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Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (PS5) Review

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was originally released on PC back in 2007, with a ‘remastered’ version launching a year later which introduced a first-person mode and a number of graphical and mechanical upgrades. It was the third Sherlock game from Frogwares and their first story to include fantastical Cthulhu Mythos. Today, just over 16 years since the original release, Frogwares have fully remade the game following a successful Kickstarter, modernising the visuals, mechanics, and gameplay, whilst adding new content and references to their previous works – such as Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One and The Sinking City.

Frogwares are a very resilient studio, not only did they continue working through COVID to bring us Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, but they’ve also been working throughout the current Ukraine War to complete Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, despite a number of the team fighting for their country and obviously prioritising many things over game development. They also had issues with both NACON and Focus Home, their previous publishers, a few years back, resulting in games being delisted and then re-listed as self-published titles and upgraded current-gen versions. It’s hard not to admire their dedication and passion when you realise how much they’ve been through, yet they’re still trying to entertain us.

So, what did I think of the remake? I platinumed the game on the PS5 within the first two days of getting my copy, swiftly moving on to the included PS4 version and grabbing the platinum there as well. Then, in order to refresh my memory on what the original game was like, I went and watched a full playthrough from ‘LiliaTV’ on YouTube – this was when I realised just how much had changed in the new version, but was it all good? Let’s find out…

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 1+1

Fezzes are cool…

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened begins with Sherlock investigating a string of burglaries in London, immediately being sidetracked by his morning paper going missing. And thus begins our first investigation – find the missing paper, deduce the reasoning behind why it never arrived, then confront the accused suspect to see if we were correct or merely overreacting. This serves as a fun tutorial to the game’s mechanics before we move on to the first real case – discovering what happened to a servant who was kidnapped barely a few streets away from 221b Baker Street!

As you discover new clues and evidence, your curiosity sends you to various places around the globe such as Switzerland and America. Throughout the game you’ll take control of both Sherlock and Dr. Watson, working together to uncover the truth and stop whoever, or whatever is behind both the kidnappings and the strange events that are happening to the victims and our dynamic duo. 

If you’ve played the original game, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened follows the same underlined story as the 2007 version, yet it’s also different. It introduces a number of new side cases within each chapter as well as slightly altering the people you have to talk to and the evidence you need in order to progress within the story. So, even those who have played the 2007/2008 versions will feel like this is a new game and not simply a new re-skin. There are, sadly, some things which I thought were done better in the original game, but thankfully there are only a few compared to the many upgrades and positive alterations made.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 2+1

No more guessing the answer!

Gameplay
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a combination of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One and their previous games, such as Crimes & Punishments. The game is played entirely in third-person (sadly the first-person mode is gone) and the character models are canon to Chapter One (only a little older). The self-tagging map is gone, replaced by a more simplistic smaller map with a limited number of fast travel points – due to this game having open areas rather than an open world – yet each area still feels big and detailed to explore.

We see the return of gameplay elements such as searching for various facts based on their descriptions (via reference books) and coming to conclusions by utilising your Mind Palace, albeit in a slightly different format to what we’ve seen before. Each case will often play out the same – talk to someone to gain information on what you’re looking for, find the location in question, search for clues, piece together what happened, create a ghostly timeline, watch it play out, and then report your findings for your reward. 

Having watched Lilia play the original version, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (2023) isn’t as ‘hard’ as the 2007/2008 version. You no longer have to manually type in the answer to various questions and there are no confusing puzzles to solve (which is a shame), but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘easy’. Just like in previous games, there’s no hand-holding and you can often find yourself unsure of what to do next, requiring you to read through what you’ve found and ‘pin’ the correct evidence to make relevant clues and observations appear whilst exploring your surroundings.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 3

Do you have the right evidence to solve the question?!

