Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, Watson, the game is a six

Agency is a big problem in virtual crime-solving. Truths are inevitably linear, so it’s very hard to guide people to them without intrusive hand-holding. And Sherlock Holmes hates hand holding. Mainly because his powers of perception tell him that you haven't washed yours properly.

Frogwares’ solution is neat. You pair related facts into deductions and then join those ideas into a working theory. The clever bit? The facts are vague enough that they can be calibrated to incriminate any given suspect. It’s a whodunnit where anyone can do it.

It means no heavy handed health bars (Ace Attorney) or unsatisfying rankings (LA Noire) to bully detectives towards a correct ending. But it also makes for hazy, unsatisfying conclusions. Keeping all the suspects in play right to the end means the penny never drops; it just hangs in the air, waiting for you to cram it into a guilty crack of your choosing.

It’d be easier to enjoy if the concept didn't come smothered in gimmicky attempts to visualise Sherlock’s genius. Did we need a mini-game where we rotate stink clouds until an image of the smelly object reveals itself? And it’s hard to take Holmes’ advanced imagination seriously when it’s used to picture… a train going past a railway station. That’s some Watson level imagining at best. This is the tip of the iceberg. Instead of the piercing intellect of Conan Doyle’s creation, we meet a man made entirely of mini games.

But we still spent 15 hours with the guy. He’s a bad Holmes, but he’s a fine companion for a Sunday. Cases trundle along, gory bits happen off-camera and locations are so beautifully detailed it seems a shame to fill them with corpses. Cut the flab (and loading times) and this adaptive adventuring could be pretty special.

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