The facts of the case are clear. The characters from the Sherlock Holmes stories created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were recently re-imagined in a film directed by Guy Ritchie. When a major picture hits the theatres, merchandising is sure to follow. Ergo, it is no surprise to this investigator to see the release of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries for the iPhone.
The salient question to be posed, dear readers, is in regards to the quality of said movie tie-in game. Trusting solely to historical data would push us overwhelmingly towards assuming poor quality; movie games are almost always a steaming pile of offal.
However, logic dictates that just because something is likely does not mean that it is certain. Therefore, we must examine the evidence closely to find out if the truth matches our theory. There’s no time to waste. Read on, the game is afoot! (athumb?)
Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, at its core, is a point and click (swipe and tap) adventure game. As Sherlock, you will travel from location to location, interview people, and search for clues to solve cases.
Where the game stands out from similar investigation-style titles is in presentation. Rather than the standard 2D image-hunt festivals, the developers have gone instead with a 3D environment for each location. The player cannot move, but can rotate the view 360 degrees. This makes looking for information, items, and discrepancies a bit fresher than in times past.
The execution of the 3D environments did lack polish in spots. In the docks area, I could clearly make out the outline of the cube that represented the boundaries of the rendering space. A bit sloppy? Yes, but it did made me feel like Lt. Data playing Sherlock Holmes inside the holodeck.
The construct that you use to solve cases is an interesting device. Whenever you gain a piece of information or item from a person or place, it is stored away in “Sherlock’s Mind”. Each objective or facet to the mystery is listed on the left side of the interface, and the clues are all listed on the right.
To progress in the case, you must feed the clues into an objective to see if they answer the question. When a clue is relevant to the objective, Sherlock’s Mind will light up. Selecting all the relevant clues allows Sherlock to deduce or solve an aspect of the case; I definitely enjoyed this device for driving the action.
Where the 3D environments are visually engaging, the audio is unfortunately sparse and generic. Given that the game is a movie tie-in, one would hope for some voice work, even if the original actors couldn’t be brought on board. Unfortunately, all the dialogue is text-based, and the feel of the gritty London underbelly so prevalent in the film is nowhere to be found in Sherlock Holmes Mysteries.
To break up the investigation gameplay, several mini-games were included. Reflecting the skill at fisticuffs of Downey, Jr.’s Holmes, the game includes a fighting mini-game called puzzle boxing. There’s really not much in the way of puzzling involved, however. Icons pop up on the screen for blocks and strikes, and you must tap them before they disappear to trigger them.
String enough successful moves together and you can trigger Insight Mode, which basically allows you to go hog-wild on your opponent for a time. It all sounds interesting, but in practice it boils down to a touchscreen version of Whack-a-Mole. The challenge here is minimal, as I never once came close to losing a match.
The other mini-games for lockpicking and chasing suspects were more disappointing. They used the same format as the hacking mini-game for Bioshock, where you have to align different pieces of piping to connect a start point to an end point. They were the weakest part of that game, and nothing has changed here. Also, the fact that you engage in the same activity for running down a guy that you do for breaking into a house is silly and seems like lazy design.
The games is called Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, and barely meets the qualifications for the plural. There is a grand total of two cases to solve, and the first case is more of a tutorial affair that only lasts 10 minutes. The second case clocks in at about 2 hours to complete.
If it sounds like I’m being a bit harsh, it’s only because the game does a few core things very well. I really wanted the rest of the game to be as interesting and enjoyable. Well executed ideas and visual presentation are counterbalanced by uninspired or overly simplistic design in other areas.
Overall, Sherlock Holmes Mysteries is quite like Sherlock from the movie. It’s a bit dirty and unrefined, and it will get under your skin occasionally, but it also shows flashes of brilliance and ultimately gets the job done. With a $0.99 bargain price tag, it’s difficult to complain too much about the negatives here.
Gamer Limit gives Sherlock Holmes Mysteries for the iPhone a 7/10.