E3 2012: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes hands-on
What are the motivations that drive Sherlock Holmes? It is that particular premise that drives Frogwares’ latest game to follow the exploits of the classic London detective. This will be the first to be specifically tailored for consoles with a new engine to display London 1898, but underneath the shine and gloss of the bright art design reveals low-budget textures and stiff animation. Especially for the children.
In an odd story within a story within yet another story the game opens up. Three children climb into a dusty attic. Following some pathetic voice acting the kids discover a book. Like most children, they decide they need to read this book from cover to cover right then and there. Thus, the story drops from the mewling children to Watson, writing about Sherlock’s latest grand case. From there the game moves to the story proper, with Sherlock and Watson utilizing a tutorial to unveil a mystery involving stolen jewels.
At first there appears to be the trappings of a classic adventure game. Find objects that can be inspected, find objects that can be acquired and with those acquired objects seek out more clues to inspect and things to pick up. Like Frogwares’ previous titles, only by knowing all aspects of a crime can it be properly reconstructed.
This release develops upon the idea even further by presenting Sherlock with multiple locations to freely explore, as well as several leads to follow or not depending on your own volition. It’s an interesting idea, but after playing the demo it’s hard to say whether all of it would be done well. The mysteries were interesting enough, but the puzzles combine a little too much vagueness and hand-holding to have challenge or depth.
There is promise in the idea of exploring the character of Sherlock in ways that even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t. Which I’d imagine is the reason to expand on a known character’s stories to begin with. If the tale of Holmes and his darker approaches to sleuthing turns out to be deep and intriguing enough, it would do well balancing out the flaws in its gameplay.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is expected to release in September on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3.