Review: The Testament Of Sherlock Holmes
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is Frogwares' sixth adventure game featuring the expert problem solver. We delve deep into a world where not all is as it seems. Does it deliver on testing our problem solving abilities?
- Worth The Time?Yes, but only if you have lots of patience and the mystery is gone when you've completed the game.
- Things LovedSolid writing; Everything is interwoven into each other and makes for a solid and sensible ending; Unexpected story twists; Beautiful looking environments; Memorable events; The exploration of Holmes' character and dwindling trust makes for a unique story.
- Things HatedInconsistent voice acting quality; Clunky controls; Stiff and doll-like animations of some characters; Buggy deduction board interface; Difficulty of puzzles can be excruciating; Lack of instructions; Nobody can do something for themselves therefore Holmes and Watson sometimes becomes errand boys.
- RecommendationIf your looking for a game that will test your mind's capability and patience or you're looking for something different than the usual shooting fest. Feel free to try this one.
- Name: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
- Genre: Adventure
- Players: 1 Player
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: PC, Xbox 360 and PS3
- Developer: Frogwares
- Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
- Price: PC: R300, Xbox 360 and PS3: R450
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Victorian London; 1898.
The streets of London are filled with hunger, sickness, corruption and prostitution. Hospitals are filling up, cemeteries all the same. Drunken inebriates on every second corner. Mobile soup kitchens handing out soup to the needy. Is there no end to the merciless grasp of the vile streets of the Whitechapel area?
This journey makes way for our protagonist and his trusty assistant. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson. These characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have certainly solved a lot of mysteries throughout their lives. Don’t be mistaken; there are a lot of mysteries to be had.
Our story begins by Sherlock and Watson being called in to solve a case on the theft of an irreplaceable set of jewellery. Holmes solves this case rather quickly and in the most idiosyncratic of fashions. Later, the necklace’s owner reveals that the returned trinket is indeed a fake. Holmes’ reputation begins to dwindle. Couple that with a newspaper journalist dead-set on destroying Holmes’ reputation and we find ourselves in a rather sticky and desperate situation.
Being a strong story-driven game with lots of little twists and turns; I feel I should not elaborate on the plot too much. I’ve decided to break the review into segments, talking about the different aspects and only focusing on it without spoiling the story or events.
This game has so much going for it and while it saddens me to say; there is also a lot bringing it down. Let’s examine these, shall we?
Not based on any of the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or real life events; The Testament of Sherlock Holmes focuses more on Holmes as a character, alongside a complex investigation, rather than focusing solely on the investigation. Happenings from the start of the game carry through to the very end and clearly show the amount of attention given to the story and complex investigation.
At the very beginning of the game; a small group of children explore the attic of a house, going through the goods stored there. They find a book containing a story of Sherlock Holmes’ investigation. The investigation mentioned above. They clearly need a smack or two for rummaging through belongings that don’t belong to them. Nevertheless, they start reading and our adventure unfolds. Every now and then, we are brought back to the group of children talking about the story and we’re shown what they think about it. As the story progresses, the mystery as to who these children are, gets revealed.
If you have played through some of Frogwares’ previous Sherlock Holmes titles, you’ll have a rather fine idea of what to expect.
You may choose to play from a first person or third person perspective. Either way works, but I preferred to play in third person. It’s probably Holmes’ top-hat and coat that piqued my interest. I enjoyed the third person mode more in this title, whereas I preferred the first person mode in Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack The Ripper. It depends entirely on the player. I feel that I had a more “open” view when playing in third person.
The ways of selecting clues differ slightly, depending on what perspective you play from. In first person you look at the clue or object and examine it. In third person perspective you have a broader range to choose from, resulting in being able to choose from a group of clues. Press A to examine the clues in that area and then use the left analogue stick to choose from those available to you. It takes a fraction longer, but the way of selecting clues makes sense.
Speaking of clues; you’ll gather lots and lots of clues and objects throughout the game. While searching any given area, the icons for interactive objects will differ. If it’s something you can examine, a magnifying glass is displayed, while something you can use or pick up, a little hand is displayed for it. There is a hint option that enables you to press LT and all the clues or interactive objects within your view will be shown. Be sure to use this tool at your disposal frequently.
Examining objects will help the story to progress, and all story essential objects must be examined before you’re able to progress. Objects that you have picked up can be combined to make something new. For example: two wooden poles and a length of wire can be combined to make one long pole to reach something that was out of reach before. It’s easy to combine; just go into your inventory, click on an object and place it in the block of another item and voila! The main grudge I have against the combining items idea is the fact that you are never instructed to do so. If I didn’t play the previous titles and didn’t know I could do that, how am I supposed to know that? Any newcomers will be irked by this, without a doubt.
If you want to use a previously picked up item on something in the environment, you select the item by pressing either LB or RB while not in the inventory system. The object you’re about to use or try using, is displayed in the top right corner of the screen. Say you’ve picked up a key somewhere and would like to try it on a locked door, simply scroll through the items you currently have with one or both of the bumper keys, when the key in question is displayed simply walk up to the door again and press A. If it is the right key, you’ll be able to progress.
