With the current Renaissance of Sherlock Holmes, the BBC show in the UK, Guy Ritchie’s film offerings and Elementary recently starting in the US, it seems slightly odd that the newest Sherlock Holmes game goes straight back to the roots of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and, unfortunately, seems to have taken some of the game play and controls from that era as well.
This story takes Holmes to a manor house with his good friend Watson, to solve a standard case involving the robbery of a necklace. So far so tame. Yet Holmes manages to get himself ensnared in a plot that is far bigger, causing him to be in the frame as the main culprit in a very messy crime as he avoids Scotland Yard, drugs people and essentially runs on the other side of the law. The best part of the storyline is that the game continually places Sherlock Holmes in trouble in a plausible way in that the large amount of the clues you find can, and often will, place hero Holmes as the bad guy; whether he is or not is up to you to find out if you decide to pick the game up.
Don’t expect action or adventure or anything even remotely fast paced; this game places Holmes at his methodical best with large amounts of information being given in the sometimes lengthy cut scenes. This is made more difficult as the lip synching for the character models is nothing short of absolutely appalling , making it incredibly difficult to find out what the characters are actually saying without ramping up the volume or turning on the subtitles. The actual models themselves vary from competent to just plain creepy, the children that you see in the beginning cut scene looks like ET and Chucky pro created , which tends to destroy the otherwise well presented atmosphere and sceneries. Think of the whole game as LA Noire, without the big budget, impressive acting and the balance between action and detective work; whether this is a good thing or bad thing is up to your own personal preference but fans of COD, FIFA or Halo, a group I put myself in alongside other more eclectic genres, would perhaps best be finding their kicks somewhere else.
Gameplay consists of finding clues across a variety of locations, and I do mean variety as the game manages to pop in an autopsy as well, with some fiendishly difficult puzzles around every corner. Although a return to old school settings can be a good thing some of the puzzles, and the way the developer utilises them is strange. They do require a reasonable amount of brainpower to fathom and get your bearings but the game developers saw it fit to give you a free pass every now and again. However, this seems to be the only direction they have decided to give you which is very evident on the games deduction board. All the clues are lined up and you are tasked with finding the link; admirable that a game developer actually wants their users to use their brain but it sometimes becomes so frustrating that you end up giving up all together. Finding your clues , linking them together and following your next lead are all rewarding if a little bewildering; there is no map to guide you and all NPCs tend to be a complete waste of time conversing with.
What is perhaps odd about the very serious take on the well known character is its rather quirky direction; the ability to actually play as Holmes dog at one point, the fact that Holmes manages to control as well as a zombie without any legs, and the voice acting managing to make every and any character sound thoroughly pretentious, fitting for Holmes, but not for the many other characters you meet.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes wont win any prizes for its game play, its graphics or anything that it does with the genre. The graphics are ok whilst the character models are shocking. Game play is rewarding as much as it is taxing and will likely shy away most gamers, even those versed in the old point and click adventures that Lucasarts was so famous for. Testament is merely an ok game, made better or worse depending on how much you rate pace and excitement over a slow burning adventure; you can do a lot worse if you want to experience Sherlock as he was originally portrayed but stay away if the modern series’ is the only thing that has piqued your attention, and wait for the inevitable game based as such.