Who is Guybrush Threepwood? It is at this point we are at a crossroad. The ignorant casual player just shakes his head over the nerd, who immediately has an anecdote about his past gaming sessions with the forefather of adventure games on his lips. Because he feels bored by the praise of a pirate who cannot get close to Jack Sparrow anyway. Only exactly this hero caliber arouses the interest of the demanding casual player in the first place. The nerd is already satisfied with the unknown greats of the genre, as long as the game itself lives up to its standards. This leads to the exciting question: Does this title have what it takes to bridge the gap between playing the theme and playing the medium? In general terms: Should hobby detectives increasingly leave the book and the film DVD on the shelf and rather play a round? Or should the pale nerd put the mouse out of his hand in return and consume the performances of the “real heroes” in media of secondary importance to him?
Of course, the affinity to the subject is not unimportant. No problem for me personally, since I devoured the books as a young boy. Accordingly, my expectations are high. Not only to the story, but especially to the design of the untouchable Mr. Holmes. The Ukrainian developers of the game called Frogwares have already published 5 adventures until the German release of this title in 2012 and under the pseudonym Waterlily Games another 4 hidden object search games with said main character. Unfortunately, to be honest, only this one part fell into my hands and I will therefore not offer a comparative view.
The first striking feature is probably the perspective. The event takes place in a completely free 3D environment, as long as you are in the third person view. But the 3D world is much more beautiful by being observed from the fixed camera points, which, depending on the position of the character, are the player's viewpoints. Since there are never any time-critical tasks or action sequences to master in the game, the disadvantage of the bad orientation caused by the frequently changing camera perspectives is absolutely bearable. On the contrary: the action develops into a cinematic process. In this film the player is now put in the role of the probably greatest detective of all times and in certain passages also in the role of his friend and assistant Dr. Watson.
The game takes place in three areas: the classic collecting and using of objects. In addition, there is a deduction scheme in which the player correlates certain events in a combinatorial way in order to draw a conclusion from apparently unrelated clues. The third element of the game are small mini-games, which in most cases aim to open a lock.
Of course, the cognitive abilities of Mr. Holmes cannot be simulated in such a banal way. As regular mortal players, we have to set our sights lower and settle for this simple approach to the unattainable genius. So we diligently collect everything that isn't nailed down, click our way through the abstruse schematics of a murder plot, and are overwhelmed with every conceivable type of lock and secret mechanism in every imaginable and sometimes completely absurd place. I desperately keep my fascination alive by enjoying the lovely design and tasteful selection of the locations: the narrow dark alleys with poverty-stricken pitiable children, the abandoned cemetery with its crooked crosses, the dark hospital that is more like a hospice, the run-down honky-tonk where opium smokers indulge in their high, and of course the Victorian splendour buildings in the rich part of the city.
Behind this accumulation of single actions, the overarching plot becomes more or less apparent: through his investigations, Sherlock Holmes makes himself a prime suspect to the police and even to his long-time friend Dr. Watson and even pretends to have committed suicide in order to be able to continue hunting down his archrival Dr. Moriarty in the underground. To be fair, this even created a certain tension that made me endure more mini-games and longer searches for suitable item-to-use-combinations.
Now that Mr. Holmes is the main character, sequences with his alter ego in the leading role are naturally very frequent. The development team used the motion capture method for the movement sequences of the characters. This is worth seeing in principle. But with the umpteenfold repetition of the same pattern, even the most professional movements of a paid and trained actor are of no use. Using the motion capture method is okay if it is used scene-specific and not in the same way for every kind of situation. Good intentions are visible, but skill is not sufficient.
Another matter of taste is the quite explicit depiction of the effects of violence on human and animal bodies, which plays a rather discreet role in the books. Once you are even set in the position to perform an autopsy on an abused corpse. So this is not for the delicate minded who just want to have fun with the mental challenge.
A positive aspect is the game flow in my opinion. Almost without exception, the player is able to anticipate the next necessary steps for the progress of the action and, in an emergency, can skip the upcoming mini-games after a quite short trial and error. Furthermore the game does not allow any dead ends, so you cannot die unintentionally – in the sense of the story.
Together with the mentioned cinematic camera changes, the extremely low difficulty and the realistic setting – which is meanwhile graphically outdated – the game entertains similar to a real movie. Despite all the shortcomings, the goal of participating in an interactive gaming experience in the world of Sherlock Holmes is achieved. Personally, this has entertained me better than this whole monkey business in many other universally praised adventure games.