you have to tuck into cover whenever the mark decides to stop in the middle of the street and awkwardly about face to see if someone’s following him. It’s a shame because there are some nice ideas in this section to try and split up the monotony of walking after some guy. You have to take a few divergent paths, follow him from the rooftops, do a little impromptu shoe shining – don’t get me to shine your shoes – so that you can sit and wait for him to come out of a building he’s ducked into, but when he’s swivelling on the spot every 15 seconds… I really hope that Frogwares can alter the flow of this sequence and others like it before the game’s release.
A lot of this will be familiar to those who have played Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishment, from the particulars of investigating a case to the ability to alter its outcome, and even the reality that this might feel lacking in some of its execution. However, with larger environments and a handful of interesting ideas, it’s clear that Frogwares are trying to find and take the next step for the series. With five cases to play through, each with their own story that eventually ties into an overarching narrative, there’s plenty of investigating to be done.