Wot I Think: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes & Punishments

In publishing these short sketches based upon the numerous Sherlock Holmes games from Frogwares, it is only natural that I should dwell rather upon their failures than their successes. And this is not so much for the sake of their disreputation – for, indeed, it was when I was at my wits’ end that my energy and vitality were most miserable – but because where they failed is where one should not spend one’s money. And this one’s rubbish. Of Crimes & Punishments, here’s wot I deduced.

With two concurrent contemporary adaptations of Sherlock Holmes taking place – Moffat’s awful Sherlock, and Robert Doherty’s silly but splendid Elementary – it could perhaps be a pleasant treat to see someone exploring the character in his original setting. However, history has somewhat shown that this someone should perhaps not be Frogwares. Since 2002 they’ve been releasing an onslaught of particularly dreadful Holmesian adventure games, the first decade’s worth only fondly remembered for the terrifying teleporting abilities of a blank-faced Horror-Watson.

However, having given up on the series myself, Adam – with hefty qualifications – somewhat enjoyed the previous entry, so it was with renewed hope that I began Crimes And Punishments. I fear that – while an obviously vast amount of work went into this enormous game – any raise in standards hasn’t been maintained.

If you’re seeking the unifying theme that brings together these latest six episodic tales into a single game, so am I. Six unremarkable, utterly disparate tales, of wildly varying lengths and complexity, tell the sorts of stories you might imagine Doyle would have conjured on an off-day (quite a compliment, I assure you – most attempts to write in his style are usually far more disastrous than these). That they somehow have the cruel husband who might have been murdered by a suffering wife twice in six stories perhaps betrays how close they are to running out of steam, but it’s a far more sedate and sensible outing – there’s no Jack The Ripper, or allusions toward vampires, and so on. Mundane might be another word.

The series has always seen fit to play out the styles of an adventure game from a 3D third/first person perspective. Here once again you can choose to view over Sherlock’s shoulder, or through his eyes, but neither is close to good. The camera gloopily swings around, creating a gory motion sickness via a seemingly impossible combination of sluggishness and over-sensitivity. Running, which is vital if you’re not to expire of old age before finishing the game, has a treaclish staggered start, awful in first-person, repulsive in third. And the button to run constantly – and bewilderingly – changes its behaviour. Sometimes you must hold down Shift to run. Sometimes you must press it once to run. Sometimes you must press it to walk. When is arbitrary, and changes at random within scenes.

Interactive objects must therefore be faced, rather than simply clicked on with a mouse, meaning Sherlock instantly becomes a bumbling madman who must stand square to, and press his nose up against, a wall in order to look at a painting. Oh, and it starts with an attempt to be a cover-based action game, as Watson attempts to avoid a blindfolded Holmes’ gunplay.

Other mini-games that grace us along the way include a repetitive and tiresome lock-picking puzzle, playing as Toby, Watson’s dog, following scents, arm-wrestling, fisticuffs, and taking someone’s pulse. All are uniquely awful. There’s even the preposterous appearance (thank goodness twice only) of a scent-identifying puzzle in which Holmes must rotate 3D patterns until they form a vaguely xenophobic shape that identifies the smell. However, these are asides, and can mercifully be skipped via the space button if you momentarily feel above trudging your way through restoring a torn photograph, or picking your seven-thousandth lock. Required are the many mini-game-things that constitute Holmes’ main detecting palette.

The first appearance of Holmes’ extraordinary deductive skills appear when you’re told to press T to enter a mode in which the graceless detective can spot the details ordinary folk might miss. This is in black and white, because that makes sense. The first detail you’re asked to spot that mortal man cannot? Some footprints, that a police officer is currently looking at through a magnifying glass.

Click on the footprints and it zooms in for a closer look, where your task is to magnificently click on the footprints. It zooms in again, and the genius mind of Holmes informs us, “These footprints appear to be quite large.” Where would Scotland Yard be without him?

Concluding a case brings the game to its most numbingly farcical. There are a few suspects, and evidence suggesting the guilt or innocence of each. You’re asked to connect up neurons in Holmes’ brain (no, really) to form conclusions over who is guilty, based on making black/white choices over various clues. But these choices are gibberish. Someone dropped a tobacco pouch at the scene of the first crime – the murder of a former sailor, skewered to his shed wall by a whaling harpoon. You learn to whom the pouch belongs, but on nothing whatsoever must conclude whether the presence of the pouch itself proves guilt, or is merely circumstantial. It’s not until you decide definite guilt that it will allow you to connect this with other evidence, to allow you to, well, conclude that he’s guilty. It’s just incoherent. And becomes ever more so as it progresses, attempts to add complexity, false endings, and contradicts itself.

