First Impressions: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments (XBOX360) ~ Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

Wikipedia entry

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.

First Impression: Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe (Switch) ~ Let’s Explore For Tears

WoodleTree2Deluxe-featured

Nintendo.com microwebsite

I remember when ChubbyPixel asked me to review Woodle Tree Deluxe on the Switch in March. I felt like there could have been done so much more with the concept of the game. Recently, the company released the sequel to the Nintendo Switch. Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe. An expanded version of Woodle Tree 2: Worlds on Steam. Now, the asked me to take a look at the sequel as well. While a review key has been provided to write this review, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s explore for tears

WOODLE TREE2

The story of this game is a direct follow up to the original. In this game, you play as a son of the hero of the original game. Now, the powers of evil have taken over the Wood Lands as revenge. It’s up to you to save the Wood Lands and find the tears again.

The way the story is being told and paced is a lot better than the original. In the original, you have a small cut scene at the start and you got thrown into the hub world. Now, the whole world is the hub world and there is a central place that acts as a sort of overview place where you can buy upgrades and cosmetics.

Before you can go explore the whole map, you go through a sort of tutorial section. The tutorial is quite decent. It teaches you the basic mechanics of the game without being too punishing.

After you have saved the three first tears, you will be allowed to find all the other tears. Right on the map screen, you can see that the game is divided up in several area’s where you can find three tears each. Right there on the map screen, you can also notice that the checkpoints you activate also can be used as warp points. That’s pretty neat.

So, in each area, there are three tears and at least 80 blueberries. You can find your progress of that collection on the mini-map. There are also red berries but there is no counter for that on the map screen. The map screen is quite useful since it tells you where in the world you are and which level it is. The only thing I miss on the map screen is a sort of zoom-in feature that you can use to have a better idea of the current area you are in. Also, it would be extremely handy that you could move the cursor freely around without being restricted to only being able to choose the warp points.

You can bring up the map screen by a simple press of the (+) button. If you use the shoulder buttons, you can use the pause menu. The menu after the map screen is the options menu. Where you can adjust the camera sensitivity, the volume if you want to invert the X-axis or the Y-axis if you want or don’t want anti-aliasing and the language. The controls are listed in this menu, but you can’t change them. In the most recent update, the developers added a lot of languages!

The 3rd and final screen in the pause screen is a total overview of your adventure where you can see how much red berries, blueberries you have and how many tears you have collected.

Now, most of the story is being told through text bubbles. There is no voice acting nor are there any “voice noises” in the game. There are sound effects, but I will talk more on that later in this review. You can easily notice when somebody has something to say because there is a text box floating above their heads. Now, you don’t have to worry to approach them from the wrong side since the text box sort of follows your character while staying on top of the character that’s speaking. The only thing is that the character itself doesn’t follow you.

Wall jumps and double jumps

WOODLETREE

If you played a platformer or the original, you will be right at home playing this game. The idea is that through platforming, you find the three tears. In this game, Woodle has few new moves in their arsenal. You have a double jump and a wall jump. You can also use your leaf to float around and to catch water droplets to water dead trees. To easily find your way around in the world, you can also use a telescope. Sadly enough, there isn’t a run button insight.

It’s not that your character is moving slow, the world is a tad bit too big. It would be extremely helpful that you had a run button or some way to make traveling faster. Thankfully the warp mechanic is really fast, so once you unlocked the waypoints, it’s easy to get there fast. It also helps you out in a pinch. Just take a look at this tweet. Yes, I got stuck inside a house I wasn’t supposed to get into. Or the moment I was able to let the character do a sort of moonwalk.

Now, the reason that I called this section, wall jumps and double jumps are because I feel like there is some sort of conflict in the code. I found it a bit difficult when I wanted to use my double jump to get onto a higher ledge because I jumped away from the wall since a wall kick was used.

