The opening sequence of the game with some children going into a loft to discover Watsons journal amongst some puppets and other toys was a little offputting due to poor lip syncing, but they go on to start reading the journal which phases into the gameplay. From there it’s straight into the first investigation. This serves as a basic tutorial for movement and clue hunting controls and you are pretty much guided around the clues and evidence to solve the mystery, discovering some stolen jewels.
Cut back to the home of Holmes, 221B Baker St, and you are confronted by the tabloid story that the jewels you found and returned were infact fake, and that Sherlock Holmes is now being blamed for the deception and accused of theft himself. Your good friend Inspector Baynes (Lestrade’s replacement while he is on a long vacation) assures you no criminal investigation will be made, but this is the start of a recurring theme through the game.
The plot itself is a good one, plunging Holmes into darkness as his methods become more questionable to the point where not only Watson but you as the player are questioning his motives. The sections of gameplay where you play as Watson add to this effect. But as with any of the stories/films/games before there are plenty twists and turns, not only with the investigations.
During each of the investigations you are inevitably faced with puzzles to solve in order to advance, mostly a special lock on a door or container. These puzzles test your chess, math and deduction skills, but some of them are downright difficult. Each of the plot blocking puzzles may be skipped if you really are that stuck (one of which I accidently skipped in a button mash rage) but doing so will leave you quite unsatisfied and will prevent you from obtaining an achievement.
As frustrating as some of the puzzles are, it is the wandering around and lack of help that will be what puts people off this game. I spent about 20 minutes stuck in one section as I had no idea that you could open your inventory and mix components that are in it (i.e 2 bits of metal and a piece of wire to make a longer piece of metal). Once you do have this information then you know you can use it later, but there is no initial hint to it.
It is not possible to die or fail, unless the plot intends you to, and while there are several “We must hurry Holmes” comments from Watson, you can play the game entirely at your own pace, meaning that when (not if) you get stuck then you will have time to explore the area for any clues you may have missed. You can also ask for help in finding hints (left trigger) which highlights any points of interest you’ve missed, though more often than not, shows you a door that you’re not allowed to go through yet.
The best feature of the problem solving part to the game is the Deduction Board. Found in your menu, this feature allows you to asses all the clues you have to deduce some conclusions. You need to make a decision on each piece of evidence to tie them all together and lead you on to the next section. However, it would be better if there was more use of it.
Unfortunately the poor animations are apparent throughout the game, as well as stiff voice acting and bad lip syncing, perhaps due to being translated from Ukrainian (where the developers are based). If you can put up with this then you have a great problem solving game with a very good plot. You will be rewarded with big achievements, and there are even a couple of Avatar unlocks to be had.
Overall then avoid this if you can’t put up with dodgy animations/lip syncing and you don’t like long dialogue sections, but you will like this game if you like any of the CSI Games, puzzle solving and easy achievements.
7 magnifying glasses out of 10