Inside Sherlock's mind.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
is the seventh game in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
series from Frogwares, an adventure game developer based out of Ukraine. Frogwares has been hard at work since its last console outing, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes
released in 2012. The character models and environments in Crimes and Punishments
have been given a significant upgrade, though the animations and mouth movements are still a little stiff. Visually, it's a massive improvement with lighting and textures especially, looking up to date with contemporary games.
Additionally, rather than having one large story as in previous games, this edition of the franchise is divided into six individual cases, with two canonical stories from the source material by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Other traditional elements, like Holmes' disguises have been added to the game as well. It's an interesting choice for a franchise that has pitted Holmes in high profile non-canonical cases against the likes of Jack the Ripper and fictional French thief, Arsène Lupin.
The biggest shift overall is the gameplay. It's much more clever; in one section you need to hurl a whaling spear, and then have to aim higher to account for its heft in order to put together one of the clues. Holmes still is able to piece together the crime from available clues, but unlike prior entries, the focus is on his mind.
Instead of the deduction board used in the last game, allowing you to piece together the clues and draw the proper conclusions only if the correct material is on the board, this part of the game takes place in Sherlock's brain. Clues are put together by literally connecting neurons in his mind, and choosing the correct conclusion based on context. It looked like for each connection between the clues, you have two possible conclusions, allowing you to make your own way through the case with the clues leading to a single culprit.
Upon making your selection, you have a choice. Holmes isn't the police or beholden to the letter of the law. You can choose to absolve the person you select as the culprit, or if circumstances warrant it, you can call Inspector Lestrade to take the culprit away. On the playthrough we were shown, Frogwares representative Olga Ryzhko called in Lestrade and the accused attacked the inspector, prompting a fistfight quick-time event where Holmes had to take him down anyway.
But you can also fail. You decide when to stop looking for clues in a crime scene and since every set of clues has different possibilities, it's entirely possible to come to the incorrect conclusion. Upon completing a case, you are given a completion rating like in L.A. Noire
, and there what amounted to a "spoiler" button that you could press to see how the case actually turned out, but without watching it, you could continue on through the game never knowing how the events actually played out if you got things incorrect. We were also told that every choice you make has a specific consequence (though whether this effected elements later in the game, or just the current case, was not specified).
This is hugely different from the prior game, where not only did you have to go through the motions, but it wouldn't let you move on from one set of clues to another without finding them in the order that the developers wanted. This was true of the deduction board as well, where it simply did not allow you to proceed without having the right items on the board.
This greatly increases both the player choice and the difficulty level of the game. I'm fascinated to see how Frogwares pulls it off in the finished title. They also announced they were hard at work on a Call of Cthulu investigative title. Sherlock Homes: Crimes and Punishments
is targeting a release this summer or Q2 2014 for PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.