This caused me a few deaths. Thankfully, there is no life system in place. After a few hits, you respawn at the checkpoint you used last. Checkpoints are also used as save points. So, whenever you need to save, you can easily warp to a checkpoint and the game automatically saves your progress. Now, the game only has one save slot, so it’s impossible that two or more people have their own playthrough at the same time.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive. While I sometimes have to fight the camera, I don’t think that the controls are that bad. They could use some polish, especially in the above-mentioned wall jump mechanic. Now, the game drops the ball in two other areas.

First of all, the visual presentation is something that needs some work. Overall the game looks fine and the animations are decent. Visually the game looks amazing for being a budget title. But, there are multiple popping issues and in some area’s I even had some major frame drops when the area was loading in. And in some areas, the place suddenly totally changed like in this video/tweet.

The character is sometimes quite jittery, especially when you are floating down. You can attack during your floating down without losing height or momentum. Textures and models pop in and out. The leaf you use sometimes just turns white, like when you are floating down… The game needs polish in the performance of the visuals.

Speaking of the visual presentation, the lighting is extremely off. Now, I can understand that when the enemies come and attack you, the scene goes dark. It is the powers of evil after all. But, for example on the beach, the lighting is so strong… the yellow that’s used for sand was sometimes quite painful to look at. Besides that, I had different lighting in a similar area without any rime or reason. I also posted that in a video on Twitter.

A final thing in the visual department I think that could have been improved is the design of some enemies. At first, I wasn’t able to tell some enemies apart from NPCs. This was a problem during the tutorial since I was attacking an NPC that looked an awful lot like an enemy from the original game.

Now, a great thing about the visual department is how your health is being displayed. The size of the leaf is basically your health. How smaller it is, how closer you are to death. Unlike the first game, you can be hit multiple times in this game. This makes the game more forgiving and more fun to play.

It’s a shame really since the game is looking quite charming and fun to play. If only these issues with the visual presentation weren’t present, then the game could have been so much better. Sadly enough, this isn’t the only major issue with the game.

Spooky silence

WOODLE TREE 3

The game itself isn’t too hard. When you get used to the controls and the mechanics of the game, you are able to find your way around quite easily. Enemies can be easily avoided and sometimes just buying an upgrade can make the game a literal walk in the park.

Now, the 2nd big issue with this game is the audio design. Don’t misunderstand me, the music and sound effects of this game are all quite well done but there isn’t enough. Some things are lacking sound effects like hitting switches or elevators. But the biggest issue is the music. The music is amazing but there are a lot of areas where the music doesn’t play and you hear silence. You only hear the sound effects of the game.

It’s a shame since each area has its own unique musical theme that really fits with the atmosphere of that area. But the area’s in between stay silent. But, sometimes the music just loops wrong as well. There are these flowers you can run into to get a speed boost. Each time you hit a flower, the musical jingle restarts. This is quite annoying in my opinion. I wish it just extended playing the jingle. And let’s not forget to mention that the animation is quite inconsistent with these speed boosts. In some areas, a roll animation starts playing and in some area’s it looks like you are gliding over the ground.

Should I be so harsh on this game? The game is fun, has a lot of love and creativity in it. The game costs 12 bucks and is quite often on sale. The developers are quite responsive and if you find a bug and report it to them, they fix it in the next patch. Even when another game has come out. Still, I see the potential that this game has and I just wish that the game was more polished.

Something that I’m quite content with this game is the fact that this game shows a lot of potential for the following games of the studio. I have been working with this studio since the first Suicide Guy game. I have seen the quality of each of their titles improve and grow. And this game impressed me quite a lot. I’m quite thankful that I got a key from them to review this game since I think that this game shows a lot of potential for the future.

Now, something that I would love to see in a sequel to this game is less technical issues and more things to do besides looking for blueberries and the tears. Expand the game and the universe. Maybe have a cross over with the Suicide Guy series, besides being it as an easter egg.

So yeah, I think I’m going to continue playing this game. The charm of this game really has won me over. I can recommend this game to other players, but keep in mind that this game has some technical issues in its current state. Maybe some future patches will improve on this, who knows.

And that’s for now, everything that I have to say on this game. Thank you for reading this article and 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.