After hunting down London’s most infamous serial killer in 09’s Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, the master of deduction returns in a shockingly M-rated adventure from European developer Frogwares. There’s a development to the appealing presentation, puzzle design and simplistic interface that can only exist by the developers listening to feedback from fans and learning from their previous mistakes.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes takes place in London of 1898, with a conspiracy attempt to depict Holmes as a thief and a murderer. These charges lead the people of London to doubt Holmes’s integrity since he is incapable of discrediting the charges against him. Even Dr. Watson is unsure of his partner’s intentions. Overall, the story holds up fairly well aside from a few loose plot threads. Each little twist and turn will make the player want to push forward in order to see what’s going to happen next. The voice acting and dialogue is mediocre at best, with a few conversations that are cringe worthy but nothing that will truly deter players from completing the game.
As well as an original story, Testament also bears a radical graphic overhaul of Frogwares’ game engine, which includes richly detailed HD environments and three distinct control methods to suit different playing styles. Character animations have also slightly improved but they still appear robotic and stiff. Dynamic facial expressions during conversations have improved as well but lip movements don’t sync with the words being spoken. The soundtrack is rather bland as it mainly consist of the same classical track continuously looping for an entire area. Traveling through London is also brought to life thanks to bustling NPCs as you visit various locations, from a muggy prison to filthy Whitechapel.
Over the course of several cases, locating evidence is fairly easy, as long as you’re paying close attention to your surroundings. As in previous installments, the puzzles are essentially split into two sections: deduction puzzles and logic puzzles. During investigations, the deduction puzzles allows players to use the ‘deduction system’ – an interactive flowchart that keeps track of main areas, and then poses related questions based on the evidence found. After analyzing the situation, finding the right answers will then lead you to the proper conclusion. These puzzles are story-related and help progress the narrative. However for those who need a little guidance, there’s a hint mechanic called Holmes’ “sixth sense.” It will highlight all the available items you can interact with in the environment, including clues, people and other various set pieces. It is occasional helpful, but more often than not it was of no use to the problems obstructing my progress. When combined with the game’s ‘deduction system’, the ‘sixth sense’ feels less cheap and more like an extension of Holmes’s cleverness – a result of his elevated consciousness.
The logic puzzles take a little bit more thinking to resolve and mainly consist of solving locks on doors, opening chests and secret passages, as well as performing various forensic investigations. The level of difficulty and sophisticated designs are well thought out, and also fit well within the time period. Although a majority of these puzzles will leave you pulling out your hair, they do feel as though they were implemented only to extend the length of the game. If you lack the patience, Frogwares added the ability to skip some of these puzzles if you get stuck but skipping them only takes away the experience. It may take some time but eventually you will get everything right if you just try every combination. No actual skill is needed to solve them since you don’t get penalized for taking too long. With enough patience and endless amounts of trial and error you will eventually get it right.
Occasionally you’ll get to play as Dr. Watson, and as you progress further through the adventure. There’s also a time where you’ll play as a basset hound – clever, but odd. When you do take control of the good doctor the task that you need to accomplish are ridiculously bland as they consist of fetching objectives like collect a map or grab a book off the shelf. Hopefully in the next entry we will be able to tackle an adventure through co-op with one player controlling Holmes while the other controlling Dr. Watson. Hint..hint Frogwares.
Overall The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is a fairly lengthy experience, clocking in around 15 hours to complete. Fans of the series should be happy to know that this is the best Sherlock Holmes adventure so far thanks to its varied locations, puzzle assortments and intriguing plot. In the end it is all “Elementary, my dear Watson” – sorry I couldn’t help myself.
Editor’s Note: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes was reviewed using a XBOX 360 copy of the game. If further investigation reveals any substantial differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.
Release Date: September 24, 2012 • Publisher: Atlus • Developer: Frogware • Genre: Adventure, Puzzle • Multiplayer: None • Achievements: Moderate • Cost: $39.99 • Replay Value: Moderate