Your Mind Palace
The Mind Palace has returned in Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, albeit a little different to previous games. Previously, you would pick from a short list of multiple options in order to create a possible clue, these would then combine to create an outcome that may or may not be true – in Chapter One this was merely a ‘suggestion’ of the solution, yet in games such as Crimes & Punishments this affected Sherlock’s final deduction and could easily land innocent people in prison – or worse, put to death! 

However, although Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened makes this process a little more involved and cryptic, it is still fairly easy depending on the difficulty option you have selected (you can make it much harder if you wish). It works in a similar fashion only you now have to submit clues from three categories in order to come up with the solution to a question. For example, one question is “Why is Barnes action so strangely?”, to which you need to submit an ‘item’, an ‘observation’, and a ‘document or testimony’. These are all pieces of evidence you uncover whilst investigating, so you may not have everything you need to answer it until you’ve questioned more people, found more interactive points, or solved another question.

I like this version of the Mind Palace, it makes you think about what clues are related to what you’re trying to answer – with the vast majority of the ones you need to pick actually making sense rather than feeling like they’re random. I do prefer the older style, where you created an outcome which adjusted the story whether it’s correct or not, but Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a linear game with no diverting paths or outcomes. Well, that’s not true, there are a few times when you can make a decision and have it slightly alter some dialogue or how someone will react in that chapter, but it’s not as drastic as we saw in previous games (or future games, considering this originally came out before those).

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 4+1

Hmmm, I wonder what happened here?

Puzzles?
The original 2007 game has puzzles and puzzle-like gameplay mechanics, the new 2023 version does as well, but they’re not as ‘puzzley’. Aside from the Mind Palace, there are a few mechanics we’ve seen before. The ‘bending a wire to pick a lock’ puzzle is back, as is the recreating past events which we saw in Chapter One. Just like in that game, you enter a ghostly plain and set each node to what you presume happened – such as whether an invader had a knife, candlestick, butcher’s knife, or wasn’t an invader at all. Once you’ve chosen your timeline, you see if you’re right or wrong.

I like this mechanic, as I did previously, as it makes you think about what could have happened. I also like that you can start piecing it together without all the clues in your possession, but you’ll often fail as you can’t pick the correct option until you actually know what the person was doing or holding at the time. There are other environmental puzzles such as following a guide to navigating down the Bayou and using your Sherlock-Vision to track footprints, animals, and moving objects. 

There’s also a ‘confront’ mechanic which requires you to pick from six pieces of evidence that back up what you’re confronting someone about. If you get it right three times (the evidence rotates, there are more than six) then you get the information you require out of the person, otherwise you fail and must start again. Again, just like the Mind Palace and Sherlock-Vision recreations, this requires you to read the information you have and logically pick the ones which are linked to what you’re trying to achieve. It may not be as in-depth as manually typing the exact word the game wants you to type (as in the 2007 version), but it is quite involved.

Additionally, as the madness begins to take over Sherlock, you’re taken to otherworldly floating platforms which require you to solve environmental puzzles in order to proceed. These are also new to the 2023 release, visualising what’s going on in Sherloick’s head.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 5

See the pin… that means you need to pin it!

Don’t forget to pin your evidence!
I loved Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, I thought the team at Frogwares did a brilliant job in creating a living open world with tonnes of stuff to see and do. However, when I watched a few people play the game on stream, they’d often give up after a few hours or play once then never return – I even tried assisting one but I was kicked due to ‘back seating’, despite only telling them how a mechanic worked!

Basically, do NOT forget about pinning your evidence in Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. The game does prompt you fairly regularly if you have nothing selected, but it’s very easy to overlook. Basically, as you talk to people, interact with objects, and piece together clues in your Mind Palace, you’ll start populating your casebook with various points of interest, some with small icons. These icons relate to things such as being searchable in your reference books (pressing Triangle), something you can talk to someone about, a clue that enables further investigation points, etc…

So, if you have a clue you need to talk to someone about, but you’ve not got it pinned, you won’t ask about it when talking to them. Similarly, if you can’t find any more interaction points, you might have a clue that needs to be pinned so that Sherlock knows you’re looking for that specific thing. One such example is the side case in the mental hospital – you’re looking for clues on a murderer based on letters. You have to pin the letter for the scene of the crime to become interactive.

