Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis (Sherlock Holmes vs Arsène Lupin)





Genre:   Detective Series/Mystery 1st Person Adventure

Developer:    Frogwares Game Development Studio

Publisher:   Focus Home Interactive

Released:  November 2007

PC Requirements:   See end of review


Additional Screenshots





by inferno


“I play the game for the game's own sake.”*

Frogwares Game Development Studio has been specializing in the delightful Sherlock Holmes series since 2002, starting with their first offering, The Mystery of the Mummy. Though interesting for a first adventure, The Mystery of the Mummy did leave much room for improvement. Time has passed and the series has developed throughout the years, with improvements made to graphics, sound, puzzles and storylines. With all this steady “ground-gaining,” have the games reached a pinnacle? We shall see.

In previous episodes we joined the intrepid duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson as they chased down ancient mummy secrets, searched for intriguing jewelry and fought off the strange goings-on of H.P. Lovecraft and his monsters. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened melded the characters from the works of two famous writers: Britain's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the characters of Holmes and Watson), and America's H. P. Lovecraft (Cthulhu). In their most recent adventure, Frogwares once again has paired the characters of Holmes and Watson with another famous literary figure -- that of Arsène Lupin. Lupin is a gentleman cambrioleur created by French author Maurice Leblanc, a contemporary of Conan Doyle, who wrote over twenty novels for this particular character. 

“There's an east wind coming all the same,
such a wind as never blew on England yet.
It will be cold and bitter, Watson,
 and a good many of us may wither before its blast.”*

This adventure, the fourth in the series, is more of a cerebral battle of wits -- a chess game without the chessboard where the “pieces” may be the most prominent characters within the story. As the adventure begins we hear the familiar strains of a violin, calmly inviting us back into the world of Sherlock Holmes. The camera view takes us back along the cobblestone streets of his neighborhood. It is a gorgeous and bright Monday morning on July 14, 1895. All’s right with the world (or so it seems) as we meet with the inhabitants of 221B Baker Street just before breakfast. Indeed we do find Sherlock softly playing his music and Dr. Watson contemplating a ride up the Thames. But Sherlock has other ideas. He knows that while the sun may be shining, the shadows that its bold illumination casts hide something other than the righteous within their beloved city of London.  

For the past fortnight, the papers have been tracking the possible whereabouts and deeds on the Continent of an infamous voleur petit, none other than Arsène Lupin. Watson fears that Sherlock’s mood reflects more than a passing interest in this criminal, a mood which is turning into an admiring obsession. Watson recounts one of Lupin’s latest escapades as he peruses the mail, commenting on the letters, including one with the potential to send the dynamic duo running about “chasing chickens.” Watson muses that at least this arrogant, thieving Lupin would not dare to continue his antics on British soil. After all this is England! (Hmmmm, can we say “hubris”?) Just at this moment he reaches for another letter, begins to read and then stops himself short. Watson sputteringly shows Holmes the letter, which appears to be from Lupin himself. And so, as Sherlock studies the letter he soon realizes that the gauntlet has been thrown down, the challenge has been offered -- one that may well take to task the very honor of the British Crown. After a boring two weeks of just reading the news from Europe, the game is finally afoot. 

“Before turning to those moral and mental aspects of the matter which present the greatest difficulties,
let the inquirer begin by mastering more elementary problems.
Puerile as such an exercise may seem,
it sharpens the faculties of observation,
and teaches one where to look and what to look for.”*

Players who are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes series of games will find that the interface hasn't changed much. After the program loads, we are presented with the Main Menu. Here one may begin a new adventure, resume a current one, or load a particular saved game. Access to the Options menu to adjust various Video and/or Graphic settings can also be found here as well as a “Controls” area which can reset the program’s keyboard functions if one so desires. Exiting the game and viewing the Credits can also be found at this menu.  During the adventure this Main Menu is always accessible by pressing the ESC key. It should be stated that there are no timed sequences, use of stealth, mazes or action sequences. While many of the cut scenes offer a third person view, the adventure is a first person affair, which may be played entirely with the mouse, by using the keyboard, or a combination of the two.

Once within the adventure, gamers will find their notes and inventory with a simple right click. This reference area is vast and holds much information to aid the player and assist Sherlock in this battle of wits with Arsène Lupin. Here one may reference the game’s entire dialogue base and peruse various maps for orientation, as well as travel to and fro, from location to location. One may also access the inventory for use either on a particular area on the screen or to combine item with item. There is a place for reports and conclusions, as well as a separate area for all documents and letters found along the way. One boon I found was that one may access these while in the midst of any of the many puzzles. As in the previous episodes, there will be the occasional quiz, for which the answers may be entered by clicking on the correct letters and/or numbers, or by typing the answers in directly from the player's keyboard. At no time is Sherlock in danger of death. But it is possible that if Dr. Watson makes the wrong choice at a certain point in time, England’s honor could very well come into question. The game will end and then restart from that point to allow for another decision to be made.

“One's ideas must be as broad as Nature if they are to interpret Nature.”*

The graphics for me, with the system I played on, were just lovely -- beautiful and crisp. There are many interesting locations in the game to see and wander through. I mention “wander,” as that is exactly what happened to me at the National Gallery of Painting. This was definitely one of my favorite locations, and the way in which it was set up reminded me of time I had spent there in reality. The images of the paintings within the game were startlingly accurate…I meandered and studied each of them for hours on end. And no, I don’t regret one minute of the time I spent there. The night scenes and details with fog and/or rain worked nicely and added much to the atmosphere of the game.    

