One of the key components of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is puzzle solving, and this is where people will either love or hate the game. The puzzles are usually obstacles to opening doors, safes and finding important clues. Some of the these involve shape and colour matching, while others are far more devious in their difficulty. The solutions often lie in small clues that can easily be overlooked, and require you to really stretch your imagination in order to reach a solution. The game also gives you no hints or clues as to what items you have or what clues you have discovered that are relevant. The puzzles are very much a “sink or swim” proposition, and even the most dedicated players will be tempted to peek at a walkthrough on a few occasions.
The puzzle solving element has been a staple of the series, however they happen with such frequency and cause so much progress-halting difficulty that it borders on overkill. In one segment, you solve an extremely challenging puzzle in order to gain entry to a locked office, only to be met with difficult colour-matching puzzle to open the safe inside. It happens a little too often and makes the game feel unevenly paced, especially since a few of them will take a long time to solve. However, finding the correct answer on your own is an immensely rewarding experience, so the challenge definitely has benefits as well. If you really get stuck on a puzzle, you are given the option to skip some of them. However, doing so will sometimes forfeit the achievement or trophy you would have gotten for successfully completing it.
As a throwback to the classic PC style of gaming, nothing in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is simplified or streamlined. As such, it bucks many gameplay conventions that are now the standard. For example, items in your inventory don’t auto-select when you need them to complete an objective. This means that you can’t use a set of keys to open a door unless you go into your inventory and select them. This can be problematic since you often forget what you are carrying, so staying on top of your inventory is critical. Additionally, there is no checkpoint or auto-save feature. You have to save manually, however the upside is that you can save anywhere and pick up right where you left off. It’s easy to forget since we’ve become used to games that auto-save, so make a special note of this when playing.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes shares its DNA with classic PC mystery adventure games, however the experience has not suffered during its transition to the home console. While the “point and click” elements feel more intuitive with a mouse and keyboard, the console controls have been mapped in a way to make the experience as smooth and user-friendly. The face buttons on the controller handle most of your tasks, such as action, inventory and interacting. The analogue sticks control your movement, and you have the option of playing in first or third-person perspective. I found the first person to be preferable, though both options work reasonably well. While past games in the series had cumbersome controls at times, this game by contrast is uncomplicated and easy to pick up and play.
The gameplay found here is solid and well designed. Those expecting it to be on par with a good action game will be disappointed, but those who have played other games in the Sherlock series will appreciate how far the games have come over the years. The controls have vastly improved, and the transition to the home consoles hasn’t diluted the experience. Some of the character movements are stiff, and the “open world” is really a series of linear setpieces you can explore within the invisible walls. However, those who enjoy spending hours sifting through clues, analysing details and using their brain instead of brawn to progress, this is definitely a game you’ll want to check out.
I didn’t go into The Testament of Sherlock Holmes with the expectation that the graphics would be stellar, however I was pleasantly surprised at how much attention to detail the designers have shown. The environments you explore are richly detailed, everything from the organized chaos of Sherlock’s study to the depressed and dilapidated streets of Victorian Whitechaple. It paints a believable picture of the time period and the setting. The character animations are also above average for this type of game, though the movement and facial capture is still rough around the edges. After the stellar facial capture technology we saw in L.A. Noire, it is easy to see the wrinkles in this game. However, it still looks great and those playing the game will have few complaints about its appearance.
One of the selling points of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the voice acting, which is great for the most part. Sherlock Holmes and Watson have the most screen time, obviously, and the actors do a terrific job of bringing these characters to life. The rest of the voice cast is a mixed bag, unfortunately. While most of the key people are well acted, the peripheral characters are presented with a jumble of exaggerated dialogue and poorly done “Mockney” accents. The voices of the children in the bookending story are especially grating, though I have heard much worse in other games. The musical score consists of dramatic, period-appropriate music that suits the game perfectly, and the ambient sound effects and small details round out a solid package.
The gameplay, graphics and overall design of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is very solid, however there are some small technical issues that I did notice. The most noticeable was the audio sync issues, in which the dialogue and the facial movements of the characters would not match up. This happened too often to go unnoticed, however it didn’t prove to be a major hindrance at any point. There are also some visual quirks that merit a mention, with people clipping into walls, textures popping in and out and even points where people disappear into the level geometry. Again, these didn’t negatively impact the overall experience, however they did draw attention to some of the technical shortcomings of the game.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is a great game that, despite a few shortcomings, delivers exactly what it promises. The graphics and game design might not hold a candle to the top tier games we have become used to, however it’s a fun, challenging and rewarding experience when taken on its own merits. The lack of hand holding and sometimes insanely difficult puzzles will turn some people off, as will the dark and gruesome subject matter. As such, this is definitely not a game for everyone. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or mystery games in general, this is definitely a title worth checking out. Unfortunately, the timing of its release means that many people will overlook this title, but it will likely end up being one of those “hidden gem” games for those who take the plunge.
Here’s The Rundown:
+ Excellent story, full of mystery and dramatic tension
+ The challenging clues, deductions and puzzles will put your sleuthing skills to the test.
+ A game that would feel more at home on the PC has transitioned well to the consoles.
+ Solid graphics and design effectively convey the time period and setting.
– The quality of the voice acting is inconsistent.
– The need to manually save your game and select inventory items to use can be cumbersome.
– The quantity and challenge of puzzles can be overwhelming at times.
– Various glitches and audio sync issues are noticeable throughout the game.
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes was developed by Frogwares and published by Atlus. It was released on September 25, 2012 for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC, at the MSRP of $39.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.