Which is a shame, as in principle it’s a rather nice way of conducting the investigation. Make connections between clues, then between the conclusions formed find further connections, until the weight of evidence points to one person. But because the game wants to be able to offer multiple conclusions to each crime, its need to let you form incorrect patterns, to find others guilty, means it by nature needs to leave it all ambiguous. Instead of actually investigating, asking pertinent questions based on your conclusions, or interrogating people to the point of eliminating them as suspects, the game allows none of this and demands semi-educated guessing.

Accuse a suspect and you’re then presented with two further options – to condemn them as a cold-blooded killer, or to suggest extenuating circumstances, even help them cover up the crime (which is a welcome inclusion in the series, since it was a frequent ending in Doyle’s stories). It then allows you to go back on that choice and replay the ending, as often as you wish, until you get the “right” one.

As things go on, this gets more opaque, and more ridiculous. The second chapter is entirely predicated upon a universe in which railway stations wouldn’t appear on a railway station map. In the third, the murder weapon is made of one of two substances. Which one the game considers “correct” is never explained, and is in fact utterly contrary to all the available evidence.

Warren Spector making a surprise cameo.

The third and fourth chapters are dramatically shorter than the first two (even accounting for the possibly extended version of the fourth), concluding long before you’d imagine. The penultimate is longer again, and deserving of a quick aside.

It’s about the murder of the director of Kew Gardens. Which is an odd choice. Using a real, renowned place (for which I have no particular affection) is strange, possibly intriguing. But diminishing it into a series of potting sheds, run by apparent idiotic amateurs, seems a bit, well, inappropriate. Kew at the time (1894) was under the directorship of William Turner Thiselton-Dyer, having previously been run by William and Jospeph Hooker – three of the most important botanists of all time (I checked). It seems peculiar to engineer a hokum fictional past, with an imagined director who was an unpleasant drunkard and bully who knew nothing about plants, running the place with abundant corruption and moral iniquity. Especially as they could just as easily have written a fictional gardens. I’d imagine Kew won’t be too delighted about it. Indeed, not the most serious matter, but still seems interesting to ponder.

Amazingly, this chapter then swerves into portraying the most stereotyped Chinese character since Big Trouble In Little China, complete with “Ah-so!” accent. That Holmes stops short of trying to order from him some “Egg flied lice” feels like a miracle.

Then the final is a middling affair of no real impact, with a sudden utterly ridiculous fifty-fifty choice of impossibly enormous consequence to make at the end.

Most grating is the technological mess. The developers appear to have poured slow-drying cement into the Unreal Engine. Everything’s so agonisingly slow. Even dialogue options crawl back and forth to highlight as you mouse over them. It’s like wading through thick soup.

Great long stuttering loading scenes pop up every time you switch between one one-room location and another. Which wouldn’t be so enormous of a problem if the game didn’t incessantly send you back and forth to say literally a single sentence to someone in one place, then another in another, then back to the first, over and over and over. There’s no sense of flow. Conversations with characters feature a list of sentences to click through over a close-up of their face, but it needs to fade to black and return to the exact same face each time they respond, at the beginning and end of every sentence.

It’s remarkably attractive – locations can often be enormous, and are invariably beautifully crafted. Over the six chapters you visit a great number of places, and even those only popped into for a moment are meticulously designed. And the characters, while certainly waxworks, are particularly good waxworks. There’s some really nice use of textures, very realistic skins, blemishes, and details. (Which are relevant to a particularly fumbled part of the game where you must look at various features of characters’ faces, clothes and bodies to discern things about them. It should have been a highlight, to be able to Sherlock it up, but it’s either forgotten or used like a heavy mallet.) But it all feels so wasted, since you’re viewing it all from the dreadful gooey movement and the frustration of having to pick through its detail to fluke upon standing near the one or two pixels with which you can interact.

The voice cast sound like an amateur dramatics society, doing the voices they remember seeing on the telly in the 70s. But over time, perhaps with Stockholm syndrome, I began to enjoy Holmes. Watson is barely used, and reduced to the boring role of being alternately dismissive or astonished. But then Sherlock Holmes keeps his chemistry instructions written in riddles. “The yellow reagent must be added three reagents after the blue reagent. The silver reagent must be added after the yellow reagent.” So I hate him overall.

There is clearly an enormous amount of work here. Not only is it interminably long, but huge effort has gone into getting the tone of the writing (if not the actual content) right, the locations lavishly crafted, and the murders possible to solve in myriad ways (to no overall effect – I’ll dispose you of that hope). Sadly, I thoroughly did not enjoy playing it. The excruciating pace, the meandering drivel that makes up most of the conversations, and its dreadful mess of load times within load times, would try patience even if the stories being told were worth it. As it is, they’re provincial affairs of no great genius or surprise, deduced by inevitability and guesswork, rather than deductive reasoning or inspiration. So, so much effort has gone into this. But sadly, to little entertaining result.

