Publisher: Focus Home Interactive / Ubisoft
The traditional point and click style adventure game is dead and buried as far as consoles are concerned, which makes Frogwares decision to bring this series to PS3 and Xbox 360 a brave one, but we’re certainly up for giving it a go.
Instead of the usual lever-pulling puzzles we’re used to, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes will require a bit more brainpower to proceed. Solving gruesome murder mysteries is the most enticing prospect and when you’re investigating a crime scene, the game really stands out. As with many of these games though, there tends to be a reliance on bizarre puzzles too. More on those later.
The story is compelling throughout as you slowly unravel the mysteries behind the ghastly murders and the way you gradually begin to suspect Holmes’ motives is cleverly woven into the plot. Less clever are the trailers that preceded the game’s release that blow a considerable amount of the revelations. If you haven’t seen any already, avoid them at all costs. We could have done without the story using children rummaging through an attic full of Holmes’ possessions as a framing device too. It’s a pointless setup and annoys every time the ugly cutscenes pull back to them.
The game environments are serviceable rather than detailed. They aren’t pre-rendered backgrounds as you can move the camera a full 360 degrees in any area. Character animations feel dated though, despite looking good in still screenshots. The voice acting never really manages to draw you in, but at least they’re not hammed up to the point of driving any actual English person to the point of murder.
The game plays in a similar fashion to PC point and click games, but with the exception of being able to control your character’s movement with regular ‘console-friendly’ analogues. There’s even a first-person mode, but clues are more visible in regular third-person. The PC version has the same controls along with an optional point and click setup.
When entering a room you’ll see blue magnifying glass or hand icons pop up when you move within five feet of them. Individually clicking these items allows you to inspect them. This might prompt a passive comment or if looking in a box for example, you might get to look at multiple items.
Magnifying glass icons turn green when you’ve fully investigated an item. This is particularly helpful when checking something with multiple parts to find, such as one of the numerous mutilated corpses. The game pulls no punches as you check out broken fingers, smashed bones, burnt skin, bite marks and even perform an autopsy complete with rib separators and organ slicing.
Puzzles often involve maths or re-arranging things. One plays like a game of Guess Who as you narrow down suspects by ticking off details about them. Looking through photos for clues on world cities and the time the picture was taken will help you open one of the game’s many locked boxes. A Roman numeral block game closely follows this puzzle and is about as fun and accessible as trying read a Russian phonebook.
Chemical analysis is an interesting distraction once you work out what the bloody hell you’re supposed to be doing. That’s a problem with many of the games logic and safe-cracking puzzles, there’s often little to no explanation. The hint system isn’t available during these puzzles or gives you useless information. The ‘Sixth Sense’ hints are a bit useless all round really as they only seem to highlight items you’ve already noticed. Talking to Watson doesn’t provide any useful information either.
While the Hint system and Watson may be useless, any puzzle can be skipped after five minutes. If you want to hoover up the game’s generous amount of Trophies though, we’d suggest sticking with it. Or using your phone to go on Google.
The Deduction Board is the game’s clever way of making sure you’ve been paying attention to the evidence collected and conversations. In order to come to a conclusion you must proceed through a series of multiple-choice questions that in turn provided branching answers. Some of the answers to choose from are a bit too similar, making for a bit of back and forth. The answers all turn green once you’ve answered all of them correctly. It feels very satisfying when you nail it and makes it feel worthwhile paying attention. There are very few of these to go through which is a little disappointing seeing as most of the game involves inspecting pointless items dotted around a room.
There are a few technical flaws that are initially forgivable, but towards the end, they become infuriating. Doors are the main one. After the required button press I often found I’d just be walking on the spot. The animations often lose focus too, as characters will turn and face 90 degrees from the door and then open it. Towards the end of the game in a maze puzzle where you open up passages I found that I couldn’t walk through a new opening until, I’d backed up a little first, despite being perfectly central to the opening. Watson becomes insufferably needy too and follows you obsessively closely, with the garden level in particular driving me nuts as he kept getting in the way while I was looking for a missing clue.
Walking is a cumbersome and stiff experience and the run button takes too long to kick in, making general exploration a testing experience. I often found myself longing for the days of static screen and a mouse cursor, which is the complete opposite of what Frogwares were aiming for. As a console game, it feels incredibly dated throughout and the controls and glitches won’t do the genre any favours for other developer thinking of expanding their platform choices.
- Some nice sleuthing moments
- Solid story
- Better than the dubious Guy Ritchie movies
- Awkward controls and glitches will test your patience
- Some of the puzzles are not explained at all
- So many tortuous locks, safes and drawers to puzzle through
The Short Version: Boasting a story that draws you in, and lasting about 13 hours, the desire to see the gme through to the end is relatively strong. But a number of technical issues make the game more of a chore than it needs to be. The Deduction Board scenes work really well, and there are moments when you do feel like you're something of super sleuth, making it a shame the game relies on demented puzzles so much.