There are some games you see and without doing much investigating (!) can easily be thought of as either low-budget licensed cash-ins or pretty average games that aren’t really worth investing in, while I don’t think I ever really felt that way about the Sherlock Holmes series by Frogwares but I wasn’t particularly interested in it, or wasn’t until now. Truth be told I didn’t watch a single trailer before I bought Crimes and Punishments (played on Xbox One, as usual), it was £18 before Christmas and decided to just take a “risk” on it at that price and its one of the best decisions I have made in a long time, such is the extent to which I found it to be a pleasant surprise.
It’s a really well made game that I found very enjoyable, it looks nice, has a bit of variety in what you do in the cases even though all of them have a murder in them and I enjoyed going to different locations around London and other areas. I was also surprised at how good it looks it’s not a big thing for a game like this really but I did find myself impressed with the graphics although as it uses Unreal Engine 3 I probably shouldn’t be that surprised, I think with the power of the new consoles we’re getting to a stage where games which don’t have that AAA budget can still look great, the detail was certainly nice and I appreciated it.
There are 6 cases to solve which are made up of viewing crime scenes, talking to witnesses, gathering evidence and performing experiments with the odd QTE thrown-in usually at the end of the cases, you could argue its just a series of mini-games but I thought it was a lot more than that with the way they executed everything and I didn’t feel like I was just doing mini-games. The most challenging aspect I found was the experiments and even then they weren’t especially hard although one took me a while to work out mainly because I was over thinking it, I was expecting it to be more complex than it was which is why I took so long although it was very satisfying when I worked out the experiment in question. It’s relatively easy to gather all the evidence, conduct the interviews and I thought once I had got used to how it played that I was good at working out how to get the correct outcomes in the cases.
When you’ve found some evidence it goes into your log book and there’s little icons on things if you need to do something and it does make sure you don’t get stuck which in a game like this could be quite frustrating if it happened but luckily I generally managed to avoid it. As you find important clues to help you link things together and come to your conclusion it gives you a little icon to go and check the deduction board, from here you can look at the clues, add together the relevant ones and as you progress through the case you get a clearer view of what your conclusions are. If you collect all the evidence, pay attention, check all the clues and look at what is in front of you I don’t think it’s too hard to work out what happened, I got 5/6 cases correct, the first one I just got plain wrong mainly as I guessed and didn’t really do the paying attention I mentioned before and I learnt from that, when going into a game for the first time I sometime feel I’m going in blind at the beginning but I quickly got the hang of it. In the second case I got the right outcome but in the wrong way although it has a nice feature where you can check if you got the case correct before moving to the next one and I appreciated this as I wanted to see what some of the other endings were.
For people who like more difficult games, it probably is a bit too easy in that it doesn’t really let you fail, when interrogating suspects and witnesses if they say something is a contracting something else you know and you get the contracting point wrong it’ll tell you its wrong and let you try again, if you fail the QTEs you can re-do them as well although really I didn’t find this to be particularly a problem, others might not like it so much. What I liked was just the slow pace of the game and how it approaches the cases which really appealed to me, you begin the case and go on your way with opening statements, looking at the crime scene, try to figure out what has happened etc and you go on from there mainly because I felt it was very intelligently done and I enjoyed seeing it all come together in a way that was satisfying.
When you come up with your conclusion on the case and who is the guilty party you have the choice of condemning or absolving the guilty party of their crime and decides their punishment, considering all the evidence and the situations in each case perhaps Sherlock would show sympathy on some people, I however chose to condemn everyone pretty much but you also get a character rating based on your decisions over all 6 cases which I quite liked and it’s just another nice touch to it.
The cases as mentioned do kind of evolve perhaps a bit too much around a death, even when that isn’t considered to be the key part of a case it always swings round to being about a murder and I did think this was a bit of a disappointment as it doesn’t really open up lot to changing the game too much with perhaps finding a missing person or anything like that, there’s multiple ways they could go about it and that’s just one example. There isn’t much character development although I’m not really sure the game needs it too much, perhaps they could have built up the supporting characters a bit more and Sherlock’s relationship with his brother Mycroft but as someone who hasn’t exposed themselves to too much in the Sherlock Holmes universe (in any medium really, I haven’t read the books, I didn’t really enjoy the first Robert Downey Jr film and I havent played any of the other games before) perhaps the other games do that a bit more it is the 7th mainline game in the series by Frogwares and the 10th including spin-offs.
The biggest complaint I perhaps might have is that the cases are a little too self-contained to a few areas, there isn’t anything particularly expansive going on but even then I feel like im being overly harsh. If it was some sort of open-world game would that improve it much? Or padding it out with other locations and people when I enjoyed the game as much as I did in its current style, there’s always room for improvement and perhaps there are things they could do to expand it a bit but I don’t think the developer needs to do it in a significant way.
Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishments is a tight, intelligent game that really surprised me and im pleased I got to play it. I’m certainly a fan of the series now and I’ve since discovered I own The Testament of Sherlock Holmes on Steam and whilst I’ve been told it’s a bit different to Crimes and Punishments when I get the chance I’ll certainly give it a try, I’m certainly looking forward to any future instalments too. It’s probably a surprise contender for my game of the year list too.