The Testament of Sherlock Holmes: Mysteriously good

October 8, 2012

It’s a weird time in the industry for adventure games. There are still plenty of them released today, with most of them developed by smaller studios and released as PC exclusives. However, every now and again one slips through the cracks and finds its way to consoles. The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, the sixth game in Frogwares’ adventure franchise, is such a game. It sticks to a relatively well-worn formula, but one that will please most Sherlock Holmes fans or those just looking for a lengthy, puzzle-filled adventure.

The story follows our titular hero and everyone’s favorite sidekick, Dr. John Watson, as they investigate a series of grisly murders that all somehow connect to a darker side of Sherlock than we are used to seeing. Like with any good mystery, there are multiple facets to this story, but many of the twists are genuine surprises and the story moves along relatively quickly.

The character of Sherlock Holmes is explored in a way I have never seen done in any adaptation of the source material. This is a darker game than you might expect to feature the great detective, but it adds even more to the mystery and brings to light a lot of what makes these characters so compelling to begin with. The strong writing and solid voice acting for both Sherlock and Watson definitely help.

It’s also good that the presentation as a whole, while plagued of technical issues, is great. The technical issues, including frame rate hitches, audio hiccups and other random mishaps (including some truly awful voice acting from minor characters) do ruin some of the game’s finer moments, but they don’t ruin the experience altogether. The environments you explore are full of detail, and where it lacks in polish it more than makes up for in atmosphere. I’m not going to claim this game is at any point scary, but there are some tense areas and, thanks to the game’s many mysteries, you’ll generally find yourself engrossed from beginning to end.

You can’t have an adventure game without puzzles, and this game is full of them. As you explore different environments, examining objects and picking up random assortments of things, you’ll come across a puzzle. They are designed to allow you to use a combination of your own wits and things you’ve picked up in the environment, including notes that contain subtle hints. They are mostly well-designed and give you plenty to think about. While there are a few that require a little too much pixel-hunting or are just plain tedious, there are a large number of fantastic, well-integrated and well-crafted puzzles waiting for you.

For those who find themselves stumbling over their own feet when it comes to a lot of these puzzles, the game provides a handy skip puzzle option. For those who are merely interested in the story and an occasional brain teaser here or there, this is a perfect way to skip puzzles that may frustrate you. It does take a little while for the option to appear, giving people a chance to at least attempt the puzzle a few times instead of skipping them all, but it’s nice to have the option.

Outside of the puzzles, you’ll be doing lots of navigating through environments and finding clues to solve whatever mystery is currently afoot. This includes lots of clicking around randomly, listening to what Sherlock and Watson have to say, and then moving on. There are also deduction boards, which allow you to piece together the clues you’ve found to gather together all of your (or Sherlock’s) thoughts to keep the game’s many large mysteries under control.

A lot of this can be very dry at times, but before too long there will be a new puzzles or clues to help move the story along and keep things interesting. There’s also something called Sherlock’s Sixth Sense, which allows you to see all of the things in the environment that you can interact with. This cuts down on the tedium and allows you to keep things moving. It’s a pretty long game, so having features like this and the ability to skip puzzles allows players to ease in this style of adventure game a bit better while still offering plenty of challenge for veterans of the genre.

The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is almost like a game from a different time, with a few modern accommodations thrown in for those who may not be accustomed to games like this. It drops the ball in a few places where it probably shouldn’t, but this is an engaging, well-written adventure with plenty of great moments for Sherlock Holmes fans and adventure game fans alike.

Pros: Excellent story and writing, mostly fantastic puzzles, strong presentation
Cons: Some awful voice acting, lots of technical issues, a few tedious puzzles

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.