Game Review: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

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Release date: 2014
Version played: Xbox One in 2016

Developed by Frogwares and published by Focus Home Interactive, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a point-and-click/mystery game released in 2014. The game uses the Unreal Engine 3, which makes it look fantastic, as players control Sherlock Holmes (as well as in parts his colleague John Watson and a particularly adorable four-legged friend) to solve cases based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories in late 19th century London. The game’s major feature is the ‘deduction’ system, wherein players will need to use clues given and evidence found to reach conclusions in order to solve the crimes.

This was a free Games With Gold offer a few months ago, and I admit I actually forgot I downloaded it. After going to a few real-life escape rooms, I was in the mood for some mystery solving, and this scratched that particular itch quite nicely.

+ the game shows Sherlock Holmes’ savant like abilities nicely, with the ability to ‘scan’ suspects to draw a quick mental portrait by noticing things like their age (via wrinkles, or hair colour), whether they are married (the presence of a ring, or tan line), the state of their clothes (clean or dirty, cheap or fancy) or the condition of their hands (a gardener with clean hands? SUSPICIOUS!) which then tie into their testimonies. The game also has a LA Noire style ‘doubt’ feature, where you can question certain statements based on your evidence to the contrary
+ similarly to the above, the way of advancing cases by making deductions was very unique and immensely satisfying. If you have a gun, and a body with a bullet hole, you ‘link’ these together in your mind and they become the conclusion ‘victim was killed with this gun’. As more evidence is made clear, perhaps another gun, or a new injury on the body alters these conclusions
+ simply put, the game looks gorgeous. The lighting in particular deserves praise, even now that the game is upwards of two years old
+ the six cases are unique enough (even when five of the six are straight forward ‘someone was murdered’) that it never feels repetitive interviewing suspects
+ each case is broken up with some ‘mini game’ style events, either quick-time-events or more traditional mini-games, such as playing as Holmes’ bloodhound to sniff out a trail or by mixing various chemicals to find what was used at a particular crime scene. These are for the most part, again, unique enough to never get repetitive, and each can be simply skipped if you don’t feel like doing the more obvious ones

– the final conclusions for each case (which do have one ‘correct’ answer) are often not quite as clear as the story dialogue insists; in at least three of the six cases, I was certain I had the right answer but was incorrect – thankfully, you can still finish each case on any deduction, you just won’t get the flashy ‘green text’ which means you were correct
– upon making the final conclusion for each case, Sherlock can choose to either ‘condemn’ or ‘forgive’ each suspect. I’m not entirely sure what this system was for, except perhaps to alter the final cinematic of the game. I feel like this was originally scheduled for something more, but it just never came about.

> the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter has just been released. I was about to go and purchase it, but, holy crap, it’s $99.95 AUD. That is just absolutely ridiculous. Be thankful, anyone reading this, you are not paying in Australian dollars

Should you play this game: Yes. The unique ‘deductions’ mechanic makes for a marginally more intuitive detective process compared to something like LA Noire, despite the at-times circumstantial final conclusions. The lack of replay value may make this a ‘once and done’ situation, but the game does certainly deserve to be played through at least once.

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