by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
Sheerluck Himself Meets Call of Cthulhu
Others love this game. I do not. As your typical Sherlock clues Easter Egg Hunt, it's okay. But the "Great" game that so many sites tout - I beg to differ.
To begin with, I have to question where developers Frogwares and Focus Home Entertainment came up with the concept. Most of us are familiar with at least a couple of the Sherlock Holmes games that are out there: Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silver Earring, Sherlock Holmes - The Mystery of the Mummy, and going way back, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective just to name a few. But in The Awakened, we tread new ground: we enter the world of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos.
But is this really "new ground"?
In 1981, when the world was deep in the throes of roleplaying games on practically every subject, a small company in Albany, CA named Chaosium released an RPG entitled "Call of Cthulhu". The era was set in the 1920's, when much of the world was still a mystery. Players were investigators into the paranormal, ranging from Antiquarians to Tribal Warriors, with most opting to be Private Investigators and Professors. Like "Dungeons & Dragons" the game proved to be very popular. So popular, many modules and supplements followed. One of those supplements, published in 1986 was entitled "Cthulhu by Gaslight". It was set in 1890's London and contained a module entitled "The Yorkshire Horrors" and featured - wait for it! - Sherlock Holmes: STR 17, CON 18, SIZ 15, INT 19 (is that all?), POW 18, DEX 16, APP 9, EDU 18, SAN 94 (after all of the drugs he took?), HP 17. In the module Holmes and company are all NPC's and the only person that got to determine what Sheerluck was doing was the Keeper (the CoC DM/GM/whatever you want to call the referee). The players, meanwhile merrily went about their way fighting for their lives as their Sanity slowly eroded.
Ah, such fun times those were.
Moving Right Along
One thing I can honestly say about this game: it literally turned my stomach. Not that it was stuffed with gruesome images (of which there were some, but they weren't really all that gruesome). It was because for the majority of the time, you see the world from a first-person perspective, and the camera is "free floating" as you slide around the screen. It's like watching the world go by through the lense of a camera that's bouncing all over the place. I literally threw up. (As you may guess, that diminished my appreciation of the game somewhat.)
Others have commented about the excellent graphics. I'm still looking for those. Screens have minimal "clutter". So minimal that in the opening sequence where you see Dr. Watson experiencing a nightmare, he is in his pajamas lying on a bare mattress with no covers or pillow. In London, mid-1890's, any time of year - no covers. Riiiggghhhttt. When interacting with a screen, as you move around, you see a fair number of enticing things that you would like to examine - but cannot touch. Things that you simply KNOW you will need later may not be picked up, not until later, when you do need them - but you've already been conditioned to NOT pick them up. (Pavlov would be proud.)
Part of "excellent" graphics would/should include how the characters are rendered and how they move about the screen. Well, the quality of the characters is about two steps past stickmen: limbs have thickness and articulation, but the shading and texturing sucks. As for movement - this is NOT an exaggeration - the characters look like they are marionettes that are only missing their strings. They "walk" across the screen like a puppet-on-a-string "walks" across the stage.
Speaking of walking the stage: much of the action takes place in London. The population of Greater London in the mid-1890's was more than 5 million people. In this game, you will encounter a population density of about one person per block. That's a tad too anemic for my tastes. (However will you ever recreate Sherlock's famous goatcart chase scene through the crowded streets if there are NO crowds? What goatcart chase, you ask? Not much of the Holmes aficionado I take it? Never mind.)
The voice acting is rather blase. I actually liked Dr. Watson's voice acting much better than Holmes'. Watson often included inflection suggesting emotion. Holmes was a fairly lifeless monotone that sometimes increased in volume to denote excitement. The Holmes voice actor was certainly no Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett.
No Pros and Cons at this time