The Awakened Remastered*
*Editor’s Note – the original GameBoomers’ review of Sherlock Holmes:
The Awakened, which can be found
here, has been modified and supplemented below by additional comments
about the remastered version. All additions are indicated in red.
Sherlock Holmes meets
Cthulhu? It’s not the first time that the famous detective has
investigated a supernatural legend. Nor is it the first time that he’s
confronted a force so formidable that no one should face it alone. In
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, the intrepid detective encounters the
power of pure evil. Will he survive the experience?
opens with Dr. Watson in the throes of a nightmare. As Watson awakens, the
gamer is swept into an extended flashback -- Victorian London with well
tended streets, luxurious interiors, and 221b Baker Street. Here Sherlock
Holmes laments the impoverishment of the criminal mind, which eliminates
Scotland Yard’s need for his help. Yet Holmes will soon face a crime
certain to challenge his talents, and perhaps even his sanity.
This game succeeds in
several ways. It places the gamer in authentic, believable, late
nineteenth century environments -- three locations in Europe and one in
North America. It stretches the abilities of Sherlock Holmes to reveal a
less frequently explored aspect of his character. It tells a shocking tale
of murder, fiendish cruelty and horror that will keep you at the computer,
transfixed, heart in mouth.
Remastered encompasses a large 3D gameworld. You can choose to play
the original first person perspective or from the newly added third person
perspective. Third person perspective is a welcome addition, particularly
if you are the type of gamer who tends to experience “motion sickness”
when moving through 3D first person environments. Watching Holmes and
Watson move through the game’s environments eliminates a lot of the
panning, and gives the eye something to focus on during movement. You can
switch between first and third person perspectives anytime you wish by
hitting the Escape key – the only exceptions are during animation
sequences and cut scenes.
Third person perspective, however, does
somewhat limit your ability to explore. You don’t see as much intimate
detail and your movement isn’t as free as in first person perspective. In
fact, movement in third person perspective is occasionally frustrating
because the footsteps icon that serves as a guide doesn’t always appear,
so you have to click around a bit to find the next set of footsteps. Also
the camera angle shifts sometimes so that you may not recognize where you
are after clicking on the footsteps. When this happens, continue clicking
in the direction Holmes or Watson is facing, not the direction that seems
logical when moving along from the previous screen.
Since the game offers the flexibility of
both perspectives, you can explore in first person and switch to third
person for actual puzzle solving, or vice versa. Playing in third person
perspective may make the game a bit easier, as the footsteps icon usually
shows you the important places to visit.
The only place where it was clearly easier
to navigate in first person perspective was the New Orleans swamp, where
Watson rows a small boat. I recommend playing the swamp section in first
person perspective because it is easier to see where you are going, and
Holmes remains ahead of you in the boat the whole time, reducing the
panning effect even though the perspective is first person.
Sinister Here, and so Cold.”
To start, you assume
the role of Holmes. But occasionally you also play as Watson. Many cut
scenes show Holmes and Watson during encounters with other characters,
allowing you to observe Holmes as he investigates and as he reasons out
Locations in the game
literally drip with atmosphere; for instance, the waterfront area by The
Cursed Mermaid pub. Boats glide soundlessly through the mist. The rusted
hulk of a ship, a crane, and stained fishing nets loom in the fog. A
veritable village of warehouses stands silently; one hides a loathsome
Travel to New Orleans
breaks the tension temporarily. In an unusual romp through the American
“melting pot,” you find yourself sprinting through the dwellings of
disparate cultures -- up and down rooftops, ladders, lifts, through
various windows and doors. I laughed myself silly through this part, then
returned and played the sequence slowly to take in all the detail. There
is also one heartbreaking location in the French District. It’s a sunlit
garden full of butterflies and vibrantly patterned blossoms. This small
slice of Eden contrasts sharply with the trail of blood that is about to
Water effects and
reflections in the glass windows of the shops and homes are remarkably
realistic. A graphical bonus – the load screen shows a sepia-toned sketch
whose color and detail gradually increase as the progress bar moves
forward. The only graphical quibbles – some of the vegetation,
particularly in the swamp, looks distorted and collaged. Also, certain
graphical elements are recycled and occasionally texture seams are
resolution in third person perspective seems sharper, and the gamer views
the surroundings from a more distant, elevated, wider vantage point. This
gave me a sense of the horizon being further away, and I could see more at
a single glance than in first person perspective. Watching a figure move
through the landscapes enhances this effect.
transitions from Holmes to Watson and back again are smoother and more
obvious in the remastered version.
