Posted on September 26, 2012 AT 06:45pm
The World’s Greatest Detective (not you, Batman) has returned with a brand new mystery to solve, where the suspect is the most cunning person Holmes could ever go up against: himself. Done by the fine folks at Frogwares and Focus Home Interactive, The Testament Of Sherlock Holmes aimed to provide a gripping mystery through the gaming medium that fans of the franchise and of the genre will enjoy. The only problem is the game doesn’t deliver. While the story is interesting and gripping, everything else about the game falls vastly short of anything really worthwhile.
Graphically, the game is in HD, but the version of high definition put into the game is nothing more than a margin above last generation graphics rendered in a bright and shiny way to make it look better. The environments are well done, but there is nothing on any grand scale to make it too impressive, and the facial rendering is behind much of what is already out there. The voice acting (which is well done) also falls behind, with next to nothing syncing up properly during speech, making the addition of subtitles both necessary and completely pointless at the same time.
As was mentioned, the plot is very good, bringing about a twisting, turning mystery that is very interesting, but it just isn’t presented or executed very well. While playing both Holmes and Doctor Watson, players awkwardly wander around areas looking for clues, making it seem like an update to the much older genre of point and click games, such as Myst than anything modern. While Holmes’ tools are useful (the Deduction Board is a great idea), most of the uses for them are one-time, and puzzles are basically guess and check. Each different area brings its own unique ways to approach it, but by going around and clicking all the clues (while attempting in great frustration to get Holmes to actually look at the item), most pieces of the mystery can get uncovered.
Solving mysteries isn’t a particularly exciting profession in most cases, as finding information is the main thing, but this game really found a way to make the game lacking in excitement. Despite things that would seemingly be time-sensitive (helping guards escape from a trapped prison area is one example), events can be taken at leisure, with Holmes or Watson wandering aimlessly for minutes at a time while everyone in-game waits for them to get things done.
Locales are pretty standard, with prisons, crime scenes and the iconic apartment at 221B Baker Street all making an appearance, though none of them were all that interesting in an overall sense. Players basically jumped from place to place to further the plot, with Holmes and Watson commenting every so often on the surroundings or where they needed to go next.
The characters themselves were one of the few reprieves in the game, with both Holmes and Watson done incredibly well. Holmes is cunning, intelligent and a bit full of himself, and Watson is a kind-hearted, caring man who puts up with Holmes due to his affections and respect for his genius. The dynamic of the pairing is very well done, with the acting talent portraying them well, which is one of the few things in this game that could be said about.
The controls and camera work are especially frustrating, with players using the mouse to move around the player, and the keyboard buttons to move. A fine way of handling movement, but both seemingly cannot be done at the same time, which makes looking around very awkward. Different perspective modes can be used, but they do little to improve this. Walking is the biggest culprit, as the player can hit the walk button and watch Holmes attempt to move in one direction or another for several seconds before finally going in the desired direction.
Summary: Holmes titles have never been regarded as being all that good, but this one could have really changed things. What the game did well was completely covered by the major issues along the way, with movement and camera work being the chief issues. Graphics and sound were also pretty sub-par, making this game a bland execution of a mystery that could have been very interesting. A great plot was wasted on the effort to be unique, though a console build of the game may alleviate a lot of the missteps in camera control and movement. Overall, however, this game falls far short of being a gripping, hard hitting H0lmes case and falls instead to the pile of games that tried to do the legend justice and came up short.
- THE GOOD: Intriguing Plot, Good Voice Work
- THE BAD: Bland Locales, Sub-Par Graphics
- THE UGLY: Incredibly Awkward Movement/Camera Controls
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