Elementary, my dear Watson?


I’m pretty well tapped into the video game playing community.  I keep up on news, rumors, and gossip.  It’s pretty rare that a game will come out with no knowledge to me.  And for some reason, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, which I received as a Christmas gift, qualifies as a game that I had barely ever heard of.  The name was compelling to me as I find Sherlock Holmes to be a fascinating figure in literary history and mysteries to be generally fun, but I hadn’t heard of this game.  No magazines I subscribe to covered it in any detail, no websites I frequent featured it at all…  WTF is the story?  Well, while I can’t answer why this game got literally no press, I’ve now played it from start to finish and can give you the scoop on it.


The Testament of Sherlock Holmes should not be described as a great game…  Nor should it be described as a poor game.  Mediocre would sum it up pretty accurately.  The game moves a painstakingly slow pace, but you’re usually having fun doing whatever you’re currently tasked with.  If you’re investigating a crime scene, while it takes probably too long, you’re having a decent time.  If you’re looking for a suspect, same thing…  Too long, but not awful.


One new gaming device that I actually enjoyed was the “Deduction Chart.”  When you would come about an awful lot of new information at once, the game would ask you questions to see what you make of the information you just obtained.  You would need to produce the right deductions from the info, and if you made a mistake you wouldn’t be able to progress, nor would you be punished…  You would just need to rethink your strategy until both player and Sherlock are on the same page.


The game breaks off occasionally into self-contained puzzle “segments” that I don’t know whether to describe as brilliant or unfair.  Some of the puzzles require very deep thought and trial-and-error, but many also qualify as “nonsensical” or “brutal” because the pattern you’re trying to notice would only be visible to the person who created it.  I don’t mind a hard puzzle every now and again…  But an UNFAIR puzzle makes me want to shatter a game, and that happened a few times too many in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.  However, even fair puzzles could still be described as irreverent.  For example, there was a time when I seized a suspect’s briefcase.  I had to open it to get whatever piece of evidence was inside it.  So, to open it, I had to solve an incredibly elaborate puzzle involving organizing marbles into three different color-coded groups, but it was insanely difficult because you had to move marbles in groups of four but that’s besides the point because…  WHY THE HECK IS THE LOCKING MECHANISM ON THIS BRIEFCASE A STRING OF MARBLES IN THE FIRST PLACE?!!?  You mean to tell me that EVERY time the bad guys wanted to get into this briefcase they had to solve this senseless puzzle that took me half-an-hour?!  That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of!  And also, that’s a mighty sophisticated technology for 1898 LONDON!!  I think I heard about Abraham Lincoln keeping rough drafts of his Emancipation Proclamation is his marble-puzzle-locked briefcase.  Actually, no I didn’t…  I made that up to demonstrate the absurdity of such a device.


The game also suffered from another pitfall that I always thought had plagued the character of Sherlock Holmes, be it games, movies, or literature…  The pitfall of this ridiculous implied knowledge.  Here’s a great example of this:  (WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.) At one of the crime scenes you are investigating footprints from the murderer.  Holmes takes out his tape-measure and determines that the shoes are 9 ½…  OK, no problem.  He also notices that the shoes have nails along the brim, nailing the sole to the shoe.  He determines that must mean the shoes were worn by laborers and that he is therefore very poor.  A bit of a stretch, but OK, I’m with you, Sherlock.  Holmes also notices a very small trace of dirt by a footprint.  He pockets the dirt and takes it back to his lab for testing.  He discovers the dirt is maintaining moisture.  Holmes notes aloud that it hasn’t rained in Whitechapel for nearly two weeks…  And with this ONE SPECK OF DIRT, Holmes is able to trace the murderer to one specific mining pit because of the type of dirt that would be there or something…


Um, that’s KIND OF a leap from finding a speck of dirt on the floor of the Bishop’s bedroom if you ask me.  But that’s the appeal of the Sherlock Holmes character, though, I guess.  There are also way too many technological and logical inconsistancies that drove me insane, most notably when Sherlock himself actually puts a gun to his head and in front of the entire police force and his dear friend Dr. John Watson, blows his brains all over the walls of his bedroom.  They pronounce Holmes dead, BURY HIM DAYS LATER, and then he awakes from the dead saying he fooled everyone with a gizmo he created with sheep’s blood among other things.  Come on, get real.


Another thing that bothered me about The Testament of Sherlock Holmes was that the mystery isn’t able to be solved by the player.  I think the fun of a mystery, whether it be a book, film, or in this case, game, is trying to put the clues together to figure out who committed the crime!  But in this case, it’s a character from Holmes’ past that doesn’t get introduced until the tail end of the game just as Holmes solves the mystery.  That’s kinda lame if you ask me.


The game is also poorly assembled, which for my money is par for the course for game designers Atlus.  Expect horribly glitchy controls, camera problems, graphical hiccups, and one new strange problem that I swear could ONLY be found in a game made by Atlus.  While the game features passable voice acting, some sort of problem happened in recording that makes a moment of whatever the NEXT LINE the voice actors recorded to be added on to the previous line.  The result sound likes a distracting CLICK at the end of nearly EVERY line of dialogue.  In some ways the producers should be embarrassed by The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.


Despite me beating it up for the last few paragraphs, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes isn’t an awful game.  It kept me pretty hooked for about 20 hours worth of playtime, but I would sometimes have to laugh at how poorly done the game was.


I wouldn’t say steer clear of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, just be very weary before you decide to plunk down your money, Dr. Watson.