Watson doesn’t suddenly appear behind you wherever you go, as he did in
the original version of The Awakened – instead he walks or runs
behind Holmes in a more realistic fashion. Character movement is fluid and
natural. Double-clicking causes Holmes to run. It’s a trifle strange to
see a buttoned-up figure like Holmes sprinting across the screen, but I
preferred that to the delay of allowing him to walk in dignified fashion
throughout the game.
Sleeping within the Sea?”
I could recommend
this game solely on the basis of its immersive environments, which are
alternately terrifying and exhilarating to explore. But there’s even more
going on. The Awakened also contains a classic detective story with
surprising twists and turns. There’s evidence to analyze and plenty of
character interaction to further the story. Plus some new elements – the
H. P. Lovecraft Cthulhu mythos and an unexpected cameo by another mystery
The plot is rich in
detail and intrigue. The game remorselessly builds a picture of the sect
that Holmes is investigating, and then unites all the elements in the
final sequence with Holmes, Watson, and an inexplicably localized, violent
storm at sea. I played The Awakened twice. The first time through I
was surprised by the revelation at the end. On the second playthrough, I
picked up on a lot more of the clues. They are there, but camouflaged by
an abundance of other information. It takes a sharp eye to select the
important clues from the artful window dressing.
You should be
forewarned that some events in this game are grisly and disturbing. One
such plot element needs more explanation. How do some of the game’s
characters become enmeshed in such a crazed, ecstatic form of nihilism?
Tantalizing hints suggest the influence of certain artifacts. For example,
while studying a book about Cthulhu religious practices during the voyage
back to England, Holmes’ behavior becomes strikingly odd. Is he battling a
deadly threat to his own sanity? Further clarification would have been
“Dey Just Don’t
Take to the Smell of Gentle Folks, Specially Foreign Ones.”
is another of the game’s strengths. Sherlock Holmes demonstrates the
brilliant deductions we’ve come to expect of him. His flaws are also
evident – in particular his impatience with human foibles. (My favorite
Holmes “moment” is his reaction to the weeping servant girl.)
Holmes’ language is
exacting and formal – perhaps a bit too much so – though overall, it does
suit his character. He is also willing to take risks when the stakes are
high. I had not thought of Holmes as physically courageous, but I enjoyed
discovering that side of him.
Other game characters
range from the grieving mother to the cynical river boat madame to the
love-stricken scholar. I particularly enjoyed the New Orleans locals, who
use colorful slang and view the impeccably tailored detective and doctor
as bizarre intruders from a disreputable part of the globe. Voiceovers are
professionally executed, including the voices of Holmes and Watson. The
only exception – the voice of the newsboy, who looks like an innocent
child and sounds like a cockney adolescent.
The faces of the
characters in The Awakened are quite detailed. Camera angles show
them in close-up, where you can see wrinkled foreheads, blotches and
irregularities in the skin, circles under the eyes, even stubble on some
of the men’s chins. Lip synch is pretty good. One drawback – some of the
minor character “extras” have two or three clones of themselves. At one
point, I saw four iterations of the same sailor, one sweeping the deck,
one smoking a pipe, one dallying with a young lady, and one throwing up
over the boat’s railing. While it is technically possible that quadruplets
shipped together on the same voyage, the odds are clearly against it.
“It will be Up to
Your Agile Wit to Set Things Right….”
Gameplay in the
original Awakened was something of a mixed bag. On the plus side –
a large variety of puzzles and a nice range of difficulty, including many
challenges in the “tough” category. Some splendidly logical puzzles also
fit well with the story – the bucket sequence inside the warehouse, for
The developers at
Frogwares are experts when it comes to designing inventory for use in
unexpected ways. You also experiment with Holmes’ chemistry lab at 221b
Baker Street. I don’t know whether the procedures and tools in Holmes’
chemistry lab are realistic or historically accurate, but it’s definitely
amusing to use them.
of the original gameplay problems have been addressed in the remastered
version. A few of the more difficult challenges have been simplified. In
addition, the remastered version now contains a hint system that provides
graduated hints so that the most precise help is reserved for the very
last hint. Even the last hint is often not an out-and-out spoiler. The
hint system is much appreciated; I hope that we see it in future Frogwares
Though helpful throughout, the hint system is particularly handy during
the Question and Answer (Q&A) challenges. The Q&A challenges in the
original Awakened could bring the game to a screeching halt. The
hint system eliminates this problem.
Another design issue that has been partially addressed is the reliance on
“triggers.” For instance, an object may not become “hot” until you’ve
examined other evidence or performed certain actions. Some – though not
all -- of these “triggers” have been eliminated in the remastered version,
so that you can pick things up when you first see them.
the third person perspective, hotspots are easier to identify than in
first person perspective. You can move the mouse to search for them and
don’t have to be right on top of them before the “hand” icon becomes
visible. As a further aid, pressing the spacebar reveals all hotspots.