112 Comments

  1. alex_v says:

    Disappointing, as the demo I played at EGX at the weekend seemed excellent. I do think that the slight ‘jankiness’ of the series is part of its charms, if anything, but from this review it seems that it has been retained. No real mention of the Layton-style mini-game puzzles though, which for me were a massive highlight of the previous game – have they been jettisoned entirely?

  2. KingFunk says:

    Ouch. Haven’t played any of the others, but was kind of interested in this one… Less so now.

    • KingFunk says:

      Although the only other reviews I can find on t’net so far (1 PC and 1 PS4) are 1 generally positive and 1 very positive… They do pick up on some of the same gripes (loading screens, some iffy mini-games, dubious Holmes animation) but seem to enjoy the overall whole despite these.

      Not sure what to think now…

      • tobecooper says:

        Well, Frogwares Sherlock Holmes games are specific. Some people hate them (John W.) and some like them. This one seems to be just more of the same with better graphics and some new mechanics.

        So you’re better off getting one of the old Sherlock games in some $3 promo (to form an opinion) than spending big bucks on this one.

  3. Not_Id says:

    Let’s be honest; No Sherlock Holmes game is ever going to be as enjoyable as reading the stories or watching every single episode starring Jeremy Brett. And yeah John, Sherlock is bloody awful. Though I do think Cumberbatch would be great as a period Holmes.

    • blastaz says:

      I remember a Holmes game on the mega cd which was heavy on the fmv and featured a story of a tontine for the survivors of waterloo. That game was great!

  4. Gap Gen says:

    Sherlocks Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, surelys?

    • Geebs says:

      Makings the punishments fits the crimes is basically just a sorting problems.

      Also, is it ‘talks like a pagan’ day today?

  5. soulblur says:

    “Moffat’s awful Sherlock”

    You’re like a professional contrarian, John Walker. Admittedly, Sherlock had a boring season 3, but a lovely and engaging first two seasons.

    • KingFunk says:

      My opinion also. I still quite liked Season 3, but not as much as the others. Also, Moffat isn’t the only writer – Gatiss is involved as well.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        The second episode of season 3 is one of my favorite TV things ever.

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      Mungrul says:

      Yeah, I found this comment odd too. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two seasons. While I seriously disliked the end of season 3, it didn’t take away from the fact that I enjoyed the characters and the actors behind them.

    • Jonfon says:

      Elementary is splendid. Mostly thanks to the cast, Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are both brilliant on it (and I say that as someone who rolled his eyes when he heard the initial premise). The CSI style crime-of-the-week format can be a bit trying though.

      I’m fond of Sherlock too but some of them have left me cold (like whatever the hell was going on in that last one with Hannibals brother in it? Ninjas or something?)

    • webs1 says:

      Yeah, that kind of makes the message of this wot-I-think contradictory for me. If John hated Sherlock and this game, does that mean I will love the game, as well as the series?

    • Gap Gen says:

      Sherlock: “I am very clever and all other humans are garbage. The fleck of hair on your diatribe means you were in lunchtime for Sunday.”
      Woman: “I am very clever but inferior to men also naked.”
      Watson: “I’m not gay.”

      • joa says:

        People love to hate on Moffat because he doesn’t bow down to political correctness. Agree or disagree with him, at least he sticks to his guns, that’s something to respect.

        • drewski says:

          So said every totalitarian ever.

        • Scurra says:

          I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “political correctness” there?
          If you mean that Moffat creates female characters who scare a certain group of men who were expecting timid mice because then they don’t feel threatened or who scare a certain group of women because they think that men shouldn’t be allowed to write any sort of female characters at all, then yes, I agree with you.
          If, however, you are a signed up member of the “Moffat is a misogynist” group, then I think I have to profoundly disagree with you.
          Whilst there are good arguments to be made on both sides, my own feeling is that the simple fact that there are good arguments to be made on both sides means that it isn’t as simple as that. (But I do think that the blanket statement made by Mr Walker is completely absurd. “Not for me” maybe. But “awful” requires one to ignore things that really are awful.)

          • joa says:

            I’m not arguing either way about whether he is or is not a misogynist.

            All I know is that he gets a lot of heat from left-wing social justice warrior types and he doesn’t back down from what he’s doing — he even makes jabs at them in his work. I think that’s worthy of some respect. Even if his TV shows are otherwise not to my liking.

        • Geebs says:

          Moffat’s too much of a hack to ever express any opinions, political or otherwise.

          It’s a shame that Elementary has started to eye up the nearest cartilagenous-boned fishoid and dust off the surfboard, but at least it lasted a couple of pretty decent seasons.

