by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
Clue finding mission
Indie developer Frogwares has been making Sherlock Holmes games for ten years. The quality varies between each product, but the latest one, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is without a doubt the most impressive of the series to date. Some of the old frustrations are still there, but the new additions to the franchise left me pleasantly surprised.
Sherlock Holmes games traditionally blend classic adventuring with mystery solving and usually involve spending the vast majority of your time controlling Holmes himself. Every now and then, Sherlock goes off to do something integral to the storyline that can’t be revealed to the player just yet. On these occasions, Sherlock is replaced by Watson as your in-game avatar. In The Testament, one rather strange section even has you control Toby the dog, whose size allows him to squeeze into small spaces and sniff out clues where the two-leggeds are unable to go.
As you would expect from an Adventure game, puzzles are usually solved by searching around the environment for clues, picking up objects and using them to deduce new information or to move on to the next area. You might notice that a drawer has a false bottom to it which should trigger you to go and find something thin to slip underneath it to reveal the hidden compartment. In the drawer you might find a key to open a nearby door which allows you to continue gathering clues to further your investigations.
This is where the deduction board comes in. Each pertinent clue you find is written down on a board which is accessible from the menu. Here, you link clues together, allowing you to select a deduction from a drop down menu. For example, the victim’s shoes might be missing and you noticed that there are multiple footprints near the doorway. So you can deduce that one of the murderers must have been wearing the victim’s shoes when he left. The options given to you are never flat out obvious, so it is quite satisfying when you deduce something correctly, even though the right answer is there right in front of you. Deductions often link into other clues that you gather to delve even deeper into solving the case. If you cannot deduce the correct answer straight away, you have the luxury of just being able to use trial and error to obtain the right answer, so you are never stuck if you do not quite understand what the game is asking you to work out.
Other puzzles come in the form of practical mind benders. These are often logical puzzles that have to be solved by moving mechanical pieces around. In one instance, Holmes and Watson want to search a room in private and need to devise a distraction to get a nosy secretary out of the way. Holmes goes over to an electricity board and must move wires around to cause a short circuit, hoping that the secretary will have to go and find someone to fix the problem. While this example is fairly straightforward, some puzzles are not explained as fully as I felt they need to be. I found myself frustratingly moving things around at random until I finally managed to find some pattern. Luckily, the game offers the option to skip puzzles, so once again you are never left completely stuck. The majority of the logic puzzles and deduction boards are very well designed though, and make you feel very smart when you get them right without help.
Well-designed puzzles. The story is well written and delivered superbly.
Small frustrating flaws sometimes break up the flow. Animations are not of the highest quality.