The Frogwares studio has been developing Sherlock Holmes games for over ten years. Though few of their efforts have been released on home consoles, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is actually their tenth title. Like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us games, these Sherlock Holmes games have roots in the classic point and click adventure game genre. That being said, there is very little that is “retro” about Crimes and Punishments’ presentation. Utilizing the Unreal Engine 3, Crimes and Punishments is actually one of the best looking games yet on the Playstation 4.
Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and the rest of the cast in Crimes and Punishments are all well rendered, with lifelike motion-captured animations. The voice work and the rest of the audio is also well done. Considering the investigative and interrogative nature of the title, it was certainly money well spent. Except for the overuse of locked doors and invisible walls, almost everything about the experience feels authentic. The only other bit of Crimes and Punishments that feels a bit contrived, are the quick time events and mini-games.
For the most part, Crimes and Punishments plays like a standard third-person action adventure game, though the camera can be switched to first-person, with dual analog control. The difference, of course, is that Sherlock Holmes doesn’t really engage in much action. The face buttons are used either to interact, or pull out his notebook. Sherlock Holmes does have a couple of powers, mapped to the triggers that either allow him to find hidden clues or run a sequence of events through his imagination. The imagination aspect actually plays more like a mini-game, where you need arrange the known events into a logical order.
The investigations in Crimes and Punishments are primarily made up of, searching for clues and interrogations. The clue finding can occasionally be tedious, and the sometimes touchy triggers can make things difficult. On one occasion, I found a notebook and wanted to open it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t open the book until I looked at the bloodstain that was on it. There were a few other times that the interface made doing things more difficult than they need to be. Luckily, conversations are easier, though you need evidence to open up lines of questioning and some items will even lead to “gotcha” moments.
As great as it looks, Crimes and Punishments is a pretty small game. There are only six cases to investigate, with a handful of locations for each case, and most of these areas are only a couple of rooms. This means that there is a lot of running back and forth between locations, and having to sit through lots of load screens. This is most frustrating when you have to run back to your lab only to initiate an investigative mini-game. Luckily these load screen are animated, and you can dig through your notebook while you’re waiting. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of sitting around and waiting in Crimes and Punishments, even more if you want to reevaluate a solved case.
Earlier this year, I reviewed Airtight Games’ Murdered: Soul Suspect, a game that is actually pretty similar to Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. In my opinion, they’re both too short to justify a premium price tag. There is plenty to love about the game, but there are annoyances too. While I can’t argue the top notch production values of Crimes and Punishments, the size and scope of the game is significantly smaller than its competitors. Except for the most diehard fans, there is just not enough meat on this bone.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB Blood, Drug References, and Violence. This game can also be found on: PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Windows PC.
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