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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments: The definitive Sherlock adventure

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 1, 2014
The world's most famous detective is back with a great set of mysteries, peppered with a few mediocre cases—about the same hit ratio as Arthur Conan Doyle himself, really.

And just like one of Arthur Conan Doyle's anthologies, the quality of this adventure game varies from case to case.

The typical set-up goes: Sherlock is called to the crime scene, investigates the area, speaks to witnesses, does a few experiments, speaks to witnesses again, investigates a secondary scene, makes some deductions, and then makes an arrest (or not).

That last bit is the big addition to Crimes and Punishments.

Sherlock's heart grew three sizes that day
Over the course of each case you'll collect a ton of data, which then floats around in something like a word-association cloud. Pairing clues together will earn you data points on a big deduction flowchart where you'll, for instance, make a choice between "Whoever threw the harpoon through Black Peter is clearly a very strong person" or "Whoever threw the harpoon through Black Peter got a lucky shot."

Each choice will lead Sherlock towards a different outcome, with what seems like at least three distinct suspects for each case. This system was also present in Testament of Sherlock Holmes.

No, the big difference here is that Holmes has grown a heart. Once you've completed your investigation and settled on a suspect, you'll then have to decide whether to condemn or absolve the person in question.

After my first case I thought the system was shoe-horned in. "How could you ever decide not to bring someone to justice?" Frogwares treads on some very morally grey, very mature territory with these cases though, and there were two or three in particular where I just couldn't bear to condemn the perpetrator based on the circumstances.

That's not to say all these cases are great. Two of them in particular the solutions were telegraphed so hard that I'd solved the mystery probably half an hour before the game actually let me wrap up, mindlessly collecting the last few clues until it was time to make the arrest. Crimes and Punishments isn't nearly as obtuse as the earlier Sherlock Holmes games, but the side-effect is that it's also quite a bit easier at times.

And there's still some of that B-game jank. The frame rate inexplicably stuttered for three or four minutes every time I booted the game, but then it would go away and run smoothly. The third-person camera is also clumsy and unwieldy, feeling more like tank controls than a modern third-person perspective. As a result, I played the entire game in first-person mode unless I was taking screenshots (seriously). Crimes and Punishments is also peppered with a fair number of quicktime events, some of which don't even tell you which buttonto press.

Also, there's a lot of traveling between environments. This wouldn't be a huge deal, except each of these travel sections coincides with a lengthy loading screen. Frogwares tries to mitigate this problem by letting you access your casebook and deduction screen while traveling, but it's a huge pain when you go to your apartment on Baker Street to get one item, then immediately jump back into your carriage to travel somewhere else and each time you're treated to a twenty or thirty second load.

 

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