Review by KFHEWUI
"Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!"
The latest game of the Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes series, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, begins with several kids exploring an attic and discovering puppets of Watson and Holmes and inside of the Watson puppet is Dr. Watson's diary. The diary tells of the deadliest case the duo encountered that begins with a simple murder but spirals into a larger conspiracy that plans to shake the very foundation of England.
There is a well written story for the game, and the children at the beginning do have a part in the story. There is a dark and interesting story with enough twists and turns to carry the player's attention to the very end, and for fans of the series that have played the previous games will notice the numerous references from the previous game.
For this sequel, the series received a heavy duty make over thanks to a new engine, and the upgrade from Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is very obvious from the start. Everything looks amazing, and the character models are much better not only in appearance but in animation. Character's elbows no longer collapse when they bend their arms, and there facial muscles are animated to move when the character talk. The textures are clean and crisp, and they look good from a far however up close they can look somewhat rough. There is also a noticeable difference from cut scenes and the in-game graphics, and the cut scenes are at a higher resolution. The difference is noticeable, but the dip in quality is not that bad.
The game can be played in either first person or third person perspective, but unlike Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, the camera system has been refined so that it now follows behind the player instead of using fixed camera angles. Now the player has complete control over the camera. Gameplay is basically the same as previous games with puzzles to solve, clues to find, items to collect, and people to talk to, and the beginning area of the game is a simple tutorial that goes over the basics of the game. At certain objects in the game, an icon may show up, and there are several icons for different tasks. A magnifying glass represents that the item can be examined while a hand represents that the item can be picked up, but sometimes a certain item may be required before being able to manipulate other items.
There are some unique puzzles in the game like the first two puzzles which are influenced by chess, and some other puzzles include number problems, assembling a puzzle, and chemical analyze to name a few. While most of the puzzles take some thinking to solve, a few of the puzzles make zero sense at all. For one good example, there is a box that has a four number password that is needed to open it. The box has to be examined to find four groups of number, and these numbers are used to solve the puzzle. Finding out the solution makes no sense at first, and for the first number of the code the numbers of group one have to be added up. Meaning numbers a and b are added then b and c are added, and after each sum is found they have to be added together and if a double digit is the solution those two digits have to be added to find the first combination. The game gives no clue that this is how to figure it out, but if it does, I have not found it. The puzzles can be skipped, but the option does not show up until the player has taken a while to solve the puzzle. There are two issues with this, and the first is that there is a trophy for solving every puzzle in the game however the puzzle can be skipped to see the solution. The player can reload a file right before the puzzle and presto they can solve the puzzle without having to skip it.
Along the way, the player will visit crime scenes and must examine corpses to find clues, and these clues are used to solve a deduction board that helps figure out what happened at the scene. There are some parts where the player will have to talk with characters to find clues or advice, and in these parts, there are usually multiple options. This time around there is a dialogue wheel at the bottom of the screen and the dialogue can be selected by simply pointing in direction of the line with the left stick.
Controlling the game is simplistic, and at the beginning of the game, the controls are given. The layout of the controls is great and is very easy to grasp in very little time, and overall the controls are solid and responsive. If there is one problem with the controls, it is the examining of 3D objects, and the control can be strange. For example when the box for the puzzle mentioned above, the player has to rotate the box around to find the groups of numbers, but rotating it can be annoying. If the object is on the its side, pushing up on left stick will rotate the object in the vertical plane. Thankfully this only has to be done a few times over the course of the game.
The orchestral sound track sounds amazing which does include a few classical pieces, but one problem with the soundtrack is that some of the tracks do not fit the right mood. In one sequence, Dr. Watson examines his bluffs to find some clues, but the track that plays is ominous sound like something drastic is about to happen. Sound effects in the game are great, and the footsteps change depending upon what surface Sherlock Holmes or Watson is running. On dirt there is a crunching noise while running upon the cobble stone is more of a clack noise, and when running on grates, there is a metallic sound. The game is fully voice acted, and the voice acting is good. Voice overs do not sound forced or are poor sounding, and each actor fits their character. There are some issues with the audio while they may not be game breaking, they can be annoying. Sometimes the audio will cut off lines while the characters are speaking, but sometimes the audio will cut out completely. The only way to counter this is by exiting out of the game completely and restarting it. The only other issues I encountered are that the dialogue/music skipped during one scene or it can sound like it is full of static, but the skip only happened once however the static sounding audio can only be countered by exiting the game completely and restarting.
It took me around fourteen hours in my first playthrough of the game and the length ultimately comes down to how long it takes the player to solve the puzzles. The game features a manual save system so it is advised that the player keep multiple save files and save at a regular basis because there is no auto save at all. Along the course of the game the player will swap between playing as Sherlock and Watson, and at a few points in the game, the player has to swap between the two characters to solve puzzles. Each character's actions will help the other in solving their problem. In one part of the game, the player gets to control a blood hound named Toby, but the part is very brief. The game is mainly linear in nature however near the beginning of the game, the player has a choice of how to progress. They are given three leads, and the player can play the leads in any order. To help extent the length of the game, there are trophies, but most of the trophies are obtained by simply beating the game however a few of the trophies are missable.
Since the game uses a new engine, there are some issues with the game, but they are more of an annoyance than game breaking. One issue I encountered on multiple times was when opening a door, the character would walk into the door instead of opening it, but this strangely only happens in third person perspective and swapping to first person and trying the door again will open it on the first time. Other oddities include Sherlock walking away from an objective before examining or manipulating it, and the characters freezing up after opening a door. Once again these only happen in third person view, and they can be countered by going into first person view.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is an engaging experience, and the game ends on a good foot. There is no cliff hanger ending, and everything is wrapped up tightly. It is a great way to end the series, but hopefully this is not the end of the Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes. The unique gameplay, amazing graphics, and interesting story carry the game even though the game does have some issues while not game breaking, they can be annoying.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.0 - Great
Originally Posted: 01/04/13
Game Release: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (US, 09/25/12)
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