• Stunning Unreal Engine 3 Surroundings
• Each Case is Replayable with Different Endings
• Impressive Sound Design
• Varied Puzzles
• Six different unrelated Cases
• Compelling cases
• Odd Mini Games
• Unimpressive Voice Acting
• Too Easy for Seasoned Gamers
• Slow loading screens
“My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people do not know.” This sentence very much gives an idea what Sherlock Holmes is as a detective. Holmes has witnessed countless adaptions after being introduced in ‘A Study in Scarlet’, a novel written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1886. Since then, the infamous private detective from Baker Street has been seen in tons of motion pictures and television series since decades; but video games? That’s where we often don’t find Mr. Holmes.
Despite its penchant for source material, the popular adventure video game development studio Frogwares has once again brought back Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's renowned detective in action. The latest investigation game in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series is best called as Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. This point & click extravaganza is the seventh attempt from Frogwares to offer a game about the Man with all the Answers; and to quite an extent I think the Ukrainian developer has managed to turn things around in the most successful manner with its latest release. The game doesn’t reflects the powers (which actually Holmes don’t have) of the greatest detective, but does shows how his intelligence abilities are put into a good use to solve the crimes and it all depends on how you take the game forward. The game is available for download through Steam and can be availed for Rs. 2799 (PS3) and Rs. 3499 (PS4) along with Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Man with all the Answers
Unlike previous Sherlock titles that were presented with a single narrative story, the game Crimes and Punishments has been split into six different cases of varying lengths and complexities that themselves create an utterly disparate tales of murders, thefts and disappearances. The game takes place in the suburbs of London in 19th century. Holmes along with Dr. Watson investigates the crimes to find out the culprit and make moral choice of condemning or absolving him/her, which totally depends on how the players want to take the game forward; which is one thing I really liked in Crimes and Punishments.
All the cases involve mysteries that to quite an extent bring Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing style to life. Holmes has been depicted with a high level of intelligence related to interrogations, crime scenes, research, chemistry and deductive reasoning (elements that affect the cases). Most of the aforementioned skills of Sherlock Holmes are tapped to frame dynamic in-game sequences that perfectly gel with the related case & investigations in order to yield fact-finding results that only the Great Detective can come up with. As mentioned earlier, Holmes gets to solve six different crimes with interesting outcomes. All the crime scenes have compelling setups that offers a treat for Anglophiles to soak up.
Crimes and Punishments very much features point-and-clink gameplay but this time players will be able to walk around and explore in diverse environments along with Dr. Watson. Players will be playing with Sherlock at most of the time, while Dr. Watson (whose role has been limited to just accompanying Sherlock or being astonished on Sherlock’s answers) and his sniffing Dog Toby has been barely used. I was bit disappointed about how the Watson’s character has been used in the game. In the entire game, Watson can be seen aiding Holmes, whose only job is to question Holmes on everything the Great Detective do. But rejoice, the first opening scene of the game lets you play as Watson, who has to dodge the bullet shots fired by blindfolded Sherlock. Moreover, Watson’s shooting skills are put into test, where players can control Watson in a first person mode in the final scene in second chapter/case. Also, Watson can be heard narrating during autopsy and medical investigations. And yes, Toby the Brave Dog can be put into a good use by following scents in certain cases, if required.
Further, Sherlock has been presented as the Man with all the Answers, who has extreme intelligence, creative imagination, ability to focus and concentrate on cases without exterior distractions, predict human behavior, observe and make connections using a gameplay mechanic known as deduction board with seemingly unrelated data. Also, Sherlock has always been known to have disregard for government authority and has inability to conform to social norms. Most of the time in the game, you will find Sherlock playing with words that goes beyond the understanding level of a common man.
Graphics and Sound
Crimes & Punishments does look beautiful onscreen and without doubt deserves to get a next gen tag. Each and every character that you witness look detailed, but sometimes I felt the animation looked bit awkward and expressionless. The facial animation, to quite an extent looks similar to what we have seen in LA Noire. Frogwares has presented each locations and area beautifully designed giving players a look into the vibrant Victorian world; but has missed out the London’s hallmark sights. Thanks to the use of Unreal Engine 3, details in the game look stunning and characters have been visually well presented, though there are noticeable minor errors that are not of much issue.
If you have watched the TV series, Sherlock; I am sure you must have loved Benedict Cumberbatch as the famous sleuth, who has very well portrayed the role of Greatest Detective in the world. Compared to what I have seen and heard Sherlock in TV series, Frogware’s Holmes didn’t impressed much when it came to dialogue delivery. Sherlock’s voice felt bit annoying and gets quite affected from self-assured smugness. Still, the voice work is decent enough for a revamped detective game. Further, the lip syncing lacks a bit and is always running behind, which sounds quite odd in the gameplay.
Other thing that felt awkward was that every policeman you talk to will respond in an unrelenting monotone manner, uttering the name Mr. Holmes. Moreover, the cut scene conversation between Holmes and other characters does mitigate the stilted writing. Further, what really impress are the ambient sound designs. You can hear the constant murmuring in the Scotland Yard, which felt quite audible and realistic. Sound effects have been intelligently used within the game, while the background music felt sparingly used. Overall, when it comes to rating, 'Crimes and Punishments' doesn’t top the chart but its in-game auditory atmosphere does it fit for the game.
Investigating the Crime Scenes
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is all looking for clues and linking them to get a morally and justified answer. Holmes has to put the cases through two phases: investigation and deduction. You as a Sherlock will be involved in point-and-click adventure with a little walking around the area. You’ll search for clues, question people involved, inspect and judge them, research, re-enactments of crime, conduct science experiments and don disguises. Moreover, you will be made to arm-wrestling sequence and some other mini games, which are of course skippable.
On the other hand, Deduction phase puts the players through some real brain exercise. In deduction phase, you start thinking like Holmes. You can access pieces of evidence that are literally called as synapses. These synapses and clues are used for making connection. Remember, speeding through investigation and leaving behind certain clues will make it hard to corroborate the theories and make synapses a more complex one. Each clue and evidence will lead to different conclusions with multiple solutions. It is your wit (Sherlock) that will be tested in deduction phase to get hold off the real culprit.
Once Holmes knows whom to convict, he will be given a moral choice that also marks his reputation as a detective. In some cases, Sherlock can show sympathy to the suspect depending on what actually made him/her to take law in hand; or in some circumstances Holmes can condemn the suspect for a trial. This feature comes as a blessing in the game where you can yourself decide how to end the case. But remember, if you are condemning the suspect; he/she can be outraged and violent making you indulge in fist fights or shootouts.
There isn’t much in the game that might make me visit Baker Street again, but there’s something about Holmes that will surely make me replay the game for a future play-through at the end, just to know what conclusions are made depending on my moral choices. I spent a fair amount of time solving the crimes and even made some bad choices. I jailed an innocent and let the criminal roam free. Crimes & Punishments does surprise the players with its unexpected challenges and especially the choices you make in the game. It isn’t about rights and wrongs; the game is all about interpretation and judgment that Holmes can come up with. Yes, the game has its shortcomings like its bit slow and suffers from loading screens that are actually frustrating and helps in breaking whatever interest you gained in the gameplay; but for a classic genre molded for next gen consoles, Crimes & Punishments is a pleasant surprise for gamers who love to adorn the role of the world’s greatest detective.