Professor Moriarty is the arch-enemy of Mr Holmes. The clash of these two well-known figures is undoubtedly of epic proportions. The result of the encounter decides the reign of good or evil over 19th century London. The mini adventure at hand takes the player to this fictional final battle, which, however, never occurred in this exact form in actual literature.
Sherlock Holmes finds himself in his flat, which is guarded by snipers on behalf of Moriarty. The arch-villain is about to gain access to the flat. Holmes is on his own. He has no weapon at his disposal and escape is out of the question. Therefore, the detective must quickly use his intellectual abilities to find sufficient defence of his life against the approaching criminal.
There are about 50 objects in the four rooms that can be examined. Among them are several different pipes. However, when you try to smoke one of them, you are only informed to better take care of the dangerous situation. So fun is out of the question.
Therefore, you start searching for useful clues in the descriptions of the richly furnished flat. In the process, you come across a lot of typical examples of that time period: for example, the Gasogene, which is a 19th-century counterpart to the Sodastream. Who still knows the Tantalus? This is a wooden rack that encloses bottles of alcoholic beverages. This is supposed to keep spirits out of the reach of children or household staff. Unfortunately, these are mostly just properties, with no particular gameplay use. Attempts to manipulate these non-relevant objects are rejected by the parser without further explanation.
Another striking feature of the parser is that boxes and crates can be opened. But closing them again is not considered useful. Likewise, the choice of words for the success of an action is sometimes very narrow. For example, “put dart into mortar” only puts the dart on the floor, while “dip dart into mortar” actually dips the dart into the mortar as desired. Neither was it clear to me that “take leaf” brings the hint that you cannot take everything. Only with “remove leaf” was the leaf actually taken.
Actually it is already quite clear at the beginning how one can defend oneself against Moriarty. A book about exotic plants puts the player on the right track. However, further clues were so rare in the following that only pure trial and error was successful in the end. The Holmesian analysis and deduction are therefore not part of the gameplay.
Apart from the vividly furnished flat, other elements that really bring the atmosphere to life are also missing. Such as secret doors, inexplicable traces, difficult codes, puzzling signs or the intervention of Inspector Lestrade. Other well-known figures such as Dr. Watson or Mrs. Hudson are only mentioned indirectly and do not appear directly themselves.
It should be noted that the main character can die in various situations. Not only at the hands of his arch-enemy. In view of the extreme brevity of the game, a restart in this case is not a major inconvenience. Depending on the system used, the score data can still be saved in some cases. Versions are available for the full range of 8-bit computers: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Commodore Plus/4, Atari ST, and Commodore Amiga.
This mini-adventure is a very early idea by Gareth Pitchford. In 2019, 30 years after the game was already finished on paper, he finally implemented it to the 8-bit systems that were present at that time. On his website he writes: “It's a fairly straightforward mini-game that most adventurers shouldn't struggle to complete.” I can only partially agree with this, as the parser is not very helpful, as described above, and the gameplay feels rather flat due to the low number of legal interactions.
On the positive side, you have the stylistic wording that closely resembles the original. This takes advantage of the text adventure medium without being only a linguistic gimmick. The setting, however, seems oddly out of place for an epic showdown. Holmes, in gameplay terms, is more reminiscent of the resourceful MacGyver than the greatest detective of all time. Moriarty's cunning is mentioned many times in the text. In the actual course of the confrontation, Holmes could just as easily have encountered any other random crook. So the descriptively well-captured atmosphere of the familiar 221B Baker Street flat remains the most believable thing about this mini-adventure.