Frogwares are well known for their fun and immersive Sherlock Holmes games and most recently their brilliant new IP, The Sinking City. As a fan of both Sherlock Holmes in general and interactive adventure games, I’ve bought, played and completed every single adventure game the developer has created in the last eighteen years. Fun fact: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments was my first ever platinum trophy back in 2014 as it was one of the games I picked up with my new PlayStation 4.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months you’ve probably heard about the recent removal of a lot of Frogwares‘ games from digital storefronts on all platforms. If not, there was an issue where the publishing rights with Focus Home Interactive came to an end and the publisher acted irrationally, resulting in a number of games being deleted from digital storefronts. This meant that the developer had to make some adjustments to the game, most likely to remove Focus Home from the title cards and credits, and then submit them again for approval in all regions on all platforms, at their own expense.
Thankfully, it appears the games on Steam, such as Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, weren’t affected but the digital PSN and Xbox versions couldn’t be saved. However, as of this month, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is back on sale on both the Xbox Store and the North American PSN store (with the EU one currently being processed) as a ‘REDUX’ edition – so I’ve had the privilege of replaying the game once more…
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a set of six individual stories, each with its own crimes to solve, people to interrogate, and mysteries to uncover. There is an overarching plot, which revolves around a group of terrorists known as the ‘Merry Men’ who are attempting to overthrow the government, but you don’t really know much about this or look into it until the end of the game. As such, the game feels like a mini companion of Sherlock Holmes stories all presented in one package for you to work your way through – some of which are based on actual Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories.
Personally, I like the fact that there are six self-contained stories as it makes each one unique and varied. The Devil’s Daughter, the game which followed this one in 2016, has a story that intertwines within the separate narratives of each of the cases you take on as the renowned detective, acting as a secondary story which gradually builds up to the final episode – much like a TV series. However, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments keeps it simple in terms of the story.
Not only do you get to play as the titular Sherlock Holmes but you’ll also get a few chances to play dress-up as you go undercover (allowing the voice actor to put on some rather ‘unique’ accents) and you’ll even get to control Toby, our protagonist’s faithful canine companion. Doctor Watson is also on hand to offer you help from the sidelines, well… okay, Watson isn’t very helpful as he seems to only tell you what he thinks about the situation (which you usually already know), but he tries…
The game itself has many gameplay elements which all combine to create a brilliant Sherlock Holmes simulator. First of all, the exploration and investigation stage. Upon receiving the case, or stumbling upon it by accident, you’ll have to question the people nearby who may know something about it, search the area for clues and evidence, and even investigate the dead bodies if there are any. This part of the game is really fun as each character has their own defined personality and no two people are alike. Sherlock loves being a sarcastic git towards everyone he talks to and the quality of voice acting, accents aside, is really good from all actors.
A mechanic which has been used in subsequent games by the developer is the ‘Sherlock vision’ modes. You can pause whilst conversing with a person and eye them up from head to toe as you search for various key points which you can use to build up your internal profile of the person. For example, you may have arrested a young man who looks quite poor and tall, yet the coat he has on looks to be good quality and too short for him, thus you can question him who the coat belongs to. Not only do you get more conversation points for fully looking over everyone but you also get a trophy for doing so.
Another one of your Sherlock modes basically highlights interactable objects in the world, making it easier to not miss anything. However, rather than being a similar function as ‘highlight all objects’ in a point and click game, this mode also allows you to see Sherlock’s thoughts at times, thoughts which leads you to find hidden objects and work out what ‘was’ there but isn’t anymore. In a way, it reminds me of the Sherlock TV show or films when they have someone thinking about the situation and you see words and symbols flying around in front of them – it’s like that only less frantic!
When you’re not looking at all the various objects in the world, staring at people as you look for important talking points, or talking to suspects and witnesses, you’ll be solving one of the many puzzles within Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. I personally thought there was a decent selection throughout the game but there are a few puzzles that repeat themselves too often – one being the lockpicking mechanic. Thankfully, picking locks isn’t a simple Skyrim-style, it’s a rotating puzzle where you have to match up lines on a cylindrical tube in order to release the lock. It’s an interesting puzzle but there are a lot of them – they do, however, increasingly become more advanced with more moving parts and pieces which lock together and come apart.
You also have access to Sherlock’s lab table so that you can perform various experiments and go all ‘CSI’ on the cases in order to work out what liquids were used, how a rope was cut, what makes plants attack and more. One of the most immersive and interactive puzzle elements is a mechanic which wasn’t only used in The Devil’s Daughter but was also used within The Sinking City – reference books. If you have an item and you need to find out more about it, head over to your house and look through your books for a relevant article or book on the subject. I love this as it really gets you thinking about the evidence you’ve collected and requires you to understand what you’re looking for and where to look, even if sometimes you only have to look for a document from the date of the item you have.
