Longtime series developers Frogware are back with their latest gritty take on the Sherlock Holmes adventures. Half point-and-click and half adventure, it’s clear that Frogware very much cares for a series that they have come to master.
For an indie game, the graphics are very impressive. Lots of well done facial movements, which while not quite up to the level of LA Noire, are still fantastic and you’re able to tell through the character’s face if they’re being truthful to you or not. When you take into consideration this is a small developer, it’s even more amazing.
Voiceover work in the game is excellent. There’s a lot of dialogue and all of it is enough to hold your attention, especially considering this is a game where dialogue is very important. The crime scenes are also quite gruesome, as it should being an M-rated title. Crimes & Punishments certainly does not hold back. A man is impaled to a shed wall via a whaling harpoon in the first act. This sets the tone quite well and lets you know what you’re in for as the game progresses.
Sherlock’s trademark ability to examine details is translated to a sort of slow motion, time-stopping quick time event. You basically press a button and use the cursor to closely examine various details. This is done both when interviewing people of interest to get more question branches to open, or crime scenes to gather more evidence. Once you collect all the pieces, a checklist more or less pops up confirming you’ve gathered all possible evidence. This is really helpful for the constant “must absorb every little detail” gamer. This then translates into a system where you must link pieces together to try and solve the crime. All the pieces are visually presented in front of you. They’re all connected, but you have to actually think. You can even conclude different theories – even if they’re not correct.
While the system itself doesn’t reward or punish you, Crimes & Punishment implements a very interesting morality system. Your conclusion cultivates in deciding if someone is guilty or not, then you can even decide whether to lock their ass up, or let them live with their decision. You do get graded on sort of a personality scale, but this is what makes the game so fantastic. You’re Sherlock Holmes. You’re not controlling him. He didn’t possibly just send an innocent person to jail. You did.
In terms of the problems of the game, I’m happy to say they’re minimal, but noticeable. The game itself looks great, but right off the bat I was not a fan of moving around. The game can be played in third or first person, capable of being switched at any time, and trust me, just stick with first person. Third person, when compared to pretty much any other third person game, is a jagged mess that just feels awkward. You’re run-walking, but the slightest movement in another direction sort of stops you. It just feels unnatural. However, keeping the game in first person, a view you’ll often be forced into anyways, was much more pleasant.
Loading times were also not all that great. You often need to travel between locations in order to interview people and collect evidence. They’re quite long, especially when the loading screen involves a real-time screen of you traveling to the location. While it’s an interesting way to open your casebook and reexamine clues before getting to your next location, I could’ve just done it when I got there and saved some time. Another thing that really bothered me was the game has you go through doors Resident Evil-style, as in they’re treated as different areas, even if it’s just a shed for example.
At the end of the day, Crimes & Punishments is the best Sherlock Holmes game ever made. It takes everything fans love about the franchise and doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. While the technical issues got in the way a bit, it didn’t stop the overall experience being a real joy, and something unique we have yet to see on this current generation of consoles. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re a fan of mystery solving games, it’s a must.
*Sherlock Holmes Crimes & Punishments was reviewed using a retail key for Playstation 4 provided by the publisher