The first Sherlock Holmes game I played was on the ZX Spectrum way back in 1984; a game simply called Sherlock. It was a text adventure with the odd rendered still animation and I loved it. It allowed me the chance to go on trains, to try and solve a murder and it made me feel like the man himself.
Cut to almost forty years later and I’ve played a lot of Sherlock Holmes games in the meantime. The changes have been huge, but it still comes down to the iconic man and his doctor friend trying to gather clues and solve a case. The developers at Frogwares have been behind a few of those of more recent times, and it is they who are back with another game in the beloved franchise. I was eager to put on the deerstalker hat again and head out into the hunt with Sherlock Holmes The Awakened.
The Awakened is a bit of a remake of an original 2006 game, but this is a completely new package that builds out from that title massively, feeling more inspired by it. Yet it is the development process that is the real story here – the Frogwares gang having worked through not just Covid, but a war in their Ukraine home. Hats must go off to them for getting this game to market.
In terms of story, Sherlock Holmes The Awakened eases you in with a mild crime at the beginning, one that sees a frustrated Holmes being sent out to investigate, before leading onto something else entirely. Then the real game begins, involving a missing servant, and soon you are found travelling across London town and then the globe, from Switzerland to New Orleans. It comes with a Lovecraftian fantasy edge which works well into the story, even if it may well upset some purists.
There is a great sense of adventure to this game though, with a good story and some nice twists and turns throughout. The writing is especially good, particularly in terms of how Holmes is presented. I have loved spending time in this world and meeting all the characters on the journey.
The gameplay elements will feel very similar if you played previous games from the developers – Sherlock Holmes Chapter One as an example. It’s a tricky game as well and you might find yourself standing in certain areas trying to find clues without any help from the game. Be prepared to switch on your top detective mode in order to progress.
But whilst it feels familiar, there are a few things that have changed. Combat is a thing of the past – which personally I am relieved about. Secondly, it has a less open-world feel to it, with side quests dotted around. The Awakened is not completely linear, but more contained; so much so that I feel it might split the audience a bit, with some enjoying the freedom the last games offered the player.
Your job as the greatest detective of all time is to collect clues and then draw a conclusion on the order of events as to what happened in each area. For example, you might have certain areas when you have to use your eagle eye to find all the clues in one place. When gathered they appear in your notebook where you can try and order them into a sequence of events. Sometimes you might have to investigate by talking to someone connected with the site or pin the evidence to discover further explanations. What is nice is that there is a visual guide to unlock, letting you recreate the crime scene. This is like a ghostly representation of the act and is highly enjoyable to try and work in the right order. The detecting part of the game and trying to solve each part of the case both build out as highlights, and The Awakened feels much more focused. For me, it is a more enjoyable experience than what has come previous.
The visuals found in Sherlock Holmes The Awakened are great, with some seriously well worked historical and detailed environments to walk around and explore. The facial animations of the characters you meet are extremely good too, with some brilliant details in skin tones and clothing. There is the odd syncing problem, but nothing big enough to ever spoil the enjoyment of the game. In fact, the way it mixes created visuals with real-life ones is seamless and very clever.
I’ve been impressed by the soundtrack too; well designed throughout. It’s the voice-over work which is extremely well placed though, with a special mention going to the actor who plays Sherlock.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened does a brilliant job of placing you in the shoes of the world renowned detective; something which should be the primary objective of any Sherlock game. There is a great sense of exploration allowed here, along with a good story. I personally like the linear approach it all brings, and certainly don’t miss the exclusion of any combat sections. That said, some help or guidance from the game or characters in certain sections would have been appreciated, but purists will love the lack of hand-holding.
There’s some serious excitement about where this Frogwares team can take Sherlock next.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is on the Xbox Store