From television to big-budget feature films, Sherlock Holmes has been kept alive through various mediums since his origin in an annual Christmas magazine in 1887. With the advent of video games, we can play through these cases as Holmes himself, along with his trusty sidekick and record keeper, Dr. John Watson.
It has been two years since Frogwares released The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, a surprisingly well made game, that was met with positive reviews. It had a great story, it was well-paced, and the graphics were pretty darn good for a point-and-click adventure game. Not much, it seems, has changed in London two years since Testament‘s release. London’s streets are still full of filthy beggars, dimly-lit alleys, passed out drunkards, and young pick-pocketing street urchins. But with the update in consoles, comes better hardware and processing power. It really shows this time around with Crimes and Punishments, taking advantage of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3. From highly detailed facial features, lush green gardens full of flowers, grass and other foliage to the lantern-lit Romanesque saunas, Crimes and Punishments really is a gorgeous game.
What has changed though, is the story and gameplay of the Sherlock series. Straying away from their usual one 12-hour case, Crimes actually has six cases, ranging from murdered archaeologists to stolen rare plants at The Royal Botanic Gardens. While not all six cases are equally engaging, they all seem to hint at an overarching story. According to your personal choices on each case and how well your powers of deduction are, this time modeled as Holmes’ synapses in his brain, and linking clues together, you as the player have the ability to end the case and game the way you wish it to. Each case has between 3-5 false leads, which if you’ve got a working brain, you’re able to see from almost the very beginning of each and every case. As Holmes, we now have the option to Absolve or Condemn each suspect and finish each case how we choose. With each case only having one “correct” choice, that means the other 2-4 false leads are just there for padding to a game that is already pretty long at the 15 hours it took me to complete it.
Another part that any Holmesian would hate to learn is that Crimes has added a morality system this time around. Sherlock has no morals, he isn’t interested in the emotional reasoning why a person murdered another person. A case is just something to occupy his easily bored mind. He is the textbook definition of a narcissist and sociopath. I felt no need to go back and see every case’s multiple endings, which you are able to do after you finish each case. There’s a 70-point achievement and Gold trophy tied to it, which means Frogwares really wants you to, but it just felt unnecessary as I was role-playing as Holmes, meaning he wouldn’t care either.
Speaking of achievements, after one playthrough, I ended up with 800 of 1,000. Not a tough list by any means, but just time consuming, and if you really want to go for the 100% or Platinum, you’re looking at adding an additional 3-4 hours of tediously playing through the same dialogue choices and choosing which synapses you wish to branch together for your desired ending. In Testament, you felt compelled to continue hunting in each and every corner of every map for more clues to help Holmes and Watson finish their big case; Crimes and Punishments (which Holmes is shown reading two different versions of each and every time you hit a loading screen), just makes you want to take a break after each case before continuing on to the next predictable case.
That all being said, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is not bad by any means, I actually had a lot of fun with most of it. It just became a task to actually finish it because you’ve seen the ending coming the whole time. And by an ending, I mean there’s a loosely connected string of events that Frogwares considers a plot. It was fine. Just like the game.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is available now for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. Go out and rent it today.
I give Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments 3.5 Stars out of 5
By Austin Fedo