In recent years we have seen a lot of iterations of Holmes and Watson. Robert Downy Jr. and Jude Law have starred in two Hollywood movies, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have given us a modern day English retelling of classic stories and most recently Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu have brought a unique and interesting modern spin of a drug rehabilitated Holmes and a female, Joan Watson to television screens.
It is therefore quite refreshing to go back to the classic styling of Holmes and Watson that audiences would expect from an Arthur Conan Doyle story in Frogware’s new title, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. The game is adventure based and is the sixth instalment in the Adventure of Sherlock Holmes series. Although there have been six titles in the series, this is only the second title of the series to land on the Xbox 360, following 200’s Sherlock Holmes Vs Jack the Ripper.
Originally scheduled for a 2010 release, Developer Frogware took on-board player feedback following Sherlock Holmes Vs Jack the Ripper where players were asking for more detailed environments and graphics. The result is noticeable although the graphics can still look dated throughout the game, which is slightly disappointing. In everything from graphics to voice acting and music, the production values of the gamer leave a lot to be desired.
The game focuses around the testing friendship of Holmes and Watson as slowly, throughout the course of the game, Holmes becomes a suspect and his motives becomes murkier as suspicion builds on our main protagonist. This is not the Holmes you would expect to see with numerous decisions and conversations he has with NPCs going around the law to his own end. Playing as both Holmes and Watson gives you a unique perspective both on the decisions Holmes makes but also the faithful but slightly doubtful friendship that Watson can offer.
The case opens up with a jewel theft and is initially quite linear, but after some early investigating the map opens up and you can choose your path on enquiry. I had heard reports that this was an open world environment and was looking forward to exploring London and Baker Street but was disappointed when I didn’t reach the open world section of the game until half way through my play through and found it slightly limited. When I was initially moving from scene to scene I was presented with a loading screen rather than the ability to explore the landscape that Frogware’s had been working on.
It is not to the game’s detriment that the player cannot walk around the entirety of the game though, as each crime scene is detailed enough to draw you into the story. This is only helped by the complicated and intricate puzzles that Holmes must solve in order to progress.
While there is no difficulty adjustment for the game, it would have been great if there was an easier setting as some of the puzzles you encounter can take a long time to figure out. While some puzzles are extremely complicated, some are simple but I have rarely played a game that gave me such a great sense in achievement when solving them. As you progress throughout the game you become a bit more intuitive to what the game wants and expects from you, but as an adult adventure game the puzzles do test you. As a result the game takes about 15-20 hours to complete, depending on your capability and working brain cells.
While solving puzzles you will also have to inspect crime scenes and to reiterate that this is an adult adventure game, the crime scenes contain less than pleasant objects that you will have to analyse. An example is that within the first hour, I had a severed thumb under a microscope that I had taken from a mutilated corpse, the first of many that I was to encounter throughout the game.
The controls of the game work fairly well, although at points can be frustrating. Aside from the occasional graphical glitch, the main problem was the character getting stuck at a door or choosing to examine or validate something you had already chosen and not being able to look at what you wanted. With a bit of patience this isn’t an issue but considering there was a delay on this game, I would have imagined fixes like this could have been worked upon.
In closing, The Testament of Sherlock Homes is a solid adventure game. The puzzles can be extremely complicated and at points infuriating, but what comes with this is a great sense of achievement that I haven’t experienced from playing a game in a long time. While it didn’t look as pretty as I had hoped and the puzzles became tedious and unnecessary at points, this was a good attempt at a Sherlock Holmes game and has raised my interests in playing another title if we were to see one released.