        • Bradamantium says:

          I don’t know that a steady stream of gay jokes, misogyny that swings between tacit and explicit, and vague occasional racism are really “not bowing to political correctness” as much as the crutch of a fella who can’t fill out his show’s time slot worth a damn, with a side helping of “Eh, plenty of people like it, why should I make more of an effort?”

          I liked the first and second seasons of Sherlock alright, except for the both of them having miserable middle episodes, but the third was like Moffat tapdancing around criticism and exacerbating every aspect people had a problem with, on top of being great big piles of meh to begin with.

        • Jeroen D Stout says:

          All hail, Steven Moffat, He Who Does Not Bow to basic human decency. Let us praise him for—in spite of living in a world where one could grow in character beyond a narrow, petty view of people—stick to his damp guns. Because “Women”, whaddajoke, am-I-right-fellahs?

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      John Walker says:

      The first three were reasonably fun. The second three were trying. The third three were abominable.

      • Humanji says:

        Has Adam played this one? Just curious to see what his opinion of it is, if he somewhat enjoyed the previous one and since you didn’t. I kind of enjoyed the last one as well, so was quite looking forward to this.

        • Pazguato says:

          Yes, we already know John’s opinion on Sherlock’s Frogware. A different view from now on would be fine.

      • Barchester says:

        How on earth do you keep having the exact opposite opinions to my own? Are you a mind-reader, mr. Walker?

      • Thirith says:

        I’m okay with people disliking what I like and vice versa, and I’m sure a great conversation could be had with you over why Sherlock is or isn’t abominable, John, but that sort of drive-by sideswipe is a writerly quirk I find annoying as hell, because it makes me feel that the writer in question divides the audience into those who agree on tangential point A and those who don’t. Because it’s just a two-word dismissal, it feels (at least to me) like you’re not just dismissing the series but also those who might like Sherlock which is not even worth discussing for more than two words. Judgment has been rendered and that’s that.

        It may be a silly, overly sensitive reaction on my part, but it automatically makes me want to read what follows much less, because dismissiveness pisses me off. Work up a righteous anger, fine, or actually dedicate a couple of lines to what you’re glibly dismissing, but “Yeah, property X is horrible. (You disagree? Tough.)” gets up my nose – doubly so if it comes from someone whose opinion I am generally interested in and who I respect.

        • John Connor says:

          You realize you are on rockpapershotgun.com, right?

          They used to be good until they started getting all their opinions from Tumblr.

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            Wisq says:

            I’m continually confused by people who seem to only come to the site in order to talk about how terrible it’s become. What keeps you coming back if that’s how you feel?

            No, this is not a thinly-veiled “love it or GTFO” defense comment. You do what you want; I’m just curious as to the why. Because when I see people sit around on a site complaining about how awful that site is, I’m left wondering whether they’re being hyperbolic, or don’t have anywhere better to hang out, or just trying to start a fight, or what.

    • Pazguato says:

      With that provocative and unnecessary remark now I’m willing to give an opportunity to this game despite (or better, because of) what Mr. Walker wrote.

      An adventure games reviewer criticising one of the most well written series of the last decade is sadly descriptive.

      “Awful”…

      • fredc says:

        “one of the most well written series of the last decade” had me sitting through an hour and a bit of masturbatory self-congratulation last year in that episode where the writer/s basically took out their anger about nerds criticising them on the internet.

        The premise was interesting in the first series. It jumped the shark fairly quickly when the writers got bored/lazy, stopped doing plot and narrative (you know, detectivey mystery type stuff) and started resolving the fundamental tensions between the characters – the road which inevitably leads to Coronation Street. It then went beyond that particular shade of awful when it became about the script team’s neuroses and the mean things said to them late at night in the Garrick.

        But Benedict Cummerbund is fun to watch and the special effects are cool, I guess?

        • Pazguato says:

          ” an hour and a bit of masturbatory self-congratulation last year in that episode where the writer/s basically took out their anger about nerds criticising them on the internet.”

          Yeah. I remember that! It was brilliantly fun XD

      • ncnavguy says:

        I had written this game off as bad because of this review, but was swayed by a friend. I picked it up and love it. I am a person who is unashamedly bad at puzzle games and will get frustrated and quit after 20 mins or so. I have to say this game was a real suprise, its cases are fun and logical and with following the correct clues and making good deductions it no question who the killer is for each. The production values are high with good voice acting and very nice character models. I have honestly found something great and new in this game. I’m really glad I didn’t just go off of this review I would have missed a true gem.

    • kwyjibo says:

      If you only watch the second episode in each series, it’s awful.

      The other episodes are good. Although the bit where Mary is a black-ops assassin is fairly inexcusable.

