Sherlock Holmes has a name as recognizable in popular culture as Superman and, with his sidekick Dr. Watson, has put almost as many criminals behind bars as Batman and Robin. While he was never known as a super hero, this fictional character possessed an unbelievable ability to solve mysteries. Long before the age of CSI and their fancy laboratories, he was able to enter a room and deduce what happened by examining things in a meticulous manner, and then draw his conclusions from his findings.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes opens with our detective on the case of a missing set of priceless jewels. In a locked room, with no one entering or leaving, these jewels have seemingly vanished into thin air. It is in this setting that you are introduced to the gameplay of the title.
Never having played as Sherlock Holmes, I was a little apprehensive about it. How could I, just an everyday gamer, be able to deduce things as the great Sherlock without feeling like the developer just handed the answer to me? At the same time, if it took me a week to get through just one chapter, would that keep me from playing through the whole game? This is where the developer did a good job of finding that happy medium between difficulty and playability.
Your task at hand may seem overwhelming at first, but once you enter the room in question, you have a unique tool at your disposal. By pressing L2 at any given time, Sherlock uses his sixth sense to locate areas that need to be investigated as well as items that can be interacted with. Anywhere you see the magnifying glass icon or small hand are points of interest. Some items are gathered and will need to be further investigated back at 221B Baker Street, while other items, such as corpses, will hold vital clues to your investigation. I found myself leaving no stone unturned, and discovered almost all of the clues without using Sherlock’s sixth sense, but eventually it did come in handy.
A second case finds Sherlock in need of special analysis that isn’t available to him in the field, and we return to his home at 221B Baker Street to find a nice set of investigative tools that seem well before their time. Chemical analysis of liquids can be completed using a sophisticated system of secondary chemicals that, once mixed with the chemical in question, changes color and is separated out into small piles. Using a small spreadsheet like board you can note how many piles of each color resulted, and then use those numbers to deduce what the original substance was and if it was fatal.
Through each case our beloved Dr. Watson is there to assist us. Occasionally you’ll get to play as the good doctor, and as you progress further through the adventure, his path becomes vital. There’s also a point where you’ll play as a basset hound, and that was more fun than playing as Watson. Any good detective knows that the best way to solve a mystery is to keep a written record of the clues and to use a nice flow chart to help draw your conclusions. The game uses a Deduction Table to assist you in this way. It is a helpful and interactive flow chart that keeps track of main areas of each investigation, and then asks pertinent questions in each area. Finding the right answers will then lead you to the proper conclusion, and the proper criminals.
Along your way through the story you will come across puzzles that can be mind boggling at times. There is always a quick skip feature after a few moments of pondering, and some puzzles are a bit tricky. The puzzles are one of the true shining points of the game. The level of difficulty and intricate designs are well thought out, and also fit the time period.
The overall story is well written, and lives up to the title’s storied history. Street names remind Sherlock of infamous cases and mentions of Jack the Ripper, and his victims, reminds the player that Sherlock has a history that is both long, and plagued with murder. Dr. Watson reminds us of how Sherlock isn’t always the best of people, and can be, at times, a down right scoundrel. Sherlock’s methods can range from ingenious to criminal, and the good doctor doesn’t give him a moral pass, as he doesn’t seem to agree that the end justifies the means.
Of course, the graphics for the game aren’t great – character animations are stiff and the overall graphics are jumpy at times. Had this game been released a couple years ago, it would have fared better, but with all of the titles in this genre (think L.A. Noire or Heavy Rain) sub-par graphics are inexcusable. The story does a great job of trying to compensate for this, but doesn’t quite do it. While the game is definitely not unplayable, most will be turned off by the overall look of the game.
If you are a fan of mystery games, and a fan of Sherlock Holmes, you’ll enjoy this title. If you are looking for a fast paced, action style game, look elsewhere.