I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I really like to play detective games and trying to solve a crime. That’s why I’m really into the CSI games. Now, when one of my neighbors in our yearly local garage sale started selling his XBOX360 and PS4 collection, I saw he had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. While I’m well aware that this game got a port this year onto the Nintendo Switch and Steam, I chose to play the XBOX360 version. Mainly since it was €4 at the garage sale and the Switch version would have set me back way more for just a bit of visual upgrades? Well, I wanted another excuse to boot up my XBOX360 once more. But, did it stay on, or did I start looking toward other games and/or consoles? Well, let’s talk about it in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of the game and/or this article.
Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England
It’s no real surprise that you take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in this game. Together with your trusty best friend Watson, you are solving strange cases left and right in London in the Victorian era. This game takes place in 1893. In the first case, you investigate the murder of an old captain with a vile reputation. Explaining any more of the plot would ruin the story.
The cases in this game aren’t that long, and they are somewhat unrelated. So, if you are looking for a game with character development or growth… This isn’t the game for you. The writing in this game is more aimed at players who want to relax and enjoy a fun murder mystery like an episode of CSI. With some familiar characters, but each episode is a different case.
The writing itself is quite enjoyable. I really feel that I’m in a Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The story really scratches that itch, I have to play some more detective games but only this time, it isn’t with modern technology.
The voice work is also quite good. They made the atmosphere of this game come to life. Every line of dialogue and thoughts are voice acted. Now, there is one thing I’m a bit on the fence about in terms of the voice acting. Maybe it’s because I have been reviewing games for so long and know a bit about developing games as well, but I had times when I felt like some lines were a bit generic.
For example, when you are searching in Holmes’ archives and find the piece you are looking for… It’s always the same line. Sometimes recording more than one line, and randomizing it, helps with the immersion of the game. Otherwise, you are running the risk of it all blending together and making some mechanics feel a bit boring. Or why does doctor Watson nearly always ask where to go next. It’s as if they didn’t record other lines for him. Maybe some fun banter or remark about the location. Like, in the first case, about the well-kept garden. I wouldn’t mind it looping, but something more than “Where to go next, Holmes” and Sherlock not even replying. Since, now, the line feels a bit out of place to me. Thankfully, these moments didn’t bother me too much and are overall quite rare.
I’m well aware that perfection doesn’t exist, and thankfully so. Thankfully, this is the only problem I have with the writing. Very few lines are a bit generic or out of place. And maybe I really notice them because I wanted to review this game and the overall quality is quite high, and I wondered if there was something to critique about the story.
Pop! Here I am!
Visually, this game looks good. The environments are quite detailed and look amazing. But, it isn’t perfect. This game suffers from popping issues sometimes. Especially when you go from a cut scene to gameplay, where some textures just take a bit longer to load, and it just looks weird. I had one especially bad case of this when Holmes’ case book didn’t load the correct texture for like 30 seconds. And I was wondering what the text was on the book.
This happened to me while I was in the “load screen” wagon between two locations. During the loading screen, you can view your case book or enter your thoughts’ menu. And, to be honest, I highly advise you do, since the background scrolling during these wagon scenes don’t always look great. I even saw moments where the background suddenly restarted. And the backgrounds are such lower quality compared to the rest of the game, it’s a shame. Just like the small screen tear issues this game sometimes has when exploring around.
The animations of this game are good as well. They make the game come to life that much more. Yet, sometimes I feel that some characters move a bit too slow or lack a few frames of animation to make it look like the game it’s dipping in frames. But that isn’t the worst issue I have with the visuals and animation. That dubious honor is for the fact that sometimes when exploring, Holmes can “raise up in the air” on an object and when you move the camera just a tiny bit immediately snap down to earth. This happened more than once, but thankfully it didn’t cause any game breaking bugs by for example placing me out of bounds.
Maybe I’m being too harsh on the game. I mean, image the amount of work the developers had to put into the visuals. Especially when you are able to chose if you want a first person camera or a third person camera by the press of a button. This goes so seamless it’s a surprise to me that this works so amazingly well.
Also, you can dress up Sherlock Holmes as you want. The amount of different variations is just silly and adds to the impressive visual possibilities that this game has. Dressing up is just one of the mechanics this game has. You’ll need it sometimes to trick a character into talking.
Now, what exactly is it that you do in this game? Well, you investigate a crime and you look at the crime scene for clues. Sometimes you go back to Baker Street to preform experiments or the search in your archive. While you are exploring the locations, you can also talk to suspects to gather more information about the case.
During your research, you’ll find a lot of clues. Some of these clues need to be interacted with. In your notebook, those clues have a special icon so you know that you need to research in your archive or preform certain experiments with them. Also, the task list is quite handy to keep track of what you still should investigate.
During your research, you’ll be able to use your imagniation. This is a sort of “recreation” button for some scenes in the game. Or when a clue is quite hidden, you can use the strong observation skills of Holmes. To avoid these mechanics becoming a needle in a haystack story, you’ll notice those icons at the top right when you need to use those skills.
Another important mechanic is what I call the “connect the logic dots” mechanic. Here you need to connect two clues to form another clue. It reminds me a bit of Time Hollow which has a similar mechanic, but explaining that would spoil parts of that game. When you connected all your loose clue’s, you can try to make sense of them all. Connecting the right dots will lead you to a conclusion. But is it the right one? Who knows? Be sure to think it over more then once. Since, seeing if your theory is correct is a lot of fun to see play out.