    • zapatapon says:

      Since I found the 2 first seasons to be rather meh, your comment confirms my resolution to stop it at that.

    • Philomelle says:

      Sherlock is pretty much every other bad Sherlock Holmes series ever, down to Holmes being miswritten as an arrogant cockmongler instead of aloof, Watson being miswritten as incompetent and stupid in order to make Holmes look smarter, and Moriarty being miswritten as a comical mustache-curling villain. The only difference it has from the old ones is that it’s incredibly pretty and the music is nice.

      Also, A Scandal in Belgravia felt like the longest episode I’ve ever seen out of any TV-show, it dragged on so badly.

      In its defense, England is infamous for producing the worst adaptations of Sherlock Holmes on the planet. It’s on a level where the fireplace in the Sherlock Holmes museum is decorated by the portrait of Vasily Livanov, the actor who played Holmes in the Soviet adaptation, rather than any British actor who tackled the role.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I was okay with John Walker being wrong, but now I feel the need to defend my favorite video version of Holmes in the comments.

      I like Sherlock for two reasons.

      (1) I feel Sherlock and Watson’s dynamic is accurately represented in the series (Watson is not useless, but Sherlock has always been the brains of the outfit). In fact, season 3 gave a refreshing take on the relationship that actually serves as an entirely valid alternative reading of the original characters (Watson as an adrenaline junky and Sherlock as a showman – both of which could be seen as true).

      (2) The mysteries are *interesting* (except for Season 3 episode 3). Every single episode (less one) has a mystery that relies on logic Conan-Doyle might have used, but without repeating the same “locked-door” mystery that every other show has used and without hiding evidence from the audience.

      Honestly, Sherlock is my most anticipated show ever. I really wish the Hobbit wasn’t being made, because I want more Sherlock.

      • Arathorn says:

        I also wish the Hobbit wasn’t made, for other reasons.
        I like Sherlock though. I even liked Hound of the Baskervilles, even though I’m apparently supposed to hate that one. The series 3 finale was a copout though, though the original story has him almost murdering the blackmailer only to deliver a deus ex machina to do it for him.

        • SuddenSight says:

          Yeah, I quite like Season 3 up until the last 5 minutes of the last episode. That ending wasn’t the best, even if it was close to the source material. I even like Mary as a character, even though it is a little silly.

    • Kittim says:

      Bah, Walker’s doing click bait on the whole Sherlock thing, look at the ratings Johnny boy.

  6. Zallgrin says:

    Sounds like it’s as good and as bad as the former Sherlock Holmes games, which means pick up at discount for me. These games got certain charm I find hard to explain.

  7. Kaben says:

    Ah, well at least we have solved the mystery of the podcast.

  8. Ross Angus says:

    The camera gloopily swings around, creating a gory motion sickness via a seemingly impossible combination of sluggishness and over-sensitivity.

    – so like being a cocaine then? Ludonarrative consonance!

  9. Gilead says:

    The problem here is that while I didn’t get into the earlier Sherlock Holmes games, finding them a bit too wooden and fiddly, I did like most of Testament, finding it a measurable improvement over Awakened, which was definitely better than those that came before it.

    I was hoping that Crimes & Punishments would continue the improvements, even if it wasn’t perfect, but I can’t really tell whether or not that’s true from this Wot I Think because John apparently hated all the previous games in the series apart from the last one, which he hasn’t played. Maybe Adam should have reviewed this one?

  10. Barchester says:

    Hmm, I actually enjoyed the better half of all the Sherlock games Frogwares put out. Especially the ones after The Awakened are quite alright. I also quite enjoy Moffat’s Sherlock. I can understand when it’s not someone’s cup of tea, but Sherlock is by no means “awful.”

    Then again, I also can’t see how you, John Walker, can love Escape from Monkey Island over its predecessor, Curse of Monkey Island, so I’ll give this one a go as soon as the price drops.

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      John Walker says:

      I’m sure I’ve publicly admitted I was wrong about that.

      Yes, I did, here: link to eurogamer.net

      • Barchester says:

        I somehow seem to have managed to miss that, and I offer you my humble apologies.

      • cubs1917 says:

        Oh good, then you’ve had some practice for when you’ll have to apologize about not being able to separate personal biases from reviews, and that terribly blatant flamebait about the new Sherlock series.

        It must be nice.

  11. Tyk-Tok says:

    To be honest, I think a lot of the criticisms here are ones that can be laid at the feet of the series as a whole. And it’s just silly to not like something because Jack the Ripper isn’t in it.

    Also, it seemed like Black Peter was one of the stories in the game, which WAS a Conan Doyle story.

  12. CelticPixel says:

    Damn : (

  13. 9of9 says:

    At last, someone who concedes Elementary’s vast superiority to Sherlock!

