It’s a bit of an oddity that Sherlock Holmes games continue to be made. Especially as their target audience has to be substantially small. Even if a casual player took a glance at what this latest Sherlock game is about they’re likely to be put off by the puzzle heavy gameplay.
It’s a pity though as Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is easily the best Sherlock game I’ve played.
A British institution created by author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes first appeared in print way back in 1887. To date he has thousands of appearances in all kinds of media. The Guinness World Records lists him as the ‘most portrayed movie character in history. Simply put, the obnoxious detective is so ingrained in pop culture that many people believe that he was an actual real person.
Crimes & Punishments takes place in London between 1894 & 1895. The game was also inspired by the Russian novel Crime and Punishment by author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. A book that Sherlock can be seen reading in his carriage during travel between locations.
Focusing on the ‘crime and punishment’ side of things, there are six cases that are extremely true to the Arthur Conan Doyle style of writing. Playing as Sherlock (and occasionally his dog Toby & Watson) it’s up to the player to examine crime scenes, solve puzzles & find the culprit. Often cases will have more than one potential culprit requiring players to piece all the evidence together where then a moral choice has to be made regarding their fate.
It’s an interesting idea resulting in you really feeling like the decisions you make matter. You’ll scour every inch of a crime scene to make sure you don’t accidentally point the finger at the wrong person.
Clues you find are added to ‘deduction board’ where you can then link them up giving you more threads to follow. Thus, getting closer to finding the villain of the case. Once you connect all your deductions together you will have to interpret the clues in your own way to reach a conclusion. It is very possible to completely accuse the wrong person!
Each case has a large number of possible conclusions that result in a wide array of endings. The moral choices you make regarding the fate of the culprit also effects further gameplay. To say Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a detailed game is an understatement. The amount of time & care put into this mechanic is wonderful to see.
A gorgeous looking game, the level of detail is impressive. Little touches like being able to look through your casebook while moving between areas is great. The game also offers two camera styles, a third-person & first-person perspective. The controls are easy to get to grips with & the inclusion of ‘Sherlock vision’ which highlights evidence that could be easily missed is smart.
The six cases vary in length but to fully complete the game you’re looking at 12-15 hours of gameplay depending on skill.
Sounds great, right? Well…its problems lie elsewhere.
The first is Sherlock himself. Now it can be appreciated that this is a faithful rendition of the detective but goodness is he obnoxious. The way he talks, the way he acts, the condescending way he speaks to Watson, his arrogance…you’ll want to punch him in the face. Or at least get Watson to punch him in the face!
The next problem comes from the cases. Of the 6, only 3 of them are actually interesting & any fun to really play. The Blood Bath case in particular, one of the longest is incredibly boring & has some of the toughest puzzles.
Which is the next major problem…the puzzles! There are many, many puzzles & range from very easy to ‘what the hell am I supposed to do!?’. When Sherlock throws out a toughie it will take some serious patience to work out the solution. Some require trial & error while others expect you to have paid attention to every detail of an area as well as reading every inch of every letter & newspaper you pick up. A few to many puzzles are frustratingly difficult.
While you can skip them if you’re that stuck, it kind of defies the point of the game!
If you can get past these negatives what you will find is a deep & rich trek through Sherlock Holmes fiction. Interesting characters all well voiced & incredibly detailed, varied locations & a detailed crime and punishment system that really puts you in control.
Easily the most innovative Sherlock Holmes game ever.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments