Crimes and Punishments Review

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Crimes and Punishments Concept Art

"Crimes and Punishments stays true to the franchise’s roots by offering exciting puzzles and a series of very intriguing cases."

Developer Frogwares’ infatuation with the eccentric and sociopathic detective is indisputable. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is the tenth installment in the long-running and award-winning adventure game series based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous work. Despite its PC roots, the series jumped across various platforms, including the Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PS3 and Xbox 360. Hoping to reach a wider audience, Frogwares is bringing Sherlock Holmes to the new generation by making significant graphical leaps with Epic’s Unreal Engine 3 and introducing considerable gameplay changes. While the end result is still a far cry from a true next-gen experience, Crimes and Punishments stays true to the franchise’s roots by offering exciting puzzles and a series of very intriguing cases. This is a gem for fans of traditional adventure mysteries, but the game does little to attract newcomers. Its leisurely pacing isn’t for everyone, but gamers who’ve enjoyed the recent Murdered: Soul Suspect are going to feel right at home.    

Crimes and Punishments murder scene

"Since each clue can be interpreted differently, the outcome of a case can vary drastically depending on what the player chooses."

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments consists of seven cases, each involving murders, disappearances and thefts. Each case is a separate story, but they all narratively flow into each other. The entire game feels like a long television season with each case/episode being re-playable. The cases consist of examining crime scenes, collecting clues and questioning potential witnesses and suspects. Collected clues are added to a “Deduction Board” where players can link pieces of information together in order to discover the truth. The Deduction Boards are Crimes and Punishments’ most interesting element. Since each clue can be interpreted differently, the outcome of a case can vary drastically depending on what the player chooses. This means it’s possible to condemn the wrong person. Unlike LA Noire where players can’t really lose regardless of their performance, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments penalizes poor detective work.

Crimes and Punishments investigation

"Similarly to the BBC Sherlock TV series, text will appear detailing his thoughts and revealing what might have happened at a crime scene."

It’s a shame then that the same kind of creativity isn’t seen in the actual detective work. Finding clues primarily consists of connecting the obvious dots. Go into a room, interact with anything that has a magnifying glass, solve an arbitrary and irrelevant mini-game and make a note of it. The “irrelevant” part refers to things like mixing multi-colored chemical to reveal secret writing or piecing together parts of a pump trolley just to discover the obvious…hey, someone used a pump trolley (duh). To make things even easier, Holmes has “Sherlock Vision.” With this ability, players can highlight evidence that would otherwise be missed. Similarly to the BBC Sherlock TV series, text will appear detailing his thoughts and revealing what might have happened at a crime scene. The mechanic itself is interesting, and to be fair it does become more challenging during later cases, but it feels like a wasted opportunity the first half of the game.

Analyzing witnesses and potential suspects, on the other hand, is far more interesting. Holmes has the ability to “profile” characters by scanning their faces and clothing and highlighting points of interest. These clues can be used to manipulate conversations and force suspicious individuals to reveal more answers. Misinterpreting clues makes investigations more difficult, which oftentimes makes Crimes and Punishments feel very dynamic and realistic. Dialogue is where Crimes and Punishments truly shines. All characters are complex with various agendas and secrets. While discovering certain clues may be easy, knowing who actually committed a crime is much trickier. One more than one occasion, I found myself torn between two possible answers and had to re-read all of my notes just make sure I’m convicting the right person.

Crimes and Punishments adventure game

"Being the tenth entry, players are expecting a bit more finesse and creativity from the developer."

While Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a big graphical improvement over its predecessors, it still suffers from serious technical shortcomings. Having only 30 fps for an adventure game may seem ok, but the judder and lack of good quality motion blur makes the visuals feel archaic. The environments are well designed and varied, but they’re extremely small. Every time Holmes interacts with an object, there’s a brief loading screen, which makes the already slow pacing feel painfully sloppy. Nonetheless, Frogwares has done a solid job of capturing the Victorian authenticity. There are some impressive looking interiors, like Holmes’ very own study, and the overall misty atmosphere fits the tone perfectly. 

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments needs a lot more polish and innovation. Being the tenth entry, players are expecting a bit more finesse and creativity from the developer. It’s clear that their heart is in the right place, but maybe it’s time to take more chances. But even with its shortcoming, Crimes and Punishments is unquestionably entertaining. Considering the lack of adventure titles on the next-gen platforms, this may be the investment for fans of the genre. 

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4

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