    • Pazguato says:

      He will publicly admit he was wrong in ten years.

    • webs1 says:

      That’s the one thing I am going to take away from this article: give Elementary a try!

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        Your mileage may vary, but I am a firm believer that Elementary is excellent as long as you stick to the rule of “only season 1 exists.” It is a nice little series, though.

    • RedViv says:

      I am continuously baffled by how much I loathe Moffat’s recent work. Why have only one show about a really bad person who is nonetheless admired no matter how much sense it makes, when you can have TWOOO? Throw in some exotic perils and oh those darn womens amirite, and go!

      • soulblur says:

        I don’t think Tintin was such a bad person. He meant well, at any rate.

      • Bradamantium says:

        I think maybe the BBC put in for a buy-one-get-one deal on Moffat shows before they realized exactly what it was they were getting.

  14. Dodj33 says:

    i’m pretty sure you should be supporting Ukraine developers. don’t they have enough on their plate?

  15. Koozer says:

    “…playing as Toby, Watson’s dog, following scents, arm-wrestling, fisticuffs, and taking someone’s pulse.”

    Why does this dog not have his own game?

  16. Lars Westergren says:

    Someone should write an article about the history these “draw conclusions from clues to show that you paid attention to the plot” puzzles in adventure games. I like the idea, but I don’t know if they have ever been implemented well. You always have the problem that options have to be explicitly listed, so the player can’t do any sort of leaps of lateral thinking or…that thing where you find sudden parallels in different problem domains and can apply lessons from one in the other, I forget the word. Help!?

    One way of tackling this is to overwhelm with options, so that manually trying all combinations takes too long time, as do thinking about the plausibility of each combination. Like in Detective Grimiore, where you have a long list of items and words and have to combine them to continue: ‘This *tourist attraction* is *too remote* to *have any visitors*”‘

    I think I first saw the mechanic in a Swedish game probably just called “Polis”. After investigating the crime scene and interviewing suspects, you got stuck in a dream sequence and had to select a couple of likely scenarios from a collection of deliciously hammy full motion video sequences. For instance if learned that the parents of the young victim who was drowned in the pool at a friend’s party were religious fundamentalists, and you then asked them a lot of questions about their beliefs, you had one sequence of them speaking in tongues, crying and screaming about sin, and then running into the party and drowning the kid. Which was totally absurd for various reasons. If you selected that one, you got locked out of certain dialogue options with other suspects, which made it impossible to solve the crime, but you didn’t know this until the whole week in game time had passed.

    • tumbleworld says:

      Someone has, in fact — Richard Cobbett, yesterday.
      link to richardcobbett.com

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      I rather liked Discworld Noir, it loosely provided you with clues which you could combine with one-another, items, characters and hotspots. The game even handled you asking various characters about various clues well, with unique responses. I think the later parts of the game did not have the same quality as the earlier, it was a bit starved of clues, but the earlier parts of the game seem to work in a really good way. It definitely would be worth following as a mechanic.

    • SuddenSight says:

      Not exactly what you wanted, but just before the big reveal in Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief the game gives you the chance to guess who the master thief is. After learning the truth I must admit it is *almost* deducible (some characters are more suspicious than others) but I will tip my hat to you if you get it correct (I didn’t). It doesn’t matter anyway, getting it correct only changes ~3 minutes of dialog.

  17. romeurosa says:

    To everyone out there who is or aspires to be a commenter, reviewer, let’s player, “whateverer”.
    This is how you make sure nothing of what you wrote is of actual importance to the review:

    –> “Moffat’s awful Sherlock” <–

    All credibility gone, objectivity thrown out the window. Nobody is even looking at the game anymore, all anyone can think about is that quote.
    Also on my opinion, anyone who says this about Moffat's Sherlock is clearly delusional.
    Not liking is one thing, calling it awful is just straight out lying.

    • drewski says:

      Good thing RPS have never ever claimed to give a rat’s toss about objectivity, then!

    • Tyk-Tok says:

      Nah, S3 got really bad. I had been a fan until then.

    • Volcanu says:

      Have you read much on RPS before? It’s kind of their whole thing that they don’t do reviews (in the traditional sense) and that they don’t make any pretence about striving for an objectivity that is pretty much impossible to ever achieve.

      I may not always agree with the writers, but at least most of the writing is of a high standard, is entertaining and for the most part also manages to be informative.

      Clearly John doesn’t like “Sherlock” but how is calling it awful, “out right lying”? It’s all a matter of opinion, don’t take it so personally.

