The Testament of Sherlock Holmes PC Review

Sherlock Holmes header

You probably already know if you’re going to spend your hard-earned cash on this latest addition to the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Everyone knows of Sherlock Holmes and his adventures with Dr. Watson and can guess that this game will require a great deal of in-depth puzzle-solving and attention to detail. So what you really want to know is how Holmes is portrayed in this new instalment, and if his last adventure lives up to those legendary Arthur Conan Doyle stories.

It’s got to be said, first and foremost, that the characters are excellently produced, from voice acting to animation. Holmes in particular is exceptionally good. He has such a wise and occasionally humorous vibe about him that you can’t help but love. Watson, on the other hand, I disliked for a portion of the game. He often states the obvious, several minutes late. For example, he states that a victim must have been tortured after examining his crushed fingers, burnt legs and bite marks. Talking to him is completely pointless as he just says “What should we do next, Holmes?” every single time, for the entirety of the game. At one specific point you must do something you know you shouldn’t – help someone you know is the bad guy in disguise, simply because Watson hasn’t figured it out yet and you have no choice but to act oblivious. Having said that, though, I began to grow fond of Watson in the later sections of the game where he grew as a character. He gained a backbone and began to speak his mind rather than follow the orders of Sherlock. I felt that this game was very much about how Watson developed into a true detective.

You’re given three different choices on how to control your characters that can be changed at any time. You can use first-person; third-person; or a point-and-click, fixed camera system. I didn’t like the third-person option because your character blocks out a large portion of the screen, and I also disliked how he would pause to turn when you chose another direction to walk. The other two options were used regularly, but neither worked perfectly well. In first-person, for example, left-mouse click is to walk forward as well as examine/interact, and if you stand too close to an object, you can’t interact with it. You can imagine how often you might need to back up a little. Turning around in a dark creepy room littered with a few corpses to see Watson’s huge head can also persuade you to change camera angle. Having the choice is OK, I guess, but if the game had been designed with only one in mind, it may have been a little closer to perfection.

Throughout the adventure you’ll have two kinds of puzzles. You have mini-games that are incredibly fun and challenging, and then you have the other kind – figuring out where to go. The mini-game types are highly enjoyable; as I write this I am surrounded by scrap paper with doodles of puzzle layouts and clues written across that I used to figure out the most intricate of puzzles. Like I said previously, finding where to go in order to follow the story is a puzzle in itself. Sometimes it can be a little frustrating when you walk around in circles for half an hour looking for that tiny bit of information. And that’s when things become repetitive.

When gathering information about what had happened and in what order, in the hope of finding a secret doorway or clues to where to look next, you must piece snippets of information together using the deduction board. On this board, you must add your own theories based on the information you found. If correct, all ideas will be linked together and questions will be answered. I enjoyed these little puzzles up until the point where I had tried what I was sure were the right answers and got it wrong somewhere. All you can really do, then, is try all other available options, and when you are given so many, it can be frustrating trying to find the correct combination.

The graphics are sure to impress anyone, especially for a mystery adventure game. The environments vary a great deal, from lush green gardens on a sunny day, to a sinister abandoned amusement park in the dead of night, and every single location is packed full of areas to search from top to bottom. But I can’t figure out why the developers held back on audio. What I mean is that when you’re told to go to a specific room and don’t know where it is, you naturally check every single room possible, and at every single one you hear Sherlock say “Closed!” in the exact same way. By the end of the game, you really want to shout, “Open it, then!” It’s the same with Watson’s “What should we do now, Holmes?” and Sherlock’s “I need something…” every time you interact with something without the correct item equipped, or when items are selected in the wrong order.

The music is also very repetitive and only changes a maximum of four times inthe entire game if I’m not mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, the music and voice acting is good – very good, in fact – but at times it can get repetitive, especially if you play for several hours in a single sitting. The odd funny comment breaks up the seriousness nicely. It’s rare and subtle, but definitely entertaining. One of my favourite bits was Watson’s thoughts on a book whilst looking for another: “‘Female Anatomy’, I should put this book somewhere else…”

The “recommend or don’t recommend” decider for me is the storyline. It’s a very well-told story in the way that when you think you have it all worked out, you’re wrong. Holmes is always one step ahead of everyone, and because of that, I began to feel like Watson was just as much a main character as Holmes, if not more so, because his thoughts and ideas became closer to that of my own. The villains you meet have distinct character that’s clearly been well thought out. They each have their own role to play and evil intentions that must be suppressed, including plans on a terrorist bombing attack, and the production of a poison capable of turning London into a horde of savage monsters little different to your typical zombies. The story is sure to keep you entertained, and the puzzles linking it all together makes this game easily worth the lengthy 15-20 hours you’ll spend with it.

Testament can’t quite make up its mind what type of game it wants to be with the change of camera location and controls, and it has its issues with repetitive sound effects, but the storytelling is top-notch. If you’re a fan of mystery games, point-and-click adventures, complicated puzzlers, or you’re just a sucker for a good story, then The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is a no-brainer.

8/10

by

Version tested: PC

Also available on: PS3, Xbox 360

Developer: Frogwares

Publisher: Focus Home Interactive

Genre: Adventure