Thumb cocked to the left. Partial joint pain in digit: First point of attack. Two: Index finger; paralyze movement, stop fragging. Three: heavy Redbull drinker, quick snap to caffeine dispenser. Four: Drag in in right thumb on face buttons, mash progress. Summary prognosis: My new mastery of Mortal Kombat might be attributed to too many hours playing the latest Sherlock Holmes game. Recovery: Dubious at best.
2009 saw Sherlock Holmes emerge from his game of shadows to chase down the original serial killer and repeat prostitute business slasher Jack the ripper. Frogwares has brought the master sleuth back for another case this time, one that questions not only the motives of Holmes, but his innocence as well.
For newcomers, there’s a simple way to define the Sherlock Holmes games; Old school. Sure, they may have the trappings of more modern technology and ideas present, but careful deduction will reveal that underneath that veneer, there beats the heart of a seasoned point ‘n click adventure game. Brain teasers, riddles and enigmas are all part of the package here, as players need to uncover and piece together clues and scenarios in order to get the story moving again.
That’s the name of this game, as Sherlock Holmes is more about flexing some grey matter than it is about throwing Victorian haymakers or shooting up a thug, as Iron Man would have you believe. There’s no life bars to manage, no bullets to be fired and quick-time events to mash through, as the only real hurdle in this game, is your own brain power.
Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper was an intriguing story in it’s own right, but Testament gets off to a strong start with a tale that quite honestly, was pretty damn good and had me intrigued and second-guessing all the way through to the finale, despite the slow burn that it began with.
Who is Sherlock Holmes? Is he truly as courageous and noble as the newspaper headlines would suggest he is? How does he always have a sixth sense for the manner in which crimes took place? These are just a few of the questions asked, as Holmes and Watson find themselves cloaked in a conspiracy to discredit and incriminate the master sleuth. But just how complicit is Holmes really?
This isn’t a game for the mentally challenged. Some of the puzzles here are downright deviously difficult, to a degree where they come off as random and obtuse, dumbfounding a person much like the people who watch how Sherlock actually puts all the clues together. There’s a certain sweet spot that games of this genre need to aim for, and Testament doesn’t always hit it, thanks in turn to some ugly graphics that hinder certain objectives or keep certain clues out of sight.
At several points, in an effort to actually solve a puzzle and not use the skip option, I was forced to consult online guides. As I said, this game can be devious at times. A sixth sense is on hand to highlight important clues with which to add to your inventory, while Holmes himself comes with several analytical tools to help solve conundrums, including his trademark oversized magnifying glass.
Cases can also be tackled in first and third person perspectives, although the controls for Holmes in the latter field of vision make him more of a bumbling oaf than Inspector Lestrade. Sherlock himself though, is a far more interesting character in this sequel, an amoral solver of crimes who wouldn’t hesitate to punch a baby if it meant getting to the bottom of a puzzling problem.
It’s an interesting take on the iconic sleuth, and one that isn’t always backed up by the sub-par visuals or uneven voice-acting on offer here. Nonetheless, it’s a mature story for analytical minds, and one that will no doubt appeal to jaded gamers looking for something more than just an annual exercise in shooting terrorists, backed up by an extremely satisfying ending.
There are no punches pulled here with this particular interpretation of the infamous detective, and while it may not be perfect, the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games will no doubt become future cult classics.