Finally, there are some bigger puzzles such as piecing together large structures, working your way through a maze, moving through a bunch of locked gates by taking control of both Sherlock and Watson, and even rebuilding the order of events by placing a bunch of ghostly figures in order so that you can build an accurate timeline – just like we saw in The Sinking City. All-in-all, there are a lot of puzzles to keep you busy between the investigation and questioning segments. There’s even a trophy for completing 45 puzzles and mini-games without skipping, so yeah, a lot…
Sherlock’s Mind Palace
This mode, which I believe was first introduced in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, is another mechanic which showed up in both The Devil’s Daughter and The Sinking City – only I felt like it wasn’t used correctly in the latter. As you gather evidence, find out key clues and plot points, and uncover evidence from letters or talking to people, Sherlock will remember certain phrases and events. It’s up to you to go into his Mind Palace and link together matching pairs of information so that he may come up with a single or double opinion on his virtual case board.
Based on what opinions you deem to be correct (some have choices such as “I think X is innocent” or “X is certainly guilty of the crime”), the final conclusion you come to is created. Now, in The Sinking City the conclusions you came to simply serve as a ‘guide’ as it advised you what would happen if you went down that route, yet you could easily go in a different direction when you reach the turning point. However, in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the options you pick and the conclusions you come to basically set the outcome in stone for the case you’re working on.
Each case has multiple conclusions, with the most being six for a single case if I recall correctly, so replayability is there for those who want to play the game without ‘peeking’ at the correct answer. That’s right, upon making a conclusion, picking if you’ll absolve or condemn the one responsible, then watching the ending, the game will tell you how many clues you found and what your final choice was. At this point, you can opt to see if you were right or wrong and if you found all the clues in the case. Then, you can choose to return just before you made your choice and try for another outcome in your Mind Palace, or you can lock the chapter and move on.
If going for the platinum, you have to find every single possible outcome as well as ultimately complete the game with all of the correct outcomes.
I really like the fact you can play the entire game in either first or third-person mode by pushing a single button at any time. I highly recommend playing in first-person as the third-person mode felt a little floaty and hard to control, but the fact you have a choice is great. Although, jumping into first-person makes the character model literally ‘vanish’, so you no longer cast a shadow with the light – but I’m just nitpicking!
One thing I do love, which I believe was also used in The Devil’s Daughter, is travelling from one location to another. Instead of having a blank screen with a logo, or a screen with hints and tips, you see Sherlock, Watson and, if he’s with you, Toby sat in a carriage on the way to the next location, with the buildings in the windows differing based upon where you’re going.
At this point, whilst it’s loading, you can even read over your case notes or jump into your Mind Palace to carry on playing whilst the game loads. If you don’t want to do that, don’t worry, loading is but a few seconds so you won’t have to wait long before you’re exploring once more.
As far as I’m aware, this re-release has no visual enhancements or improvements over the original release, it simply had certain things stripped out of the credits and title cards so that it could be submitted again. However, seeing as it is ‘technically’ a new game, rather than a re-upload of the original, there’s a brand new trophy list! That’s right, not only was I excited about getting to replay this game, six years after I first played it, but I was also able to achieve a new platinum trophy after completing the 12-15 hour adventure.
For a six-year-old game, I personally thought the visuals look great. The character models look realistic and very detailed as you stare at them and eye them up and down, and the environments all look very period-correct and well designed. My only issue (which can be forgiven based on its age and the fact it was technically a last-gen title) is the lip-syncing as it’s not very good. Have you ever seen a dog eat a toffee or something really chewy? Well, some of the characters look like that as they talk.
However, despite that one mechanic which clearly wasn’t perfected at the start of the generation, the actual voice acting is very good, even if some of the accents Sherlock pulls off are a little questionable. The music is very fitting and the writing is very funny with Sherlock being very sarcastic and not interested in anything but his own thoughts.
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is one of the best Sherlock Holmes-based games you can buy, thankfully reinstated on digital storefronts by developer Frogwares. This is basically a Sherlock Holmes simulator, become the renowned detective as you solve six mysterious cases ranging from murder to the disappearance of a train – no two cases are the same. The innovative Mind Palace and Sherlock vision are modes that the developers still use today in their recent games, further enhancing your experience and enjoyment. If you like mystery adventure games where YOU decide the outcome, ensure you pick up this game – you won’t be disappointed.
The game is afoot.
**On a side note, if anyone from Frogwares reads this – I’d love to see the PS3/Xbox 360 games such as The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper get remastered for the PS4/Xbox One consoles. Maybe even port all four of them over to the Nintendo Switch as well, seeing as you did a great job with The Sinking City?**
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments REDUX£32.99
- - Six self-contained mysteries to solve, each one very interesting with multiple conclusions
- - Very detailed characters and environments
- - The voice acting and music perfectly set the mood
- - Lots of trophies based on playing the game and seeing everything it has to offer
- - You get to play as Toby the dog
- - The lip-syncing leaves a lot to be desired
- - The price-point seems a bit high. I imagine a lot of previous owners (like myself) would have jumped all over this re-release if it was priced a bit lower.