‘What's that little thing of Chopin's she plays so magnificently,

The music and underscore I also found to be touching and suitable for every choice made. Now, the classics may not be everyone’s taste for gaming, but I felt that it rounded out the atmosphere of Victorian London and was appropriate for this adventure. I did feel that the default setting places the volume of the music far too high for the game, as it often would conflict with the various characters' voice work. But a simple adjustment in the Options menu fixed that problem.

The foley was spot on and also contributed much to the game’s excitement; I had this set at full. (Wonderful stuff when you play with stereo headphones, I might add). The vocal quality remains as entertaining and enjoyable as in the previous two episodes. I also need to mention that the dialogue writing for Dr. Watson was an improvement over the previous games within this series, as I was able to feel much more for this quixotic character than before. For in this episode Dr. Watson’s patriotism will play a major role in the decisions he makes.  

“Have you tried to drive a harpoon through a body?
 Tut, tut, my dear sir, you must really pay attention to these details

The adventure will indeed be what the player makes of it. Playing either as Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson (and for one brief sequence, as Inspector Lestrade), one will meet dozens of different characters and visit countless historical locations in Victorian London, from the tenements near the Golden Lion Pub to Buckingham Palace. So keep a weathered eye out and pen and paper at the ready for that which one might need to recall. Listen carefully to what is said, as there are many cultural references scattered throughout the game, as well as a number of tidbits from the previous episodes. What I enjoyed most about this adventure was the intricate storyline and plot twists. This is indeed a “game” within a “game,” a meeting of the minds and a remarkable battle of wits.

Many of the clues by Lupin are set down in the form of poetry and rhyme. This is wonderful stuff and gives an added dimension to the puzzle solving. I will tell you now, many of the conundrums and enigmas are quite the brainteasers and hair pullers. There are a plethora of them; one more devious than the next. Here the player will find hints and intimations in the form of rhymes and riddles, an inverse parquetry puzzle (the solution is quite clever and truly elementary), and many inventory based puzzles either used singularly or with a combination of items. A few sound puzzles, replace and match, a cryptex, geometrical creation, and a good helping of visual mathematical problems for the player to conquer. However, I must say that these are organic in nature and carry the storyline forward. I enjoyed them all; my favorite of these being the cannon puzzle and the cryptex. 

“I read nothing except the criminal news and the agony column.
The latter is always instructive.”*

This particular adventure utilizes PhysX drivers, which should install automatically along with the program; however if one is experiencing any initial problems make sure that they are installed properly before one begins the game. The Options screen does allow one to adjust the game’s parameters so that it should run well on most middle-end systems. If you are experiencing any other problems, I would strongly suggest that you read the “readme” file along with the manual located inside the game folder. There is a wealth of knowledge there for any technical issues one might come across. For my own part, I had absolutely no problems whatsoever with this game; it played flawlessly.

"It is simple when you explain.
You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin.
 I had no idea that such individuals did exist out of stories."*

In conclusion, I would recommend Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin to those who have been playing the series, as well as to those gamers who have not yet tried a Sherlock Holmes adventure. For this one has all the elements there waiting for you to uncover the mystery of Arsène Lupin and why Sherlock is so fascinated with him. I felt that the storyline was more intricate than in any of the previous episodes, and the ending was satisfying, though completely unexpected. A few of the puzzles and enigmas did offer me quite a challenge, and I am pleased with that (though at the time my nails suffered greatly and now I am in dire need of a proper manicure.) I look forward to Frogwares continuing this series in the future and love the idea of incorporating literary characters from other authors in similar genres – could I hope for a match up with either Poe or Hawthorne?    


Grade A


*1. Holmes - The Adventure of Bruce-Partington Plans by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1917 

*2. Holmes - His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1917

*3. Holmes - A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887

*4. Holmes - A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887

*5. Holmes - A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887

*6. Holmes - The Adventure of Black Peter by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1904

*7. Holmes - The Adventure of The Noble Bachelor by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1892

*8. Watson - A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle 1887

Minimum configuration:

OS: Microsoft Windows 2000/XP/Vista 32/64

Processor: Pentium® III 1.3 GHz or higher

Memory: 512 Mb RAM

Video card: 64 Mb Microsoft DirectX 9 compatible

Sound card: DirectX 9 compatible

DVD-ROM: 4x DVD drive

Hard drive: 3 Gb free space on the hard drive

100% Windows compatible keyboard and mouse

Recommended configuration:

OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista 32/64

Processor: Pentium IV 2 GHz/AthlonXP 2000+

Memory: 1024 MB RAM

Video card: 256 MB DirectX 9 compatible

Sound card: DirectX 9 compatible

DVD-ROM: 4x DVD drive

Hard drive: 3 Gb free space on the hard drive

100% Windows compatible keyboard and mouse

NOTE: This game includes anti-piracy technology which may conflict with some CD-RW, DVD-RW and virtual disk drives.

Played on:

OS: Microsoft Windows XP Home SP 2

CPU: Pentium D 950 3.4GHz 800MHz


Video: BFG nVidia Geforce 7600GT OC 256MB 128bit

Sound: SoundBlaster Audigy


Monitor: Northgate 20' Flat Panel Monitor

DirectX Version: 9.0c

January 2008

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