Platform(s): X360, PS3, PC
Review Platform: PC
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Everyone knows Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Holmes himself is the world’s greatest detective and Watson is his moral conscience, desperately trying to keep the near-sociopathic investigator rooted in the real world. Switching between Holmes and Watson, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes tasks you with solving the murder of the Bishop of Knightsbridge. Or rather, you’re tasked with figuring out some fun lock-boxes while Sherlock Holmes tells you who murdered the Bishop of Knightsbridge.
- Play as multiple characters
- The deduction boards are a fun take on Holmes’s crime-solving methods
- Three different control-schemes to choose from
- Settings are gorgeously detailed
- Puzzles are fun and challenging
- Gameplay is lacking in intuition
- The “Sixth Sense” help system wasn’t helpful at all
- Voice acting for characters other than Holmes himself was lackluster
- Players new to the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series may feel left-in-the-dark about some things.
There’s plenty to be said in favor of Frogwares’s most recent installment of their Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series: It’s gorgeous, it has incredibly fun and challenging puzzles, and the deduction boards, in which you piece together different crime scenes, are an excellent look into how the duo of Holmes and Watson solve their cases. However, the game fails to show any imagination in its controls and will often leave you feeling lost, jamming the help button and getting nothing in return.
Let’s start with the good: deduction boards. As you canvas a crime scene, Watson records the events based on any clues Holmes uncovers. Taking the clues you find and Holmes’s deductions, the player chooses from a list of possibilities in order to map out the crime and come to a conclusion. Once you’ve riddled out the answers, the board turns green to let you know you’ve succeeded. It’s as close to feeling like an actual detective as the game takes you.
Where the deduction boards are a great success, the controls in Testament leave much to be desired. While I enjoy the option to switch between three different cameras (first-person, third-person, and over-the-shoulder), that’s where my love affair with the controls ends. Throughout the course of each level, you accrue a handful of different items, which you can scroll through at any time. Sadly, whenever you pick up a new item, you default to a blank slot. This means that when you’ve finally found the item you know will answer the puzzle you’ve been chipping away at and you run to plug it in, nothing happens. I did this several times, clicking away, wondering why the new item wasn’t working, only to remember that I effectively have nothing in my hand and need to select my latest discovery from my inventory. It’s a minor grievance, but with such simple gameplay it’s the little things that matter.
Perhaps The Testament’s biggest gaff is in its “Sixth Sense” system, in which Holmes’s finely honed analytical mind is meant to provide you with hints as to where more clues might be found. Unfortunately, to get any information out of this system, you need to be standing in exactly the right place facing exactly the right angle, and even then it has a solid chance of missing the clue directly in front of you. It’s a sad fact of the adventure genre that walking around clicking everything until you discover what you need simply isn’t fun and most players just want to get to the puzzle boxes (or in Testament’s case, the next deduction board) so for this system to be so janky meant that I spent a great deal more time walking around a single room one thousand times than I would have preferred.
With the success of the Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright series on the DS, I would have loved to see Sherlock branch out into a more open gameplay experience, rather than the usual point-and-click affair of older adventure titles. The problem here is that most adventure games boil down into pointless filler in order to space out the actual meat of the puzzles and this is just as true of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a solid adventure title with fun puzzles that I’m certain fans of the genre will enjoy, but it does little to garner new fans.
The story of Testament puts Holmes and Watson at odds and will have you doubting the master sleuth’s true intentions, as is classic Holmesian style. It takes this theme further than I expected and I was even a little surprised at parts. While the story was fun to follow, as a player, I had almost no part in it. I solved the puzzles, but not the case. While I was able to deduce the Bishop of Knightsbridge’s murderer, there was an extra element thrown in at the end that, unless I had played Frogwares’s previous Sherlock Holmes titles, had little to no connection to what was going on. It was a shame, because it made the entire experience feel more like I was watching a movie about Sherlock Holmes, rather than playing a game as him.
While the controls in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes lack grace and the overall gameplay doesn’t go anywhere new, I enjoyed my time with the game. It’s a solid adventure title and in the thick of Sherlock mania in the theaters and on television, it’s nice to spend some time with the detective as Doyle originally imagined him. Frogwares knows their stuff when it comes to Holmesian lore and their vision of Sherlock stands out in that, among so many new twists on the classic sleuth, their Holmes is the one I grew up with. I can tell the developers really enjoy the character and the world that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created.
While the animations were lacking, the models and environments in the game were excellent. For an adventure title, I was really impressed at just how attractive Testament was.
The puzzles were difficult in a satisfying way, but there was too much point-and-click wandering around. Coupled with a poorly executed help system and a less than imaginative inventory, there was much to be desired. I will say that the deduction boards were a lot of fun and I wish there had been more of them.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes may be a solid adventure title, but it’s difficult to justify $40 for a relatively short, absolutely linear, and not entirely original game. I think a new price point might do Frogwares a great deal of good.
I can’t say the voice acting was all that great, but I loved the games music and I felt that they did a great job with most of the sound effects. The sound cues for the Sixth Sense system were a little confusing, though.
Review by Jeff Ellis
I'm a freelance writer and game reviewer with a year's experience working in the game industry. I've been playing games longer than I've been able to read. In fact, I learned how to read by watching my brother play JRPGs on our Nintendo. I also learned geography from Uncharted Waters: New Horizons. Facts that I probably shouldn't be proud of, but I am. You can read more of my writing over at First Word Problems and keep updated on the site and me via Twitter @1stwordproblems. All Articles byJeff.