This feature is available in both first person and third person
perspectives. Revealing hotspots and using hints allows the gamer to
customize the difficulty level to a significant degree. Even with the
simplifications, hints, and the use of the spacebar, The Awakened
Remastered is a very challenging game.
Beyond Mrs. Hudson
The gamer uncovers
lots of evidence and other information in the course of playing The
Awakened. Once you’ve picked something up you can work with it by
right clicking with the mouse, which brings up a combination of inventory
storage, a book of documents, dialogs and reports, and a map. Below this
is a task bar with icons on which you click to switch between categories.
(You can also scroll through the inventory using the mouse wheel; working
with the inventory involves a simple point-and-click.) Extensive texts can
be scrolled through using a bookmark tab at the top and bottom of the
page. This storage system works fairly well, especially considering the
large volume of information that you process in the game. The map is a
significant timesaver, as it allows you to leap to various locations once
you have visited them for the first time.
Remastered Maps, Documents, and Movement
remastered version contains additional maps, including maps of the
interiors of the buildings. Once you have visited them, locations on the
map are identified as you move the mouse cursor over them. The documents
have been improved so that they are easier to read. Other problems have
been fixed -- the sound stuttering during loading screens and the slowdown
in the swamp are gone. All dialogs can now be clicked through.
first person perspective, movement is identical to that in the original
game, and can be accomplished using either the mouse or a combination of
the mouse and keyboard. The new third person perspective uses a
point-and-click interface with directional hotspots.
Cue the Fiddle
The music is almost
entirely orchestral. It plays quietly (and ominously) in the background,
subsumed into the ambient sound layer. Some exceptions -- the obstacle
course in New Orleans, which features antic fiddle and banjo music to
inspire you during the chase. Also, at a point later in the game, the
sound of drums plays repeatedly in Holmes’ head. Ambient sounds are
varied. For example, at the waterfront you’ll hear the sound of seagulls,
a foghorn, a bell, and waves. These increase and decrease in volume
depending on your location.
Not for the
As noted earlier, the
game’s themes are very, very dark; this may be a downside for some gamers.
The corpse count is high, while a goodly portion of the living characters
are (to put it bluntly) not in their right minds. This is not unexpected
in a game that ventures into the Lovecraftian realm. Still, it seemed to
me as though broken minds, bloody torsos, skeletons and severed body parts
outnumbered the living, rational beings.
The images and sounds
were so disquieting in one part that I found it difficult to play for very
long and had to keep taking breaks. The knowledge that the torture these
inmates endured was standard practice in some institutions at that time
made playing the game even more gut-wrenching.
Although Arthur Conan
Doyle’s stories properly address the despicable corruptions that lurk
beneath the surface of Holmes’ world, I thought this game missed the right
balance by dwelling too long and lavishly in the realm of the macabre.
Quick List for
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened
ever-logical Sherlock Holmes takes on a ruthless Cthulhu cult. Full 3D
graphics; expansive, atmospheric locations. Absorbing cut scenes, good
voiceovers. Facial models reveal unusual detail. Plenty of character
interaction, lots of reading.
A complex mystery
plot with a satisfying ending. Themes are dark, ranging into horror,
murder, torture and dismemberment. A game for mature gamers only – the
PEGI (European) rating is 12+, but I would suggest 17+. If you aren’t put
off by the shocking visuals, the game offers a rich experience, deep
enough to reward a second playthrough.
challenges fit well into the plot -- a few are easy, many are difficult.
No sliders, one maze-like location, no sound matching or color
discrimination puzzles. No timed puzzles.
option to use either first person perspective or third person perspective.
A very helpful graduated hint system. Pressing the spacebar reveals all
hotspots. Overall, the remastered version’s difficulty level is lower than
that of the original version, but this is still an elaborate, challenging
remastering will benefit those who suffer from “motion sickness” while
moving or panning, those who prefer the third person perspective, those
who dislike pixel hunting, and/or those who enjoy the option of a hint
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened
Remastered is aimed at gamers who like exploring detailed
historical environments while following a dark, complex plot – especially
those who are fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and H. P. Lovecraft.
you own The Awakened and haven’t played it yet, or plan to replay
it, the download that upgrades your copy to the remastered version is
available for purchase
My Computer Specs:
Windows XP Professional
Pentium 2.80 GHz
2046 MB RAM
Direct X 9.0c
512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX
SB X-Fi Audio
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