    • stiffkittin says:

      I detest Sherlock and know for a fact there are plenty of us out there. It’s smug and predictable; its characters as deep as toilet tissue; the contrived plots require altogether too many narrative conceits to prop up the main character’s cuh-razy idiosyncrasies; I can’t stand Freeman, who has 0 range and effectively plays himself in everything he’s in; and the visual design is soulless and sterile, like watching a cellphone or tablet commercial. The only saving grace is Cumberbatch, who does an excellent job selling Holmes but is powerless to save it because ultimately the character as written is hollow and charmless.

      In short, just because it’s one of the more popular ‘geek’-hero shows to have hit mainstream success (subsequently taking on ‘trending’ as a core design tenet) and falls over itself to produce quotable dialogue, doesn’t place it above perfectly valid, subjective criticism.

      And I say all this as someone who actually quite likes some of Moffat’s more off-the wall Who episodes.

    • Philomelle says:

      Would you say John lost about as much credibility as Sherlock did when it had a trained soldier who spent enough years on the front lines to develop PTSD, abandon a woman who is being targeted by assassins in the middle of a museum occupied by said assassins despite being given an explicit order to not do so, then cluelessly wander around until that woman is killed?

    • Premium User Badge

      ErraticGamer says:

      I like Sherlock, despite some of its flaws. John clearly does not like Sherlock.

      I find myself able to read his words about a Sherlock Holmes video game calmly and without upset, in spite of this divergence of opinion.

      • Vandelay says:

        I like Sherlock too. Even the recent series, although the last episode was a bit stupid (ok, not just a bit.)

        I was perfectly capable of shrugging my shoulders and moving on with the review though. I’ve discovered that the Internet hates most things I like (like Moffat’s other show.)

    • Bradamantium says:

      Lying indeed! I’m sure John’s on a marathon rewatch even as we speak, with a great big bowl of popcorn in his lap and a sneer on his lips for having had us gullible readers. As if someone could ever think a show is awful! Ha!

  18. phelix says:

    There’s even the preposterous appearance (thank goodness twice only) of a scent-identifying puzzle in which Holmes must rotate 3D patterns until they form a vaguely xenophobic shape that identifies the smell

    What in the name of Smingleigh’s exquisite twirlsome mustache is a “vaguely xenophobic shape”?

  19. Vast_Girth says:

    This review seems very harsh. Its getting well reviewed elsewhere and i thoroughly enjoyed the last few games in the series. John obviously isn’t a fan and that’s fine, but getting someone who clearly hates the whole series to review the latest seems a bit unfair. I’m going to pick this up after it drops in price a bit.

    Also, calling sherlock awful. That’s just flamebait. You’re better than that John.

    • drewski says:

      No, he really does think Moffat’s a juvenile manchild who can’t write a decent non-straight male character to save his life*.

      Now, maybe dropping a Moffat reference into this review is a slight troll but it’s definitely not artifice on John’s behalf. He detests Moffat’s work.

      *This is a paraphrase of the nicer criticisms John’s made of Moffat.

    • DrollRemark says:

      What a sorry state this world is in when expressing an opinion on the internet is now “flamebait”.

      • Jeroen D Stout says:

        Only unpopular opinions like “Moffat has genuinely made a wreck of Doctor Who” and “women are OK,” are flame-bait, the rest is resisting political correctness gone mad.

  20. Dodj33 says:

    why do people care what RPS think about television series? RPS are not TV critics. They might as well be watching reruns of Miami 7

  21. BTA says:

    Because of your TV opinions being what they are, I feel I can trust you (as Sherlock is barely decent at its best and Elementary is often excellent). Which is almost unfortunate, because I was hoping Sheven would be good, since I’m planning to play through the series at some point.

  22. Gog Magog says:

    Sherlock Holmes is so fucking awful that his very own creator tried to murder him only to give up on doing so because not even that was a worthwhile effort.

  23. ain says:

    Staring Eyes

  24. RogerioFM says:

    You can always rely on John, now I’m sure I’m going to love this game.

  25. jomurph86 says:

    “Moffat’s awful Sherlock” – Booooooooooooo!

    But I’ll have to give Elementary a spin.

    I’m a very slow-paced, read everything, do everything, think about everything type gamer and I find these games a little too slow. I have 5 half finished Sherlock games from the same line sitting in my Steam library. Probably be adding this one to that list, if I’m perfectly honest… *sigh*

  26. Premium User Badge

    ErraticGamer says:

    On the other side of the pond, Justin McElroy over at Polygon has called this “the best Sherlock has been” and gives it an 8.

    So opinions differ. ;)

    • The First Door says:

      Which is brilliant, isn’t it? You can read reviewers who have similar opinions to yours and it allows you to be much more informed about whether you are likely to enjoy a game.

      Mr. Walker, with a few notable exceptions, has become one of those reviewers who I use as an opposite-reviewer. I tend to invert his opinion on things, as he’s often clearly completely wrong, to see whether I’ll enjoy a game.