So many people simply didn’t understand or ‘get’ this when playing Chapter One. I’m hoping that people who play this will go back to Chapter One once they realise how the mechanic works. 

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 6+1

Hey-ho, a treasure hunt!

Side Cases and References
One of the great things about remaking a classic game is that you can insert additional gameplay elements and stories which weren’t there before. Frogwares have not only modernised the entire game, but they’ve also included new content in every chapter as well as unlockable costumes and concept art for those that like to feel rewarded (me!). The sad thing about all these extra bonus cases is that I don’t believe any of them have trophies linked to them – you could literally play through the entire game and ignore them and you’ll still grab the platinum. I don’t recommend you do this, as they’re lots of fun, but I feel the developers should have at least had a trophy related to completing each one or, at the very least, one for completing all of them.

The side cases are a nice distraction from the main story, adding at least an additional 3-4 hours to the overall gameplay time. The first involves you following clues as you look for dolls in London, these are used to open a set of drawers to discover what happened to the children and their guardian – this has no relation to the main case but I enjoyed the treasure hunt. Later, you’ll be asked to discover the truth behind a robbery, find out who’s been killing inmates in a mental hospital, and even investigate a haunted warehouse!

Scattered throughout Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened are references to games such as Chapter One and The Sinking City. Due to this Sherlock being the slightly older version we saw in Chapter One, he references his time in Cordona a number of times (the setting for Chapter One) – I believe it’s the same voice actor as well. Also, the costumes you unlock (by completing chapters and earning points) contain a number of familiar items such as the Cordona waistcoat, and the ‘Newcomer’ jacket (from The Sinking City).

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 7+1

This looks familiar…

Unlockables?
Speaking of costumes, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has a new mechanic which rewards you for being thorough and meticulous. I said above that there are no trophies for completing the new side cases, which is correct (unless they’re mandatory to the main case), but they do serve a purpose – unlocking new costumes and concept art. Everything you do generates points, from finding evidence to piecing together solutions, points which automatically unlock new cosmetic items when you reach a certain amount. 

This is a fun idea, it means that I was rotating how Sherlock looked multiple times a chapter – one minute he’s wearing an ‘ugly yellow suit’ and the next he’s in a posh-looking waistcoat with a fez and a superb moustache. My only complaint with this is that he’ll automatically change his clothes in certain scenes, without your consent, so you have to manually swap it back once you’re able to – I get it when it’s raining or he’s in disguise, but it would happen mid-chapter when he didn’t need to change out of the dashing costume I’ve put him in.

Now, unlocking these is not required for any trophies (sadly) and it’ll require multiple playthroughs in order to unlock them all (I unlocked around half of them on my first go), but I don’t think there’s enough incentive for most people to replay the game if they already grabbed the platinum. I find it fun seeing both Watson and Holmes in different clothing, but would I play the game for another 14 hours post-platinum just to unlock new costumes for the third trophy-less playthrough? I imagine there’s even less incentive on the Switch due to having no trophies at all to begin with – or maybe there’s more, as you’re not playing for trophies anyway…

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 8+1

2007 looks more brutal than 2023!

2007 or 2023?
As I mentioned previously, there have been a few changes made to Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened compared to the 2007 title. The vast majority are welcomed such as making Champagne a woman (seems more fitting than a man), modernising the visuals and gameplay, referencing previous games, introducing unlockable costumes (which don’t affect how people react to you, like in Chapter One), no more cryptic and very tricky puzzles/situations, and adding a bunch of new additional side cases. However, there are some things I wish had returned.

