Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silver Earring PC Review

I have to admit to being a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan. I’ve read all of Conan Doyle’s books several times and own the full Jeremy Brett TV series on DVD. I’ve even taken a trip over to Granada Studios in Manchester to visit the TV set and have been to 221b Baker Street in London within the last few months.

I must also admit to being a bit of a sucker for point and click adventure games, a genre that is admittedly dying out but is nonetheless endearing to me.

So, this game should be heaven for me, right? A point and click original Holmes adventure, that’s as good as gaming gets, isn’t it?Well, let’s see shall we.

The story takes us back to 1897, the age of street urchins and Hansom Cabs. Holmes is at the peak of his investigative powers and is invited to attend a ball thrown by a leading industry figure, Sir Melvyn Bromsby. The ball is to celebrate the return from school abroad of his 18 year old daughter, Lavinia. Sir Melvyn takes to the platform to begin his welcome speech, when a gunshot rings out and he falls, instantly dead. So begins the quest of Holmes, and his faithful companion Watson, to solve the murder.

Graphics

I love the look of this game. The makers have done a great job in capturing the look and feel of late nineteenth century England. The backgrounds are colourful and beautifully detailed, which does in fact lead to one of the game’s significant problems. More on that later.

Cutscenes are handled well with detailed facial expressions but a lack of effective lip sync reduces the immersion just a little. Character movement in game is fluid and convincing, and the models of the 2 main characters, Holmes and Watson, are very well done. The menu system is easy and clear to navigate, as is the inventory. All in all, it would take a fussy reviewer to pick too much fault with this game’s visual style.

Gameplay

This is point and click gaming at it’s most basic. Now, don’t get me wrong, that’s not a criticism, it’s just rare finding such a pure gameplay experience these days.

Movement is controlled by clicking on the floor where you want the characters to go, single click for walk, double click for run. Objects must be searched for and found in each of the game’s 5 chapters to enable you to advance, and that’s where the earlier mentioned problem comes in. The backgrounds are so full of character and detail that it can be infuriatingly difficult looking for the often tiny clues you must find. Several times I was reduced to a straightforward pixel hunt, which did detract from the fun for a short time.

A surprising thing is the lack of real puzzles in the game. Clues are generally just laid about waiting to be picked up and for the most part read. Yes, there’s a lot of reading to do in this game and as it is integral to the plot, it can’t be skipped over.

You play mostly as Holmes but do get several opportunities to play as Watson. Everything is done with the mouse, so the controls are really easy to get to grips with. At the end of each of the 5 chapters, you are given a quiz. This sounds weird but is actually a decent way of making sure you have all of the right clues in place before you advance. Fail the quiz and you can’t progress, so as I said, the reading is important.

Sound

The sound is, for the most part, done very well. The voiceovers are convincing, not only of the main characters, but also of the non-playing characters. This has a major bearing on bringing the gameworld to life and there’s little to fault here. Music is good, but soon becomes repetitive. It can be turned off, so that’s OK with me.

Lifespan

The game has quite a complex story to get to grips with and this won’t be done in just a few hours. The game took me around 14 hours to complete, taking it at a nice pace and thoroughly reading the clues. Once you reach the end, there is little reason for the average gamer to replay as there are no branching story paths to play around with. Me? I’ll probably play through it once more just because I love the world it’s set in and the unique atmosphere it creates.

Speaking of the end of the game, it’s a little disappointing that your own sleuthing appears to have no effect on the ending. Holmes appears and goes through all relevant clues in solving the case. This is fun to watch but it doesn’t feel like you’ve done that, like you’ve created an ending.

Overall

I really like this game. As a big Holmes fan, maybe you’ll think I was bound to. But look at it another way, I was also much more likely to find fault with it, being so familiar with the books and TV series. The reality is, there’s not a lot to fault. Some will find the gameplay too slow and, dare I say it, boring. But these people will dislike the genre on the whole and that’s not a particular fault with this game.

The developers have managed to really capture the essence of Holmes’ world and his unique relationship with Dr Watson, and have wrapped it up into a genuinely interesting story. Go out and pick it up, take a chance on something different. Who knows, you might even like it!

System requirements:
Pentium III 500mhz or better
192 meg RAM or more
32MB DX9.0 compatible graphics card
Sound card
Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
1.5 gig free disc space

Reviewers machine:
Athlon XP 2800+
1 gig RAM
256 meg Geforce 6800GT
Soundblaster Audigy 2 ZS
Windows XP

8 out of 10
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