What is it?
murders. Complex plots. Shocking twists. Outrageous endings. Have I got
your attention yet?
Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the sixth and
latest in the Frogwares-developed series of Sherlock Holmes games. I've
also played the fifth game, Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper,
and I'm pleased to be able to report that the Frogwares team have
maintained many of the same game mechanics in Testament. More on
course, Sherlock Holmes is a character that has been played by so many
actors, and his stories have been told in so many different media, that
it is becoming difficult to stand out from the pack. However, my own
view is that the Frogwares series is a very strong contributor to the
Is there a plot?
Testament of Sherlock Holmes
begins with a short scene of three children playing in an attic, where
they find a book from which they begin to read the words of Dr. Watson.
properly with a
tutorial section based around a simple locked room mystery - how a
Samoan necklace was stolen from a locked study. This introduces Holmes,
Watson and Inspector Baynes of Scotland Yard. What? No Inspector
Lestrade? No comment!
Once you've helped Sherlock solve this little
starter-for-ten, the scene shifts to 221B Baker Street, and onto the
main event: the first murder of the show. Unlike Jack the Ripper,
in which we spent most of the time in Whitechapel, this game takes in
quite a few more diverse parts of Victorian London: Kensington, Westgate
Prison, the London docklands, a newspaper reporter's office, the sewers
under London, a judge's home, a watermill outside London, a derelict
funfair, and, of course, back to Whitechapel.
There are a number of threads to the overall plot. There
is someone who is trying to discredit Holmes as a detective, and indeed
attempting to turn people against him. There is someone murdering people
with a madness-inducing poison. There is a famine in Whitechapel. There
is a plot to replace Queen Victoria with some no-name upstart prince.
Something goes dreadfully wrong in the relationship between Holmes and
Watson, And finally there are those awful children in the attic. Plenty
to get your teeth into.
How do you play?
you're playing The Testament of Sherlock Holmes on a PC, you have
three viewpoints from which to play the game: first person view, a
second person view (mostly over the shoulder), or a fixed-camera, third
person view (point and click). I was lucky enough to have the
opportunity to play on PlayStation 3 as well as on my PC, and can report
that you only have the first two viewpoints on the console version. A
single button or key press rotates between the available viewpoints,
which means you can choose the one most suited to the current
circumstances or stick with whichever one you prefer. Unusually for me,
I largely stuck with the first person view simply because it performed
more slickly on my PC.
Whichever viewpoint you choose, for the most part, the game chooses
which character you are directly in control of, be it Holmes, Watson or
- in one of the odder sections of the game
- a dog named Toby. There is a stage later
in the game where you can choose between Holmes and Watson, but for most
of the time there's no choice.
Navigating the locations (by mouse, or W, A, S, D keys) in the game
brings hotspots into range, shown either with a magnifying glass or a
hand. The former indicates something you can look at, the latter
something with which you can interact. An interaction may require a
specific inventory item to be highlighted in Watson's medical bag (which
forms your inventory). You can access the inventory with the 'I' key, or
by right clicking.
there are multiple hotspots in view simultaneously, you use the
navigation keys to highlight the specific hotspot of interest, and
'Validate' (I think they mean 'confirm') your choice with a left click.
right click that brings up the inventory also gives you access to the
log of all the spoken dialogue, the contents of all the documents you
need (notes, newspaper articles, letters, etc.), the deduction board
(one of my favourite features of these games), the button that allows
you to switch between Holmes and Watson (normally disabled), the honours
list ('achievements' in any other modern game), and the map of London,
the little used method of navigating London's locations. I say the map
is little used because there are only a few occasions when you need to
decide where to go.
we come to the non-player character interactions, and the puzzles.
Testament is reasonably light on complex dialog trees. There are a
few dialogs where you have a choice of approaches to take in
conversations, and some of these affect the achievements you score, but
none truly derail the story. The dialogs themselves are well acted by
all but the most minor of players, and give a good insight into the
relationship between Holmes and Watson in particular. The actors for
those two are definitely in the styles of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce
or Jeremy Brett/David Burke partnerships in the roles. There's very
little of the Robert Downey/Jude Law version about them which is, quite
frankly, all for the best.
puzzles in this game are widespread; some are simple exploration and
observation tasks, others require inventory item combination to make the
tools required to achieve something in the world, and still others are
mathematical or mechanical obstacles. Fortunately the game provides an
option to reset or skip any of the in-your-face puzzles (like puzzle
boxes or locks). But be warned, there is a small maze to navigate. On
the plus side, only one of the puzzles requires any kind of speedy
hand-eye coordination, and that, as I say, can be skipped if it proves
too difficult. The penalty for skipping puzzles is that you miss out on
some of the honours available.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper and The Testament of Sherlock
Holmes feature the deduction board mechanic. This is a tool that
allows you to take observations that you've made at the various scenes,
the results of Holmes's analyses at his desk, and information you've
obtained from documents and combine them to find logical deductions,
which in turn lead to more levels of deductions across the board. Each
card on the board contains options for what you deduce from the
observations to the left of them, and these lead to conclusions on the
far right of the board. It's only ever four levels across (including the
original observations and the final conclusions), and there are never
more than three options on any given card. The game gives feedback as
you get closer and closer to the correct deductions. I find that this
mechanic gives a very strong sense of achievement when the conclusions
all go green as you get everything linked up correctly.
were two areas of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes that bugged
me. Firstly there was the inclusion of the scenes with the children in
the attic in various places in the story. I feel these added nothing to
the tale, and were clunky at best. The physical animation of those
characters was also well below the standard maintained across the rest
of the game, where it was quite outstanding.
hardest element of the game for me to take was the entirely
non-canonical ending of the story. For the bulk of the game, the style
and content are very loyal to that of the original stories. These are
two famous gentlemen solving brutal crimes in Victorian London, with
certain recurring characters from the canon of those stories making
appearances. However, the ending ruined that feeling quite
comprehensively. The feeling at the end was of a Fu Manchu movie without
the master criminal giving an evil laugh over the fading credits after
his apparent defeat and destruction, when we all know he'll be back in
the next movie!
minor rub was the places where the English language got away from the
writers, with some clunky phraseology that I'm surprised the voice
actors weren't able fix. Perhaps the script was set in stone in the game
before the voices were recorded. A specific example is the use of the
word 'validate' where an English native would probably have chosen
'confirm' when you have multiple hotspots in view.
Frogwares have done an excellent job of telling the Sherlock Holmes
stories and, for the most part, the Testament of Sherlock Holmes
fits that pattern perfectly. There are a few linguistic missteps in the
dialog (and in the naming of the game itself) that bring the final grade
down a notch, but the really impactful error is in the ending of the
story. I'm so conflicted about this ending that I feel I have to split
my final grade for this game. So it's B+ if you're a Sherlock purist,
like me; or A- if you're a little more forgiving of interpretive
storytelling, as this really is a very good game.
word of warning is that the high level of graphical detail in the
environments and the murder victims absolutely justify the 'M' rating on
the box. It's no joke. (Nor is the European PEGI 16 rating, either). The
scenes aren't especially bloody, but they are clearly scenes of quite
gruesome violence, and the designers haven't stinted on graphical
Grade: B+ / A-
What do you need to play it?