While inside your inventory, you may also use the LB and RB buttons to switch though various interfaces. Besides the inventory, you’ll be able to scroll through all the conversations that have taken place through the game. And believe me when I say, there’s plenty to go around.
Another section contains all the notes you’ve picked up through your journey. If you’re a fan of reading; you won’t be disappointed. It gives the already solid story more background.
A deduction section can be found in one of the sections in the inventory. There’s only three of these deduction sequences throughout the game, and in my opinion it’s more than enough. These deduction boards string together all the clues and key elements taken into account. Everything is laid out before you. You then have to make your own deductions based on all the clues you’ve gathered so far. You’re usually given three options to choose from. Some of these options are pretty straight forward with the right answer being fairly obvious. Later on, you’ll be tested with choices that may be very similar, making these decisions more difficult.
The main gripe I had with this system is that although it is presented logically, the end result will only be displayed as correct when you have answered all the options correctly on any given deduction page. While that all makes sense in an adventure game’s way of not making things too easy, which is understandable. All of this makes sense, but all the fun and joy of being clever get yanked away when the game is not registering all the choices you’ve made. During one specific deduction board the options I chose were indeed correct, but the game wasn’t progressing. All my answers were either coloured white or red when it should’ve been green. Green is what we’re looking for. I went online to look at a walkthrough and made sure my choices were indeed correct. If my answers were incorrect, I wouldn’t have complained about this, but when your choices are not registering and leaving you hanging without knowing your mistake, the fun is swept away. To fix this I chose different answers and selected the correct ones I initially had, and only then was I able to proceed.
The last section in the inventory system grants you the ability to change between Sherlock and Dr. Watson. It makes for some nice and collaborative ways of solving puzzles, but once again I’m complaining about no instruction being given to do so at a later stage. You were being told you have the ability to do so earlier in the game, and that is probably instruction enough, but you’re never told how to do so. If I didn’t go messing around in the inventory system, would I still be stuck in that part of the game?
Like I said, it’s an adventure game and it makes sense to figure these things out, but what about the people with less patience? It’s not game-breaking, but it certainly doesn’t help the people with anger management issues. Let this be a warning to people struggling with anger management and have a tendency to snap game discs out of frustration; do not play this.
The game features a lot of puzzles. Really, there’s a lot of puzzles to test your mind. Some of them will test your mind so extensively, you will have to take enough patience pills and possess hair with abnormally strong roots in order to survive the amounts of hair-pulling frustration some puzzles can and will convey. The puzzles vary from simple, manageable and just plain evil when difficulty is examined under the microscope. The instructions are once again the main thing irking me. The puzzles very seldom have guidelines as to what you should be doing. I persisted and finished all the puzzles. It took unholy amounts of time to do so, but finishing a puzzle can feel very rewarding. If you’re reading this and thinking the evil difficulty is a deal breaker, don’t run away just yet. You have the option to skip most puzzles. I would only advise this when you sincerely have no more patience left in the reservoir.
The Sights and Sounds
The game’s sound effects are nothing revolutionary. It does the job and that’s that. The voice acting can be very inconsistent. Normally this wouldn’t be that big an issue, but for a game that focuses on narrative as much as this game, I feel more attention could’ve been given here. Sherlock’s voice acting is probably the only one I have no complaints about, but some of the characters you’ll encounter in the game are cringe-worthy. Sometimes it provided a laugh, but I don’t think that was indeed the intention.
The game’s animations have a very stiff and sometimes doll-like quality to it. It just made me realise how used we’ve become to the sleek animation of today’s AAA titles. It’s not game-breaking, but it will certainly be noticed. Especially in cases with the children reading about Sherlock’s adventures and some characters that have a very small role in the game. The mouth animations are also something I should mention, it’s not great. It conveys the feeling that the characters are indeed talking, but the overall feeling I got is that it felt rushed. The eyes of most characters look like they are indeed trying to stare into your soul and set it ablaze.
The looks on the other hand is where the game shines. Although some characters have very bland and lacklustre textures, the environments are wonderfully detailed and really bring Victorian London to life. You’ll investigate locations such as the Whitechapel area, an Opium Den, the Kensington Gardens, a prison, abandoned warehouses, and a carnival themed area. The locations have lots of detail and scouring them for clues will be a feast for the eyes.
The game’s controls are straightforward and simplistic. No wrist-wrenching manoeuvres must be achieved to get from point A to point B. The way your character controls is somewhat of a problem at times. Whether I played as Sherlock or Watson, I sometimes got stuck in a running animation. This always happened when I sometimes tried opening a door. The only remedy for this is to press the B button, take a few steps away from the door and try again. Either that or the controls not responding when trying to enter a room you’ve just opened the door for. It’s easily fixed but not something you can look over by the fiftieth door that causes this.