Over the years there have been various crime-solving games based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes. Some have been good, while others have been not so great. Now Indie team Frogwares have created their own murder mystery game based on everyone favourite sleuth and his assistant. So will Crimes and Punishment be Sherlock’s greatest case to date or not? Come along Watson…the game’s a foot.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Genre: Puzzle, Action
Release Date: 30 September 2014 (US) / 3 October 2014 (EU)
Thanks to the developers for the review copy.
Seeing a crime solving game in today’s game market makes a refreshing change. Not that I got anything against them, but mostly you get at this time of year the FPS, sports and racing genres are released. Sometimes it is nice to have a change of pace and have a game that you actually need to work out puzzles in order to finish a chapter of the title. Now thanks to Frogwares Crimes and Punishment, we have something that has broken away from the norm and trying something new: And to be fair they have done it well.
You have six cases that Sherlock have to solve and the length of each one is about 4 – 6 hours. The game uses the Unreal Engine to give the player a third person perspective when controlling Holmes at the locations. You begin the game at your home, 221B Baker Street, where you are visited by Inspector Lestrade who requests your help to solve a murder case. The style in which you investigate the cases is rather ingenious as you must use a blend of varying techniques so that you get the clues needed to progress in the cases. You have a journal in the game which keeps track of various important; this includes objectives, past dialogues, clues, and you map to travel around the locations.
The main investigating technique that you will use is speaking to the people of interests. Before you ask questions you are given the option of building up a character profile of that person. This involves using the shoulder buttons to look over the character and when the cursor turns blues press the interact button and you will unlock a fact about them. When you finish this process you have a picture of the person that can be used when interviewing or interrogating the potential suspects later on. The portrait you get is then added to your journal that you can review if you ever need inspiration if you get stuck in a case.
Sometimes you will need to examine objects that you find at the crime scenes. This involves press the action button to begin examination mode in which you use the left analogue stick to move around the cursor. When you find something useful you need to examine it closer and after looking at something in further detail, you enter an interactive mode. This is actually quite fun as depending on what object you find you need to complete a sort of mini- puzzle. As an example if you find an item like a locked box, then you must pick the lock by rotating the mechanisms until the line is straight from one end to the other in order to pop the box open. This works very well for all the interactive objects and you will find that a little thought will be needed to solve them.
The final tool in the detective bag to help find out who committed the crime is interrogation. When you find certain evidence that ties to a person of interest you can confront them and present them with the evidence. At certain points if they something you got some information on then you get the option to press the button and select from the list the one that will give you the right result. If you get it wrong or miss the press, don’t worry you will get another go at asking the right question. As you gather all the evidence and make links, you get the chance to access the deduction screen. Here you look at clues and match them up with right statements so that a branch is unlocked with a useful fact in the case.
Once you gather all clues and the evidence makes sense then you are given the option to proceed with your choice. This is a moral decision and once you make it you can’t alter it and you will never know if you are right or wrong. So you can always be left wondering if you made the correction deduction. And after you complete the case, you can’t go back to it unless you start from the beginning again. The six cases do not follow on, but your journal keeps storing the characters from each case and you also unlock outfits specific to chapters you completed so that you can wear them whenever you want.
Graphically the game looks nice with lovely rendered locations and details that are realistic, thanks to the Unreal Engine. The characters are very well done and facial expressions are good. Controls work fine as they are basic, but sometimes the only grumble I had was that it was not always precise enough. This meant that to look at objects were a challenge if they were in tight spaces as Sherlock would turn too far. But otherwise the difficulty is perfect and the learning curve is great for beginners. And on cases you get the help of Dr John Watson, who while don’t do much gives the game a complete feel as he is always with Holmes on cases.
Sherlock Holmes Crimes and Punishment is a very good murder mystery game. The cases are great, the puzzles are perfect and by the end you feel like you have achieved a sense of justice. Taking out the little niggle with the controls, the game feels complete and Frogwares really need to be congratulated on creating something that is unique in this gaming environment of FPS, Sports and Racing.