Although he receives neither the press nor the fanfare of many other titles that are released nowadays, Sherlock Holmes has become a rather persistent and consistent presence in the world of video games, particularly in the adventure genre. While Telltale Games has (rightfully so) become the best known developers for this almost forgotten style, the world’s greatest detective has also been quietly carrying the torch over the past few years with several titles that have all been generally well received if not well publicized. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the latest title from developer Frogwares and the first foray into current-gen consoles, which sees Holmes takes the transition in stride and come out largely on top.
The first thing that most players will likely notice upon booting the game up (at least those playing on current gen consoles or PC) is the huge leap forward in graphics. While not a graphically intensive experience on the level of Destiny or Shadow of Mordor, Crimes and Punishments is a beautiful looking game. Facial textures are exquisite with each character, major or minor, sporting a highly detailed character model with clothing textures and skin imperfections showcasing some truly beautiful work by the developers. Environments are equally impressive. Again, there’s nothing amazing, with each case taking place in recognizable environments such as the streets of London or the English countryside but they are still crafted with care and detail.
The voice acting is also a huge plus. Every character is spot on and unlike many games there is consistency in the level of professionalism from the smallest bit player to Sherlock himself. Everyone involved absolutely nails their performance and it helps to keep the player immersed in the world.
Gameplay is nothing extravagantly new, but if you’ve played a Sherlock Holmes game recently then you will know what to expect, but this time there is a few wrinkles added in to keep the game feeling fresh. The game is comprised of six separate cases to solve and each one consists of tasking the player with guiding Sherlock through various environments to investigate scenes, find clues, engage in conversation, and even use you super sleuthing powers to scan over every suspect and pick up on all the nuances of their character to size them up. What is refreshing is that you do not have to find every clue. The game will let you miss most of them (except the ones required for the story) and if you do happen to miss out on a particular clue or conversation it can change your entire approach to the case. It could even negate certain individuals from becoming suspects when they otherwise would be. It’s a great incentive to scour every corner and talk to every available character.
There’s also a nice variety of gameplay that keep the searching from becoming boring. Sherlock must occasionally search his archives for info on suspects and the player is free to flip through page after page if they so wish. The chemistry set is also at your disposal if you want to manipulate some of the evidence in an effort to extract all the clues you can. Options like these are abundant and the great thing is that many of them are optional and you are given the freedom to approach every case just as you wish. Freedom like this goes a long way to really put the player in the shoes of the world’s greatest detective and more than any game before, makes you feel like you are actually solving the cases yourself.
While there is plenty to like here, there are a few missteps that keep the title back from being a flawless experience. As an adventure title there is not a large amount of anything that one would consider platforming, but in the many times that I controlled Sherlock from the 3rd person perspective, I found myself very often getting caught on things in the environment that that I couldn’t see. You also have to be standing directly in front of whatever item you are wanting to investigate and this is sometimes a problem too. When you are positioned correctly an icon will pop up that you click on to begin investigating. Unfortunately the hit box for many of these items is extremely small and trying to position Sherlock into the perfect position to bring up the icon is spotty at best and frustrating at worst.
There is also a bit of a problem in terms of fluidity concerning the story. In past Sherlock Holmes titles, such as the Jack the Ripper title for last-gen consoles, there has been one long, cohesive narrative stringing the investigations together. That is not so much the case here. Each investigation is wholly insulated from the others with very little, if any, connection from one to the next. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it gives off the sense of disconnectedness as opposed to cohesiveness which would have been nice.
Those gripes aside, Crimes and Punishments is a great time for fans of the famous detective or adventure genre fans in general. Frogwares has put together another interesting and surprisingly deep string of mysteries and nobody should be afraid of jumping in and trying on that ridiculous hat for themselves.
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