First up is the first corpse you find. In the original, this dead body had body parts missing, gashes, gory wounds, and his head even dropped off. But, in the remake, it’s been toned down a lot to look like a well-preserved dead body with no visible wounds aside from a few minor scuffs. We also no longer have the interaction with young Poirot (although that may be due to licensing) and Sherlock no longer does a hilarious ‘Cthulhu madness’ dance when he succumbs to its influence – although we do get a few fantastical puzzle rooms whilst he’s suffering from the madness.

Another change I noticed was the entire mental hospital chapter. I imagine developers have to be more sensitive to this subject these days, they don’t want to offend or incorrectly represent people that are suffering from a mental illness (even though the game is set in 1884). However, in the 2007 version, this chapter was hilarious – you had to cause a diversion in the recreation room and all the inmates went crazy (for want of a better word). I won’t spoil what you do in the remake but you now control both Watson and Holmes and the diversion is much tamer – however, this is balanced by the satanic Heidi which is far superior in this new version!

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened 9+1

Erm… I think Sherlock is mad!

Technical
I initially played Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened on the PS5, it looks and plays great on here – it’s a solid 60fps for the vast majority of the game and looks on par with Chapter One and the PS5 version of The Sinking City. The character models all look realistic with decent lip-syncing and motion-capture animations. The only time I noticed a drop in framerate is during the final chapter when you’re on screen with around 30-50 other characters. At this point, I’d say there were drops to the 40s (as my VRR didn’t help), but it wasn’t that much of an issue as it was during a slow-paced puzzle and right at the end of the game.

The PS4 version, which I played through via BC on my PS5, ran great as well, albeit at 30fps (but a smooth 30fps, not jerky or stuttery). However, the resolution is much lower – I’d say around 1080p or lower (I’m not sure if it has PS4 Pro enhancements or not). The only major difference outside of the resolution seemed to be the loading times – on the PS5 there wasn’t any, everything was done in an instant from fast travelling to moving to a new chapter, on the PS4 there was a short loading time in each of these instances of around 5-10 seconds.

Sound-wise I loved everything. The music fits the situations perfectly and the voice acting was, once again, perfect for the roles they played. The only issues I had with the sound/subtitles were a cylinder you can play which has no subtitles – I’ve reported this to the developer – and one chapter had overlapping dialogue which I’d seen previously in the PS5 version of The Sinking City. I wish the soundtrack had been released on PSN, but I think that it’s on PC only as the ‘Premium Edition’ isn’t on consoles.

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Frogwares have done it again, despite the terrible events going on around them, they’ve managed to create a brilliant and memorable game for us all to enjoy. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened looks and feels like a new game, despite being a remake of a game from 2008. The added content was fun to play through, creating replayability to unlock everything, and the visual and spoken references to previous titles were a nice touch. Fans of the original game will enjoy the tweaks to the story, mechanics, and gameplay, making the experience familiar yet different.

Sadly, there are a number of things ‘missing/different’ which I would have loved to see in this new version – such as the detailed corpse, silly humour, and a first-person mode – but none of these omissions reduced my overall enjoyment. I’d personally recommend you go out of your way to complete all of the side cases, even though there are no trophies assigned to them, I don’t think Sherlock would be happy if you left a bunch of cases unsolved!

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

£32.99
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • Beautifully remade with modern mechanics and gameplay
  • Great voice acting and music that sets the atmosphere
  • Additional side cases and some alterations to the original story
  • Very interesting story, everything is better with a bit of Cthulhu!
  • If you bump up the difficulty then you really have to think about what clues relate to each Mind Palace query

The Bad:

  • The game isn't as cryptic or gruesome as the 2007 original (in places)
  • There's no first-person mode
  • Some people may prefer the old puzzle-focused style over the more modernised 'deduction' mechanics
  • A lot of the 'silly' comments and dialouge were omitted from the game
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Elias
Elias
1 year ago

Very well written review, as for the sound cylinder i remember that had subtitles (not that was necessary) i played the PS4 version by the way. Premium Edition is exclusive to PC, console users like me receive the soundtrack and art book through direct download.

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