Sherlock Holmes is a detective that has had a very chequered life. Drug addiction, long running feuds and being framed for murder are just some of the many issues that he has encountered over the years. Now, his daughter returns home unexpectedly after her boarding school is flooded. She strikes up a friendship with Holmes' mysterious new neighbour Alice De'Bouvier, and not everything is as it seems. Is she in danger? The detective needs to resolve his greatest challenge yet before somebody gets hurt, but this is easier said than done when you have as much tact as a bull in a china shop.
Before that, Holmes needs to solve four other cases (five if you count the case that offers two mysteries to solve) in a game that takes its cues from predecessor Crimes & Punishments
. Each of the independent cases takes approximately 3-4 hours to solve meaning that you'll need a longer time investment if you're planning to play one case at a time. As before, the cases suffer from being forgettable and it is difficult to recall any of the characters once they are over.
This is just the calm before the storm, though. The game's aforementioned overarching storyline builds to a point where Holmes must take immediate action in the game's final concluding case. The detective is suddenly thrown into a more personal situation, and we even see rare glimpses of emotion as the story races to a finish. Unfortunately, it races just a bit too quickly and the case seems over before it began, leaving behind feelings that more could have been done and that it was a missed opportunity to explore another side of Holmes.
Holmes in typical investigative mood
Along the way, we see several gameplay features make their return to help Holmes to solve his cases. The game's focus mode, which allows Holmes to home in on otherwise unnoticeable clues, is still attached to
. Holmes' imagination also reappears on
where he can create an action replay of an event to reveal further clues. The crime scene interface has changed so that once a clue has been found, the pointer icon will turn green to indicate that there is nothing more to find. Once all clues have been found at a scene, your objective is completed and you are given a new objective immediately. While Holmes still has a logbook where players can view all of the clues, objectives and conversations, the new tweaks to the interface removes the need to check it obsessively to see what the next course of action may be.
As well as searching for clues, Holmes must interview suspects to get to the truth. Using his meticulous powers of observation, players can create character portraits for each of the suspects that are interviewed. Not only do these now have a time limit (and is one of the weirdest countdowns that I've ever seen), players sometimes have to choose between two possible interpretations of his observations. For example, are a young boy's red eyes the result of conjunctivitis or are they a result of recent weeping? The decision is yours and the game will let you get it wrong, leading to an imprecise character portrait and the chance to miss a vital clue in the following interrogation if you don't have the evidence to support your suspicions.
Will you piece together the events of this freak accident?
It wouldn't be a Sherlock Holmes game if there weren't puzzles to solve alongside the standard investigating. While some require little thought, others require a fair amount of brain power. The difficulty has definitely increased and players may often find themselves resorting to trial and error in the hope of finding a solution. If you are struggling, there is the option to skip the puzzle, but you also run the risk of cheating yourself out of an achievement for doing this.
Developer Frogwares has also attempted to inject a bit of variety and a quicker pace into the title. For the first time, players can step outside Holmes' front door and into the streets that surround Baker Street. Not only can Holmes observe and eavesdrop on the daily goings on of the city's residents, he can take part in a range of side activities, such as boxing practice and darts. While the purpose of some of these is unclear, others prepare you for many of the game's varied action sequences that are used to break up the standard point & click adventuring. From sneaking through a heavily guarded churchyard to performing a frankly hilarious exorcism, it is refreshing not to be performing the same actions throughout each investigation. The problem is that character movement can feel clunky and the sequences can go on for far too long; they are the weakest points of the game by far.
I deduce that a bottle to the face does hurt a lot
Once all clues have been gathered and all suspects have been interviewed, all that is left is for Holmes to solve the mystery. The deduction boards make a welcome return where players match clues to form a deduction that is added to Holmes' mind map. These deductions allow players to form a conclusion to the case, but each case has multiple possible conclusions where only one theory is correct, so the potential to get it wrong is high. Once you have reached your conclusion, you then have to decide whether to condemn or absolve the suspect. It does seem disappointing when certain cases conclude in the same way regardless of conclusion and moral decision, but your decisions return to save/haunt you later in the game. Choose wisely because they're not as inconsequential as they may first seem.
While the gameplay is mostly pleasing, the game's Unreal Engine 3 does occasionally spoil the experience. Both Holmes and his companion Watson have managed to take years off their appearance, but they've also developed the ability to speak without moving their lips. This is the least of the problems. The game's loading times in between scenes are interminable, while the moments during an action scene where the game needs to load can result in one of a few things. At best, your character will grind to a halt for a couple of seconds. Slightly worse is the camera that spins itself so that you're no longer sure in which direction you were travelling. If you're really unlucky, you'll get juddering and screen tearing until loading is complete. The game engine is showing its age and is in desperate need of an upgrade to cope with the fairly low-key demands of this point and click franchise.
Yes, this really is Holmes and Watson
Finally, what can we deduce about the game's achievements? Well, here is a fairly elementary completion. All of the achievements are story related and can be easily gained in a single playthrough, so long as players resist the urge to skip puzzles and action sequences. While the game offers two difficulty levels, there is no obligation to play on anything other than the easiest setting.
Frogwares has taken the best bits from Crimes and Punishments
and has added to them for The Devil's Daughter
. The problem is that these additions aren't always good. Accompanying the improved point and click gameplay are action sequences that add variety to each case, but they are also clumsy and prone to outstaying their welcome. Unfortunately the game's engine is also showing its age and loading times can often feel interminable. This title offers a typical Sherlock Holmes storyline and an easy completion, but its issues turn this into a mediocre affair rather than the elementary experience that you would expect from Holmes himself.
- Improved point and click gameplay
- More engaging story
- Easy achievements
- Aging game engine creates technical issues
- Long loading times
- Action sequences are clunky and outstay their welcome
Despite breaking a personal record of 8 "done unlocking" achievements in a single title, the reviewer spent 15 hours solving all of the cases and earning all 25 of the game's achievements. A digital Xbox One version of the title was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.