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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments Review

Sherlock Holmes has had a revival or four lately. Given the British series, Robert Downey Jr.'s theatrical antics, and the CBS series, you can Google the good sleuth and find a puzzling mix of just about everything. Holmes is now much more than the British chap in the deerstalker hat. Frogware's take on Sherlock feels like a hearty mix of just about every take.

Holmes at times struggles to stay in one genre, bending to the needs of the story, but for me, this was a benefit. While most of the game is played in first- or third-person perspective with traditional twin-stick controls, coming upon a crime scene turns it into a seek-and-find, while a worthy adversary will bring about a quicktime event. There are alchemy puzzles, archive research, pig skewering for damage comparison, and more. The game truly shows the variety of tasks needed for a master detective to unearth the clues needed to solve a mystery. Also, if one of the mini-games proves too much for you, the game will allow a skip if your puzzle solving or button mashing isn't up to par. The research sections help along as well, with Holmes tapping and saying "interesting" or "hmmm" until you finally click the right one.

Sherlock's "powers" of observation are well played in this title. When researching for clues, Holmes can "zone out" the unnecessary items, leaving gleaming clues behind in a style similar to the Batman sleuthing scenes. Holmes layers onto this with his imaginative skills, putting the clues he has found to good use as well, envisioning what happened at the time of the crime.

During interrogation, Holmes can deduce amazing solutions as well, by merely observing his subject. Clues add up: the worn hands and expensive, yet ratty, coat show Holmes that the person he speaks with is a hard worker from rich heritage that has fallen on hard times. Pointing these deductions out to those people usually leads to clues to press the case along.

Holmes takes this hodgepodge of interviews, experiments, and physical clues and makes deductions. Inside his brain, the clues will float around, and it is up to you to figure out which ones go together. Put two clues together, and a third that doesn't match fades into the background. Twist it around, and it might lead towards another potential criminal.

What I find amazing about the game is the level of choice. Most every crime has two or three people that could have done the deed, but it isn't as clear as in games like L.A. Noire. You can get just enough evidence to arrest someone and close the case, but enough digging may lead to a different result. I personally found every piece of evidence on the first case and still didn't have a full answer on who was the culprit. Even after deciding who did the deed, you can choose whether Sherlock turns them into Scotland Yard for a full trial or sees the reason behind their deed and lets them go. As much as I wish these decisions held long-term consequences, it seems your deductive changes don't sway the story much more than the occasional letter you get from the accused. A branching path would be a lot of fun, but you would also miss out on much of the story without multiple playthroughs.

I was able to try this game out on the PS4. Graphics were beautiful, and the characters did their best to stay out of the Uncanny Valley, though their stagnant stances as they wait for Holmes to arrive and arms-down chatting outside of scripted cutscenes leaves them a little stale. Holmes will at times, feel like a living being walking through a cookie-cutter world, although it is quite beautiful. Eventually the police standing in front of doors or stairs you won't need till later who politely say "Mr. Holmes..." when you try to walk by get rather taxing. The game does a good job of hiding loading times: as Holmes rides in his coach he is able to go through his notebook or deductive reasoning to pass the time much like the Great Detective would. It gets frustrating when you have to go somewhere to pick up one thing and return, but at least they were kind enough to put it in rather than just staring at stills. 

I have enjoyed my time with Sherlock in this game, and am reviewing it while I'm only about 2/3 of the way through, but I see a solid game that's worth finishing, and more than worth the time of someone who enjoys puzzling games. The puzzles feel Layton-lite, interrogations are Phoenix-worthy, QTE's are on par with others, investigating feels like Batman....overall Sherlock does a good job of mixing quite a few genres into one successful package. With a little polish on the natural movements of the characters and fleshing out the puzzles a bit, the next game in the series could easily stand with other AAA titles. It provides plenty of hours of puzzling gameplay, and the sleuth in your life is bound to enjoy this take on the classic detective.

4 out of 5

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is available both digitally and physically for PC, PS3, PS4, 360 and XB1

The PS4 version was used for review. Thanks to Frogware for providing a copy for review. 

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