Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments review - no Cumberbatch - and nothing elementary

£29.99; PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC; Frogwares

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The Independent Tech

Dressing up Sherlock Holmes wasn’t something I’d planned with my day, but the first action you take as the Baker St detective in his newest game ‘Crimes and Punishments’ is to get out of your pyjamas. You can even pick what facial hair he’ll be sporting, though I didn’t work out whether or not a handlebar mustache helps you during interrogations.

Firstly, this isn’t an actor-led franchise spin-off, no computerized Cumberbatch or Downey Jr., this is much more true to the original stories - so though we can compliment the storylines, they’ve really got the history and cult of Holmes to thank for that. As well as a surrounding Victorian gloom, before anything else, the sense and ambience within the game, misty moors and minimalist piano backgrounds, leave us with the perfect mystery setting - murders don’t happen on cloudless days.

The worry is always, with detective storylines, that you’ll be left with a dull point and click, with every next step painted out for you in big letters, with long cut-scenes explaining the story rather than you coming along with it naturally. Alternatively, there are those games that leave you spending hours searching through fifteen different settings for miniscule clues that no one could expect or hope to find. Crimes and Punishments straddles the line between well and adds more too.

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Not only are you following the stories, going along piece-by-piece and clue-by-clue, you are making decisions and judgments as you go. Each new clue is added to your deduction panel, from which you can bring clues together to make deductions about what’s taken place – there are footprints and if a suspect’s shoe fits, you can deduce that they were there. But it doesn’t stop with that, rather than giving you the answer so quickly the game asks you to choose what you think the clue really means – the footprints prove the suspect was there, does it prove guilt? As you make these deductions they slowly create a nebulous cerebral map, linking together and making new deductions and choices until you land at your final conclusion.

But here’s the thing. Your conclusion can be very wrong. You’ve been making these decisions and those decisions have cut off different paths of thought, leading you away from what really happened – at the risk of sounding like I’m adding a new tagline, you become the detective.

Once you’ve made your final choice, whether right or wrong, you are left then with a last decision, this time a moral one – there is no right or wrong answer. In one, I was asked who I thought instigated the crimes, in another I was asked whether or not a murder was a heated mistake and to let the culprit escape.

So even though when the final screen of each case comes up and you can press a button to find out whether you found all the clues and whether you made the right deduction, you can always go back and change those wrongs. The moral choice is neither right nor wrong, it has effects on the later game obviously but as you’re passing through the cases it’s those that become the hardest choices.

I chose to let one criminal escape the country after killing a horrible man in a heated drunken argument and in a later case read a newspaper clipping saying he’d ended up killing himself from the guilt, and I felt a sense of vindication, that I was right to let him go. When you bring in moral choices, especially when it’s done quite so blatantly, you’re always going to bring a part of yourself each time you play.

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