last few years, I've played a couple of different Sherlock Holmes games,
and so far I've enjoyed the intellectual challenge of them all. Has the
Ukrainian developer (Frogwares) pulled off another gaming heist to match
their prior cases? Will they foil my deductive powers as a detector of
crime against game-kind?
in question is, of course, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments.
This is the seventh Sherlock Holmes adventure game Frogwares has
committed. Ooops! This is the seventh they have written! And that's not
even counting the casual, hidden object games - the picked pockets and
shops lifted in comparison to their greater accomplishments.
the previous Sherlock Holmes games I've played, the story of Crimes
and Punishments fits the format of the original books. This game
covers half-a-dozen crimes, with few links between them, and no
over-arching story (such as there was in Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the
Ripper for example). All of the crimes have multiple possible
solutions (though only one is "right"), and when you have your chosen
solution, you also make a moral choice as to whether to absolve the
murderer because of the circumstances, or condemn them to the gallows
(hanging being the common punishment for murder in Victorian Britain).
said there is no over-arching plot, I exaggerate a little, as there is
an underlying conspiracy story of which small elements crop up in the
main murder stories. Basically, Mycroft Holmes is investigating
something at the same time as Sherlock Holmes is pursuing business as
usual, and this bleeds through into Sherlock's work occasionally.
of the game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a
reference to the novel of the similar name Crime and Punishment
by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The novel is about murder, the murderer's guilt,
his pursuit by the authorities, his eventual capture, his condemnation,
punishment and eventual redemption. It is however, told from the
murderer's perspective, not from that of the detective (which would be
what we'd expect today). You'll see Sherlock reading the book during the
many loading screens between locations in the game.
is an adventure game that makes significant use of the keyboard
(particularly the left-hand side of it). Unfortunately there's no option
to remap the keys; they are what they are. You move around using the
WASD keys. Hot-spots in the environment pop out as you get close to
them, at which point you can click on them. If you've seen what's at the
hot-spot and there's nothing new to see, it will be green. Otherwise it
will be white. The whole of the user interface is very helpful in this
way. Any time you can use one of Sherlock's special abilities, there's
an on-screen prompt (in the top-right corner), including the key you
need to press, so whilst the array of keys you will use is quite broad,
you don't actually need to remember them all without aid. Of course,
it's Sherlock's abilities as a detective that are what make him so
special, so we'll come back to those later.
of how you see the game, you can chose whether to use the
over-the-shoulder view (camera following Sherlock Holmes) or the first
person view; it's purely personal preference. The game switches to the
first-person perspective for close-up work, and to the third person for
most conversations. And funnily enough, there are a lot of
conversations in this game. Holmes needs to talk to around half a dozen
people in any given case (Watson and Lestrade aside), some of them more
than once. This makes for a very dialog-heavy game, but given the
quality of voice acting, and the high standard of the writing, this is
no great chore at all, in fact, quite the opposite.
task in this game is, of course, to solve the crimes committed, by
gathering clues and observations from locations, objects and people.
Having obtained the clues, it's up to you to use the mind space
(replacing the old deduction board of previous games) to draw
conclusions as to who is guilty, who is innocent and the motive for the
murder. I think all the murders have multiple possible solutions, but
only one is right. However, should you reach the end of the game and
discover that some of your solutions are wrong, you can re-play any such
case to try to reach the right conclusion.
be frank here: I've never seen such a lush, full and detailed game
environment as in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. It is
quite wonderful. There is detail everywhere, in places where you'll only
spend moments in the game, and in places where you'll spend much more
time. All of it has been given a great treatment visually. And the
rendering of the textures in peoples' faces? Stunning! And this really
matters because you're going to spend a lot of time looking at peoples'
faces in this game. Interrogating suspects, questioning witnesses, and
so on. Whilst doing that you also have access to one of Sherlock's
special abilities: the ability to create a complex character portrait of
the witness or suspect just by observing the small details of their
appearance: wrinkles on the face, calluses on the fingers, wedding
rings, quality and state of clothing. However, it is up to you to use
the close-up view of the individual to actually find those
similar manner, Sherlock can do the same at the murder scene: find the
little details that speak of the events leading up to, or involved
directly in the murder. It is all these kinds of skills that lead to
mental and physical reconstruction tasks, so that you can work out who
did what, to whom, when and where.
clues about the cases are obtained using experimental work at Sherlock's
home, book and newspaper research in his library, the construction of
timelines of events, the use of disguises (which you have to put
together from the wardrobe) to gain access where a London gent would be
laughed out of the room, and the conducting of superficial autopsies
(nothing very gory this time, compared to the Jack the Ripper cases).
There's even a little harpoonery, arm-wrestling, sharp-shooting and
few occasions where fast reactions are required, but there are
times where timing matters.
also have occasion to be more dog (sorry), as Toby the basset hound gets
another couple of outings as an assistant to the relatively nasally
challenged human known as Holmes. Challenged, relative to a dog,
obviously, as the nose is actually quite ... erm ... outstanding in most
depictions of Holmes.
of games I've come across allow you to pick locks without the key. They
use a variety of mechanics to achieve this, but most of them result in a
rather simplistic metaphor for the lock breaking task. To be fair, the
mechanic used in
Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
is also not a very accurate metaphor either, but it does provide for a
graded sense of progression through the game as the tumbler puzzles used
in this way get harder as the game progresses.
the very few lesser features of
Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
is the loading times between scenes. This is probably the down-side to
the levels of detail and graphical quality of the game. It seems that
the developers recognised this problem, however, and made it possible
for you to access your case book (maps, inventory, dialog log, clues,
texts, character portraits, deductions and so on) whilst the game is
loading the next location in the background. This is not the perfect
solution, but it is a decent mitigation.
Holmes: Crimes and Punishments,
provides great intellectual stimulation for a mere mortal such as
myself, or even Dr Watson, though I'm sure Sherlock himself would be
slightly less enamoured. The whole polished article is tarnished only
very slightly by the load times between scenes, but otherwise the
quality sings through. What more can I say?
do you need to play it?
Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 or Windows 8
Processor: AMD/Intel Dual-core 2.4GHz
256MB 100% DirectX 9 compatible AMD Radeon HD3850/nVidia GeForce 8600
GTS or higher
Drive: 14GB available space
card: DirectX 9 compatible
(I used a
home-built 64-bit Windows 8.1 PC running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual
5200+ processor, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire Radeon HD4670 512MB video
card, with on-mother-board, built-in sound card)
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