Something that this game does a lot better compared to the CSI games is that this game gives you some freedom. You can actually explore the area the crime took place and look for clues. Some of these areas are huge but expertly crafted, making it a breeze to explore them.
The responsive controls make it quite fun to walk around and explore those areas. Thankfully, Holmes has infinite stamina, so you can also run around when you find his walking pace too slow. And when you forget how to control the game, you can just press the two joysticks of your controller to bring up a handy chart of the games’ controls.
There are two things that controls a bit awkward at first and that’s searching in the archives and searching in your case book, but it doesn’t take long before you can get the hang of it when you know that almost every button has a different purpose, and you look at the buttons that are displayed on the screen.
Skipping the skip
One big difference compared to the CSI games is that there is no hint system in this game during your case. If you are stuck, you can’t get any hints from somebody. This is something that some people like and others aren’t really fond of. But, just like the CSI games, this game has mini-games and puzzles.
Now, you can skip most of these puzzles and mini-games by the press of a button. It barely has any influence on the game if you played or skipped the puzzles, but it’s a nice addition that it’s there. When you just want to get on with the game instead of figuring out one stupid puzzle that otherwise would have locked you out the rest of the game. Something that would make it even more perfect is that in the end of the case, you can see how much puzzles you have skipped. That way you can make it an “honor” thing where people who completed the game without skipping any puzzle get an achievement or something.
Speaking about the ending of the cases, you can come to the wrong conclusion. If it has consequences or not, I won’t reveal to not spoil the game, but it’s great to see that you are able to redo it when you want to see the other endings OR want to correct yourself. You can also choose between either reporting the criminal or letting the criminal go. And that’s also everything I wanted to say about that mechanic. It leads to some quite interesting things.
This game isn’t too difficult. The biggest difficulty in this game is when you overlook a clue and reach the wrong conclusion. If you are stuck, I highly advise you to go over your case notebook and imagination. Since, you might have missed a clue. Only once I had to look up the walkthrough, and it turned out that I was doing two things in the wrong order. Apart from one puzzle in the 3rd case, this game doesn’t have any “moon logic” puzzles. The puzzle in the 3rd case isn’t hard, but it takes a while to click with some people what the idea behind the puzzle is.
This game has achievements. And it’s quite a lot of fun to go for the achievements in this game. They don’t add a lot of replay value since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. Unless you decide to start speedrunning it to see the endings you missed since you didn’t start over when you choose your moral stance.
Usually in my reviews, I write about the audiovisual presentation right after the visual presentation. But, since I had some more things I wanted to talk about in the visual presentation department, I’m talking about the audiovisual presentation later. And I can be very short about it, it’s nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the music is good and fits the atmosphere like a glove… But, it doesn’t stand out to me. I find the music a bit to the generic opera side of things, and I would have a hard time matching it with Sherlock Holmes outside the game. I think the main issue is that it doesn’t feel like a “song” or “track” but more like a 10 or 20 second melody that’s repeating in somewhat different tones for 3-ish minutes.
Now, the sound effects are used amazingly well. While exploring, it really adds to the atmosphere sometimes. Really listen while exploring that one area at the end of the 3rd case, and you’ll understand what I mean.
Before I go to the conclusion, I want to talk about the game’s preformance. A big complaint is that the load times are quite lengthy sometimes and honestly, I have to disagree. I have played games with longer load times and the load times in this game didn’t bother me at all. It was the ideal moment for me to sip of my drink or to think about my theory of the case.
The game ran always at quite the stable frame rate (apart from some small moments in cut scenes). But, there is one thing that should have worked differently. I find it a strange decision that when you are waiting for a door to open since the game needs to load the area behind it… You can move away from it. It gave me the impression at first that my input didn’t register. Locking Holmes in place would communicated that a bit better to the player.
Anyways, when you read this article you might think that this is a very flawed game. If you got that impression, you reached the wrong conclusion and didn’t see all the evedince I left in the article. You might want to think it over and you might reach the intended conclusion (which you can always see at the press of a button when you have beaten the case once).
I fell in love with this game. I totally understand why so many people see this game as one of the best Sherlock Holmes games. It does so many things right that it’s still so much fun after 8 years later, this game is still a blast to play through. Of course, the XBOX360 release has some issues. Especially in the visuals department where the preformance can be spotty sometimes and in some places the game really shows its age.
But did those problems bother me? Oh heavens no. I still enjoyed myself and I was quite happy that I was able to pick up this game for quite a cheap price. It also made me quite curious to play the other Sherlock Holmes games in my collection and that’s perfect since my summer break just started.
So, if you enjoy mystery adventure games like Professor Layton, CSI or Ace Attorney AND/OR if you enjoy point-and-click adventure games like Deponia or Broken Sword or Monkey Island… I think you owe it yourself to check out this game. Since the port earlier this year, this game is on so many platforms and quite easy to get so if you want some better preformance, I highly suspect that the PS4 and Switch versions’ll outpreform the XBOX360 version. But hey, the XBOX360 version is still worth playing!
And with that said, I have reached my conclusion about this highly enjoyable game and where shall we go next–
Thank you for reading this article so much. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.