September 30, 2012
One of the great things about The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series is that it stays true to its roots. Sherlock is a gifted "consulting detective" and Watson remains completely in awe of him, but also a bit unsettled. It should be said that this Sherlock is not like the Sherlock of the films. His antics are questioned by Watson, but he's hardly ever silly and, sorry Benedict Cumberbatch fans, there's not a lot of bromance going on in this game. Really it's an awful lot like the classic Ronald Howard Sherlock Holmes. He's strong and sure of himself and put together.
The story is a bit like a glimpse into one of Sherlock's life. It actually starts off right during a curious case involving a missing necklace. The game's main case involves the murder of a bishop and how Sherlock and Watson pull together to solve the case. There's something really interesting about Sherlock Holmes adventures since no matter how much you want to just put the game down and forget about it, having an unsolved case just leaves you wanting more. The mystery and intrigue is definitely what keeps the game going.
With that being said, the gameplay could use a bit of an overhaul. First of all, the game is very linear. The game will not let you proceed if you haven't performed a complete and thorough investigation, which offers little room for mistakes. Along with that, the game can be a bit obtuse when it comes to directives. For example, Sherlock will be insisting that you have to find his book and then insist you leave it on his worktop - it might seem obvious, but simple tasks like this can be oddly difficult sometimes. Sherlock's also has a 6th sense ability, which acts as a bit of a guide if you're stuck, but unless you're already standing smack dab in front of the objective, it won't even show up.
As for the puzzles, it's probably best you already have a bit of a knack for puzzles as many of them are based on famous concepts. There are some math equations in there and a Knight's Tour puzzle amongst other things. Those unfamiliar with puzzles may find some difficulty with them although with that being said, you have the option to skip puzzles which both helps and hinders the game depending on how you wish to take it. If a puzzle is just too hard, it's a nice get out of jail free card, however, if you just end up skipping bunches of puzzles, then it throws some of the gameplay out of the window. Why include something which you can just skip if you can't be bothered to do it?
Aside from the puzzles, there is the deduction board, which acts as a sort of bulletin for all of the clues you have found in a crime scene. With every bit of information you gather, you will need to sort it out on the deduction board to come up with a correct analysis of the crime scene. Though it's a good idea in theory, in practice it's a bit glitchy. Although you might insist you have the correct information, if one bit of information is off, you will not be able to proceed and changing that one bit is a lot harder than you think, because you never quite know which bit is incorrect. Second guessing yourself over information is really easy as it probably is for most detectives, but when you've spent an hour trying every combination, it tends to be a bit tedious. The deduction board is a great feature, but it needed some better implementation.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes had been advertised as being one of Frogwares' "biggest and most beautiful games" and although it might be that case for the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series, the graphics just don't hold up to today's standards. With a game that's so focused on finding evidence, it can be really hard to tell what's evidence and what's not, especially on dead bodies. Luckily enough, the game provides you with tools to see whether or not you've found all of the clues in a crime scene., but these take away from the puzzle aspect of the title. When conducting an observation of a crime scene, it's much more interesting to have the crime scene in your hands. With the game telling you whether or not you've found all the clues, it takes away from the difficulty.
One thing that stood out was the attention to detail and the reference to the series' previous games. At one point you can find yourself revisiting the roads Jack the Ripper used to haunt. But there are quite a lot of small glitches and inaccuracies to make the presentation fall flat. For example, the subtitles don't match up with the actor's script at some points. When playing through the dog sections, it's also possible to get trapped by Sherlock - something which results in you having to re-load your previous save.
Although the story definitely hits a high note, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes suffers due to its gameplay and presentation. With that being said though, the game has made huge advancements since it's previous titles. For those who are fans of puzzle games, this might intrigue you quite a bit. As long as you can overlook the dated graphics and stodgy gameplay, you should find some entertainment.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes was reviewed on the PS3. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.