Review: Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes

sherlock_BoxArt.jpgThe last few years has seen a flood of adventure games based on the Sherlock Holmes stories.  This makes sense since the adventure genre is ripe for clue-based mysteries and Holmes is amongst the most popular ad engaging characters of the mystery field.  Most of these games are typical point-and-click adventures – you move from place to place looking for clues to help solve a grand mystery.  In this crowded field, Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes does something different.

Unlike the more ‘hardcore’ adventure games that feature intricate plots and require some familiarity with mystery solving skills and adventure games in general, this is a game that anyone can pick up.  Yes, it falls into the much ballyhooed ‘casual game’ genre that is all the rage.  But before you click out, realize that ‘casual’ doesn’t necessarily have to have a negative connotation.  That is certainly true here: The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes consists of sixteen mysteries that are solved by completing a number of puzzles.  There is replayability in that each puzzle has a time limit and you are scored based on time and accuracy – and the elements of each puzzle change each time you play!

The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes instantly reminded me of the I Spy series of computer games based on the popular I Spy books.  In the first puzzles you are looking for certain items that are different between two pictures, and then looking for hidden items in a room.  None of this is new or innovative – I already cited the I Spy series, and there are loads of other ‘hidden item’ games available.  The big difference is the way that this game ties it all up into nicely presented stories.  Each mystery starts with a cutscene of a conversation between Holmes and Watson, and then you choose the new location and start solving the mystery.  During each mystery, the characters involved as well as the master-sleuth all chime in on occasion to voice their opinions on various clues or otherwise comment on things you find as you attempt to solve the mystery.  All of that adds to the feeling of being engaged in solving a mystery instead of just playing a series of ‘hidden object’ puzzles.  And that presentation is very effective.

Of course, with a budget release you don’t expect the same production values as with a multi-million dollar release.  But for the most part everything here works well: the voice acting is fine, as are the animations and the overall flow of the game.  Unfortunately the only significant flaw I found with the game can actually impact the gameplay and make this game much less fun for the intended audience: the graphics details make finding items hard.  Fortunately there is a zoom-in spyglass that you can use to get a better look at a selected area, something that you will absolutely have to use from time to time.  However, in a game that is all about picking out subtle details this is a nice addition, but having it be necessary to make it through the game is a shame.

Aside from the criticism of inadequate graphical details, the only thing I found in The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes was loads of fun: everyone in my family loved it, even my non-gamer wife.  It is the sort of simple fun game mechanic that when attached to a solid license and a well played story, combines to produce many hours of addictive fun.

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Pros:
+ Simple and engaging game mechanic
+ Fun for hardcore and casual alike
+ Nice stories woven into puzzle system
+ Bargain pricing

Cons:
– Low graphical details makes things hard to find

Game Info:
Platform: PC/Mac Digital Download and Hybrid CD-ROM
Publisher: Legacy Interactive
Developer: Legacy Interactive
Release Date: 6/5/08
Genre: Puzzle/Adventure
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!