      Still, always good to have both opinions to help you decide!

  27. derbefrier says:

    I find it surprising Sherlock is such a devisive thing. Its got its good episodes and not so good episodes like any other show. Overall I enjoyed the series though season 3 seemed to go overboard a bit and is my least favorite, which. Seems to be the general consensus.

    On the game itself, I played the last one and thought it was okay may pick this up on a sale or something eventually

    • Mitthrawn says:

      I thought Sherlock was generally loved, at least as many are saying until S3 Ep3. The casting in my opinion is excellent and I like how the hour and a half episodes let the stories breath. I have to say I haven’t seen elementary but from the promos and bits I’ve caught it seems, well, “obvious” is the word I would use. The jokes, the beats, the stories, the characterization.

      I don’t give a toss what Moffat “believes”, or any kind of internet furor he may stir. I just care whether he can make a story and characters I can sink into, which he and Gatiss have, in my opinion (again, except the last episode).

  28. Jamesworkshop says:

    ROCK,PAPER,SHOTGUN
    TV watching since 1873

    If opinions offend people, they should not be reading opinions.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    John, people get confused because whenever you give one of these statements (awful Moffat) you should give reasons of why do you have that opinion. Even in one line, because they actually fit. You never told, in this WOT, what were the problems with previous Frogwares adventures (and highlighted the less of its problems, the popping Watson, one that only was noticed because of a meme, but belongs to a game what has serious issues with writing, characterization, design, textures… hey, I am not doing YOUR job!), and you alienated your audience. If you were not the lead writer here, I would reject this text and ask you to write it again.

    Hm.

  30. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    Wot?! Moffat’s “awful” Sherlock? I thought Elementary was pretty bad, but the BBC Sherlock is not only great, but some of the best stuff I’ve seen, regardless of being about Sherlock. I don’t think that means I’ll like this game, though.

  31. malkav11 says:

    I think you’ve made a typo. You used the word “awful” in conjunction with Sherlock when you clearly meant to use the word “brilliant”.

    I’ve only seen one episode of Elementary so far, but it did also seem pretty fun, albeit suffering from the issues that most US network television does, particularly procedurals of this sort. I.e., limitations on content because we are a nation of prudes and this is broadcast on the public airwaves, limited episode length that must be broken up for incessant advertising, a certain amount of formula, seasons that are dragged out to 20+ episodes because that’s just how it’s done even though I invariably lose steam partway through anything over maybe 12-13 episodes…

    • Mitthrawn says:

      I agree with this man and not John (I still like you John, and you’re generally right about adventure games, but I’m not sure about your taste in TV. Although you were right about Marvel Agents of Shield. That WAS, in fact, terrible).

  32. heyhellowhatsnew says:

    I logged in just to say you’re absolutely bonkers to think that the BBC version of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbund Eggs Benedictsnatch is bad. You have bad taste. Bad. *slaps your hand* bad.

    It has to be a UK thing.. because only a brit would think Benedork Rimbdybottoms Sherlock is bad, but love Dr. Who and Total Biscuit, who is racist and misogynist and a huge bigot but when he became internet famous he acted like he never said all those awful things on the Something Awful Games forum.

    In short. You still have a Queen. BBC’s Sherlock is terrific. Smoke weed everyday.

  33. JiminyJickers says:

    I grabbed the previous ones on sale and quite enjoyed them. Definitely not top quality games but enjoyable. It looks like I will be waiting for another sale before grabbing this one.

  34. Ravenine says:

    Having played through the first chapter, I must say I disagree about the whole “neuron connecting” thing being “incoherent”. You must first conclude the two primary suspects are innocent (which requires some lateral reasoning, as you’re not explicitly told anywhere in the chapter that they’re not), in order to link the third suspect to the murder. If lateral thinking WAS, in fact, applied, it’s quite a simple conclusion.

    (Trying to avoid spoilers here, it’s not easy.) You can easily conclude one primary suspect was too weak to commit the murder, there was no evidence of the second being in the room, whereas the third was both quite capable and was proven to have been present (if you find all the clues, that is).

    In summary, makes perfect sense to me, though I do tend to like trying to twist my brain into a Sherlock shape. Perhaps the latter chapters will disappoint, but so far I have very few problems (barring the requirement for detective vision when something is quite bloody obvious to ME from the scene I am looking at; for example, the lock being scratched in Chapter 1) with this game.

  35. moocow says:

    Backseat editing: move the Moffat comment to the bottom of the review, so more people might actually read it before having an argument in the comments about the relative merits of TV Sherlocks.

  36. Llewyn says:

    Frankly, who cares? What does Adam think of this one?