Frogwares are a game developer from Ukraine and Ireland who are not exactly Square Enix, Atlus or Electronic Arts in terms of being a household name – but 1 thing that can be said about them; They do make some pretty good games, despite how rough-around-the-edges they can be. Since 2002, they have been responsible for developing a series of games known as “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes”, which were primarily only available on the PC, but have lately been coming out on more and more platforms, including the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The stories/cases themselves are either based on stories that Arthur Conan Doyle has told before, or they’re new, with some covering areas that would have otherwise been left out, such as what would happen if Sherlock Holmes took on the case of the Whitechapel Murders and finding out Jack The Ripper’s identity (The case that inspired the books to begin with) or Holmes trying to catch the fictional french gentleman thief Arsene Lupin (written by Maurice LeBlanc). There are plenty of other cases, but right now I’ll focus on the contents of this game, while even comparing it to previous instalments to show what has changed.
While previous instalments focus on 1 case and will take a number of detours before solving the primary 1 at hand, Crimes And Punishments (borrowing from and containing themes based on Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and is the novel that Sherlock reads in the taxi) decided to be a much more episodic game. Instead of 1 case, you are given 6 (each case in this game has a souvenir which gradually appears in this game, and are on full display in The Testament Of Sherlock Holmes, which takes place 2 years later), and because the overall game is roughly the same length as the other instalments, the cases can be solved in a few hours, once all of the clues have been collected and the pieces put together. 1 thing that is definitely new about this game is the fact that you can choose your conclusion. Even if you don’t have all of the facts or clues, if you piece them together and decide the reality of the situation, there will be different convictions, different murder methods (They all feature murder) and therefore a variety of endings with the chance that you might get the right murderer, but not the right method. On top of this, you can decide whether to be cold and ruthless or demonstrate compassion and understanding to the murderer, based on motives and what the murder victim was like in life. In the process, this makes for 1 of the closest sleuth experiences that I’ve come across in a video game since L.A. Noire. Now we’ll talk about the technical aspects.
The graphics in these Sherlock Holmes games have often looked both beautiful and impressive for their day, from the character models to the textures and the background design. But the 1 thing that affects the quality of the visuals are often the animations, which are rough and with a disappointing frame rate (especially in the cutscenes). Frogwares do an excellent of capturing the gritty, mysterious, and yet romantic aspect of Victorian London in these games, and despite the animation quality and frame rate, I think Crimes And Punishments is quite a good looking game, even for a late PS3/Early PS4 release.
The music in these games are always atmospheric, and yet subtle enough that you might remember them, but not necessary own the soundtrack. Each 1 would usually have at least 1 classical tune. In several instalments it has been Tchaikovsky’s Melodie Op 42 No 3, but in Crimes And Punishments is was In The Hall Of The Mountain King by Edvard Greig (and was used in the game’s rather amusing introduction that reminded me of a scene in Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of Sherlock).
The voice acting in these Sherlock games was always a hit or miss. They often get good choices for Holmes and Watson, but a majority of other characters have rather over the top cockney accents, including Inspector Lestrade. The gameplay in Crimes And Punishments is the best in the series due to its multiple conclusions for each case (with only 1 being completely right) and the clue-connection chart (where you add 2 clues together to create a scenario) is a fantastic addition! However, it can also be said that the cases themselves are not consistent in quality. It started really well with “The Fate Of Black Peter”, peaked with both “Riddle On The Rails” and “Blood Bath”, was surprisingly quick and straightforward in “The Abby Grange Affair”, got better again in “The Kew Gardens Drama” and then ended a little more predictably with “A Half Moon Walk”. A key problem is when the trophies/achievements aren’t kept a secret, and therefore spoiling it a little if you look at them.
Another feature, which wasn’t in previous games is the “Sherlock Eye For Detail” and “Sherlock’s Imagination.” With the Eye For Detail, Sherlock can spot things that would otherwise be missed by other people, while his imagination, when activated, can recreate or attempt to recreate the series of events, based on what is displayed before him. It’s an excellent touch that leads to receiving more clues to the case.
Would I recommend Sherlock Holmes Crimes And Punishments? Very much so! It’s a nice, quiet game and 1 of the best Sherlock Holmes virtual experiences so far. Sure, it might contain a lot of bloody murder and even autopsy, but I found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience. Is it the best of the Frogwares games that focus on Sherlock Holmes? Perhaps. In terms of mystery, it might not be as up there with The Awakened in its dark mystery or ‘Vs Jack The Ripper in general, but it was nice to be able to experience some short stories in game form. If you’re looking for a top quality game that does everything right, you might have to look somewhere else. But other than that, I was pleased with this 1.
Voice Acting: **1/2