"Not Quite Elementary"
In just a few months, the critically acclaimed and deservedly popular BBC series, Sherlock, returns with its third season. This modern retelling of the obnoxiously astute detective, Sherlock Holmes, is so popular in fact, that an American re-imagining of his crime-solving adventures has just premiered this past week. Further, not less than a year ago a blockbuster movie sequel starring Robert Downey Jr. hit theaters. If ever the time was right to release a video game adaptation based off of the timeless franchise, that time is now.
Striking whilst the iron is hot, if you will, developer Frogwares' The Testament of Sherlock Holmes has just been released at the most opportune moment. However, is this just a soulless cash-grab, eking out sales thanks to the property's current popularity? Or is it another solid, respectful entry in the property's mythology?
Frankly, it would be quite disingenuous of me to think that no care was put into this game. Frogwares has dedicated around the last decade of their time to developing entry after quality entry in its Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series. All of that experience cultivating intriguing games in the Holmes lore obviously shows here. The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly the largest and most attractive game the studio has put out, and its visual splendor is matched adeptly only by its rewarding story.
Unlike a few of the tales told in the current television series, Testament's narrative is not based on any particular plot from Arthur Conan Doyle's original works. Indeed, rather than focusing on any particular villain or brain-bending crime, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes intends to present Holmes's character in a new and deeper light. Set in the year 1898, the game's original story centers around a few cases in which Holmes himself is the primary suspect.
With his credibility going through the wringer and his actions becoming ever more suspicious to the point of peril, the game offers some welcome character introspection, as Holmes has to deal with the idea that the people of London can no longer trust him. While Holmes is undoubtedly the star of the game, player control eventually shifts to his faithful companion, Watson. This change in perspective allows for some wonderful storytelling as the mystery both weaves and unravels around the detective.
The gameplay in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is mainly comprised of investigation, deduction, and loads of puzzle-solving. You are capable of shifting the camera at will from third-person to a decently steady first-person view so that you can navigate a hand or magnifying glass-shaped cursor to search for clues, applying a point-and-click touch to it.
However, the implementation is clunky at best on consoles, as the analog stick can only move a cursor so fast, but it is readily apparent that the game controls best with a keyboard and mouse. Clicking on particular areas of a scene will either yield the player character's thoughts on the subject or will allow you to gather evidence for future use.
After gathering evidence and examining crime scenes, you are able to access your notes. This is where the deduction aspect comes into play in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. By analyzing the information you have accrued, options are presented to you in a sort of multiple-choice test, wherein the correct selection should provide the next lead in your investigation.
The open world environment of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is full of stunning detail. The setting is fairly moody and atmospheric, with fog almost always lightly present; the accompanying somber soundtrack further compounds that. The only complaints I have in the presentation are related to the sometimes robotic animations and the certainly welcome, but unfortunately uninspired voice work.
With an impressive story to tell, dozens of puzzles to solve over the game's 20 locations, around 15 hours of gameplay to enjoy, and the ability to play as a dog (!), there is plenty to like about The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. If you can get past the wonky controls and messy inventory interface, that is.
GameDynamo's Score for The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (PC)
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