Formats: PS3 | 360 | PC
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Frogwares have been providing Sherlock Holmes titles for years now on the PC with only Sherlock Holmes Vs. Jack the Ripper making its way to a console. But keyboard-loathing point and click adventure fans will be pleased to hear that the latest case to crack will be tri-platform, coming to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC. The developers and publishers are keen to expand the Sherlock Holmes brand and bringing their games out on all three platforms, specifically the consoles, is key to that goal.
Influenced by the movies from the 60s rather than the ridiculous Guy Ritchie eyesores, the experience will be a traditional one, instead of something that’ll have Arthur Conan Doyle spinning in his grave. For the first time in the series, we’ll be seeing a very dark side of Sherlock Holmes. The trailer even goes as far as to make him look like a murderer so we’re intrigued to see how events will play out. During the course of the game, we’ll be playing as both Holmes and Watson. Our money’s on Holmes being a bit murdery on the side. Look at his evil face! He totally did it.
The control format will be the familiar point and click style on the PC, but the console experience has been specifically designed to allow full analogue movement control in both regular and first-person viewpoints. This will remove that stiff feeling that these games often provide on consoles. The camera will also be controllable, showing off the fully 3D environments.
When looking at a room, small magnifying glass icons will be dotted around highlighting areas of possible interest. They will turn blue to indicate an item you’re yet to investigate and green to show something you’ve already looked at. This should be useful to avoid wasting your time when scouring the screen for a previously missed clue.
Some clues can be examined in great detail. For example, you may need to determine what makes a suspect-looking pearl necklace a forgery. You do this by pointing out that some of the pearls are mis-sized or spot that some of them are marginally different colours.
If that’s not quite what you had in mind for a day’s detective work, then hold onto your lunch, as you’ll be investigating some seriously grisly crime scenes too. One corpse we were shown had been through absolute hell. Players will be tasked with identifying numerous wounds like a lacerated chest, crushed hands, fingers cut off and burnt skin. So yes, it’s a bit gorier than the Broken Sword games. My dear Watson, you appear to have vom on your shoes old chap.
Evidence will be stored in your pockets for reference throughout. It’s a good thing you’re on the law’s side, otherwise walking around with matches, a shaving knife and severed finger might be deemed suspicious.
Mass Effect-style conversation wheels will pop up when interviewing people as you make your way through dialogue trees. What you say will have an impact on what you can get out of people. You won’t be able to re-ask questions or change any of your responses, so it’s important to pay attention and watch your tongue to avoid making things more difficult for you. All dialogue during the game is recorded in your journal, which will be handy to recap past conversations.
New to the series is Sixth Sense, essentially a hint icon to point you towards a helpful clue. This will recharge after five seconds, so it may become all too tempting to over-use this. If you’re really keen to not play the game though (why?) you’ll be allowed to skip entire puzzles after five minutes, as the developers are keen for even the most casual of gamers to be able to reach the end.
At various intervals during the story, you will need to come to conclusions after amassing enough evidence. This will be done via multiple-choice questions as your report is filled out. If you get it wrong, the conclusion will be obviously ridiculous and you’ll be allowed to retry the quiz until you get it right and can move on.
You’ll also get the chance to control Holmes’ dog, Toby. These canine sections will allow you to sniff out clues, by following scents on-screen in a manner not dissimilar to sections in Rocksteady’s Detective Mode in the Batman games.
Frogwares seem to have made a great effort at reworking their game to suit console play and this could pave the way for more traditional adventure titles on consoles. The surprisingly violent nature of some of the crime scenes escalates this above the normally family-friendly genre. Hopefully the story can match it too.