Sherlock Holmes has never been hotter in pop culture between a show on CBS and on the BBC, a set of movies starring Robert Downey Jr. and even a couple of video games over the last few years. The latest in the video game front was The Testament of Sherlock Holmes which came out in the fall of last year. Since it was a busy time of year when it came out, I’ve only recently gotten a chance to play the single player adventure game campaign.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the first adventure game starring the famous London hero for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—though you can also play it as a PC digital download.
The game takes place in 1898 and Holmes himself is the main suspect in a case involving murder, fraud, blackmail and more. Even Doctor Watson starts to doubt his best friend… with good reason. While you have the opportunity to play as both characters, it’s only later that you’ll truly see what Holmes has been up to the entire game with incredibly long expositions and explanations—half of which will seemingly come out of nowhere.
The game is mostly played with third person view, though you can use first person if you have trouble finding something. (I didn’t.) The gameplay is mostly hunting around rooms for objects and examining every piece of evidence. No really—you must examine every piece of evidence or else you may not be able to progress. You may even need to combine items in your inventory.
You’ll also need to make deductions in your notebook a few times during the game. These were often my favorite segments as you had to carefully think of the evidence and make guesses on what happened in the room you’re currently in. There are also a number of puzzles you have to solve to open safes and the like. Some are quite difficult, but luckily you can skip them after a number of tries if you find they’re really not your thing.
If you have trouble locating the objects or pieces of evidence you’re “supposed” to discover in each room, you can activate the instinct button (left trigger on Xbox.) I’ll admit to often times just walking around a room spamming that button until I had looked at everything I possibly could. Adventure game purists should try to avoid using it as much as possible.
I’m not going to lie—I often needed a walkthrough to get through the game as well. Some of the puzzles were difficult for sure, but some also plainly just didn’t make sense. They felt “gamey” which was unfortunate in a game striving to tell a mature, realistic story about London’s most famous detective. (For instance, I’m not sure Holmes or Watson should be carrying ladders in their pocket.)
There are a number of interesting locations for you to visit and explore, though the graphics don’t match current generation design in AAA games. Some dialogue options allow you to choose how you want to question or deal with a certain character—you can blackmail, threaten or play the nice guy. However, I didn’t find most of those options seemed to lead to different outcomes… just different Xbox Achievements.
As someone who isn’t a Sherlock fan, I was a bit surprised at how much of, well, a jerk, that Holmes is. But I did like how the relationship with him and Watson is fully realized, even if it was to the detriment of other characters, including the later revealed villain. (The ending also seems to come out of nowhere, even if it does somewhat tie in to the loose narrative structure of young children in an attic reading about Holmes’ and Watson’s adventures.)
I’m an adventure game fan through and through—I grew up on them and picked The Walking Dead as my favorite game of last year. Unfortunately, the slightly weak plot didn’t take away from some of the inane gameplay or nonsensical puzzles in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.
I’d still recommend the game, however, for Holmes fans as well as adventure game fans that need a break from the shooters and action games coming out the beginning of this year.
* Disclosure: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review. *