|Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper (2010) (VG: Xbox360)
||[Jun. 6th, 2010|03:30 pm]
This was a good puzzle/mystery video game, and it's the perfect game for an idle weekend. Sherlock took me 16 gaming hours to complete. I basically woke up early yesterday, fired up the game, and finished it in the early morning hours. I had no idea it existed up until last week, despite it being released on PC last year, and ported to the 360 and released late in April of 2010. When I went to rate it on Xbox Live, there were only 79 ratings for it. Sherlock is, at this time, a very obscure game.
Sherlock is a throwback to the 1990s-era mystery/puzzle games that were the rage on PC. You play as both the fictional detective and his assistant, the trusty Dr. Watson. The game plays you as either one as the story progresses, switching you between the two when certain tasks arise. Sherlock is on the trail of the Whitechapel killer, who went on IRL to become known as the infamous Jack the Ripper, a murderer who preyed on prostitutes in the late 19th century in the seedy section of London, UK.
The game allows for 1st-and-3rd-person views from which to play the game. I suggest 1st person. 3rd is a confusing jumble of random fixed camera angles, sometimes several angles in a particular area. Since the game is confined to alleyways and courtyards (not a sandbox game), you'll find yourself pushing your character away from a camera angle, only to have it switch to the next camera angle, which unfortunately is in front of you. The effect this has on your character is to reverse the controls, pushing him back into the previous section of the alley to the camera behind you. This happens far too often for my taste, and since I have no problems playing in 1st person, I switched to that view permanently and never looked back.
The story, as well as the puzzles, are the best features this game has to offer. I will refrain on the twists this story takes, so fear not about spoilers. While Sherlock and Watson are fictional characters of the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the events and multiple NPCs of this game are based on their real-life counterparts. You examine some of the bodies of the prostitutes killed on those evenings in 1888 (albeit slightly cartoonified renditions of their bodies, this game goes to great lengths to provide accuracy with the wounds, making it a fair and enjoyable criminal-science investigative exercise). The game holds off on the more graphic representations of crime scenes, keeping it in the realm of a wide audience, although the game presents itself on an adult level of maturity. You follow the IRL events from the start of the discovery of the body of Mary Ann Nichols, and the story progresses from there, through early November of 1888. It covers earlier murders later in the game (such as the murder of Martha Tabram) and makes use of a deduction board as well as timelines to help you come to the proper conclusions about the mystery. Often enough, you will encounter random fictional characters who will offer information in exchange for favors, to which you must guide Watson or Holmes on side quests involving more puzzles in order to obtain the Ripper information necessary to progress in the story. The big-league reviewing companies generally did not like these side quests, panning them as distracting from the case, however, I wholly disagree. Both the side quest puzzles and the casework and puzzles related to the main quest are all on the same level of difficulty and enjoyment. There was a humorous side quest which involved a despicable obese whore and a bunch of alley cats, one that gave me some hearty laughs.
Leads to amusing means to a productive end.
Although laughter isn't the norm in this game, as it involves serious business (they sprinkle another Ripper murder just when you think he's given up the game for some nice pacing), that side quest washed away any notion that the game dragged in-between examining the crime scenes.
This game also produced one of the most easy and amusing achievements I've ever earned on Xbox Live. At one point in the game, you enter a brothel. Be sure to examine every painting in the brothel's lobby. You get 80 gamer points for staring at whorehouse art.
Criticisms are as follows. Do not buy this game if you demand graphics, action, and multiplayer. The entire game is single-player. Also, Sherlock and Watson are never in peril, and the only consequence you may suffer is becoming stuck on a puzzle and thus not being able to progress in the story. The aforementioned graphics are dated 5 years, so they are definitely sub-par to the latest 360 releases. The streets and locales do look good, but the characters are wax-like. Characters will often mouth words that do not match the audible dialogue in a puppet-like opening and closing of their mouths. Walking and running mechanics are almost hilariously stiff when playing from 3rd person. The random dialog with non-mission street-goers is also very limited. All of these are minor knocks, as this is a puzzle game, not Halo, GTA, or Gears of War.
If you happen to find Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper, and/or criminal science interesting, then you will be enamored with this game. I look upon this game very favorably because the story revealed details I had never thought of with regard to the real-life case. It's worth a look.