Tentacles for Sherlock
That’s right: Sherlock Holmes meets the Cthulhu Mythos. Yikes.
[image1]It’s funny, the division bell-curve of gamers on this one. It says something about the various factions involved—I’m still not sure what, but it’s definitely something. The Arthur Conan Doyle purists balked at this one when they first heard tell of its coming to the European market…and the Lovecraft crowd slavered over it. In similar fashion, the Euro crowd normally partial to PC adventure games tended to harrumph the very idea, while the Stateside casual-to-console types—who might not otherwise be so attracted to the generally slower-paced world of adventure titles— have enthusiastically embraced it. I’m just sayin’.
Already released in Europe, and available for download here in the U.S., Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is an adventure game, but it takes a first-person approach and lets players use hands-on sleuthing techniques to investigate a mystery spanning the globe — from the streets of Victorian London to Germany to New Orleans, Louisiana. Looking through the eyes of Baker Street’s most famous resident (and those of his erstwhile friend, chronicler and intellectual straight-man Dr. Watson), players scan the environments for physical clues, many of which can, after some pixel-hunting, be examined in closer detail. The clues themselves are diverse in nature, and include footprints in the dirt, fibers found on rusty gates/fences, fish scales, scraps of paper, and even the injured hands of corpses.
What cannot be thoroughly studied “in the field” can be brought back to Holmes’ “home office” for further study…and occasionally, players will be called upon to cobble together useful tools from various found objects. The evidence-studying aspects are more consistently logical than not, relatively free of the all-too-common scourge of video-game goofiness—no arbitrary, platypus-shaped keys here.
[image2]Other investigative activities—in such a cultured, dignified game-world, one hesitates to call them “mini-games”—include thwarting combination locks on doors, cracking codes, and drawing the Lovecraftian “Elder Sign.”
Speaking of which, purist Mythos nerds can relax right along with the Doyle-geeks: Despite the shooter-like first-person treatment, there won’t be any two-fisted taking on of Tsathoggua, no shotgunning of Shub-Niggurath, no assaults on Azathoth—this is no Dark Corners of the Earth, nor is it meant to be. Instead, it’s up to the player to use reasonably straightforward Holmes-esque observation and detection techniques to prevent a group of bent cultists from raising That Which Can Eternal Lie. It’s an odd clash of fictional mythos versus "real" mythos, and it works surprisingly well (“Hey! You got your tentacles in my opium-pipe! You got YOUR opium-pipe in my…”)
All the while, the voice-acting is of adequately Thespian caliber, terribly British and snooty in all the right ways—hopefully something that won’t be changed as the game makes its way to the American market.
[image3]Alas, not everything in Sherlock Holmes is logically derived. For instance, the maddening insistence that the sometimes-lengthy cut-scenes cannot be canceled or skipped—understandable the first time around in such a clue-intensive game, but unfortunate if you’ve already failed a game-section and need to go through it again. One touch that some gamers will find intriguing and others annoying is the scheme of “testing” the player on crucial, previously-discovered facts: If you’ve been paying attention as you should have been, you’ll answer some pertinent questions—and then you’ll be allowed to continue. Go on vacation and lose the illustrious thread, and you may be held back a grade.
CDV has a checkered history of publishing some extremely ”niche,” oddball—and at times, downright questionable—game titles from foreign markets, but Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened looks to be one of its most intriguing, promising picks for introduction to the American games market (and they’ve made plain their intention to address some of the minor complaints about the previously-released European version of the game). So I should state that officially this is a review of the European version. On the other hand, it is also the version you can download and play in the U.S. right now, where it is priced in U.S. dollars on the developer’s website.