Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a niche point-and-click-esque game that prioritizes things like puzzle solving and deduction over gameplay and plot. It is comparable to L.A. Noire in style, however Cole Phelps' journey is much more enjoyable to play and its features are much more developed. Overall, Crimes & Punishments offers great visuals, interesting additions to the genre - especially the multiple conclusions for each case - and little else, earning a three-star rating.
Let's begin with the things that Crimes & Punishments does well. From the very first moment of the game, players are shown a stellar portrayal of Holmes and Dr. Watson; the characters are very true to their source material as Holmes is eccentric, a bit self-destructive, and rather detached emotionally while Watson is rational, professional, and - at times - a bit dense compared to the detective. Other characters, such as Lestrade and Mycroft, are portrayed equally well, and every character in the game is voiced by a quality actor. The game also possess quite a bit of visual appeal as the graphics are wonderful and things likes facial expression and character movement are rendered well. The writing and dialogue within the game are also superb; when interrogating suspects or questioning witnesses, responses are believable and Sherlock himself offers realistic observations and comments.
From the perspective of gameplay, Crimes & Punishments often excels at what it attempts. The player investigates crime scenes using a point-and-click style, picking up specific pieces of evidence and drawing more information from them individually. At times, the player will be tasked with completing mini-games, such as picking a lock, reconstructing objects, visualizing suspect behavior patterns, etc. These mini-games are usually done well and feel natural in a Sherlock Holmes setting.
Personally, my favorite things about the game are the multiple conclusions for each case - as mentioned above - and the character portraits. The multiple conclusions allow the player to end the cases as they see fit - if the player suspects a character of a crime and can draw the appropriate connections using evidence in the "Deduction" screen, there is most likely an ending in which Sherlock arrests said character. Typically, these endings are portrayed as if the player has made the right decision - a kind of "what if" scenario - but the player is then informed at the end-of-case screen that their conclusion was not correct. These multiple endings add replay value to the game, or at least parts of it, and truly places the player in the shoes of a detective.
The character portraits that Sherlock can collect speak volumes toward Sherlock's character as a whole. During interrogations, the player can momentarily pause time and observe the physical attributes of the character they're speaking to. Sherlock will make observations and draw conclusions from those observations that give the player a better idea of who the character is. For instance, when speaking to Mrs. Carey - the wife of the first victim - Sherlock can observe her religious necklace and conclude that she is devout, which allows the player to ask about the possibility of a prior religious pilgrimage. This feature highlights what Sherlock does best: observing people and determining their personality traits and possible motivations with his superior intellect and understanding of human behavior.
Now, on to what the game does not do well. To put it bluntly, the game is extremely boring at some parts. In the second case, for example, Sherlock investigates a missing train. Sherlock has no personal connection to the train, its passengers, or its cargo - he comes upon the case by sheer coincidence. There are very few crime scenes to investigate and a lot of exhausting dialogue about things that have no relevance to the case itself. Such drawbacks make it difficult to care about solving the case, and the game begins to feel like more of a chore than a treat.
The cases also often reach... odd conclusions. On more than a few occasions, the evidence seems to match up well with a particular suspect, but the "true" conclusion consists of arresting a different suspect that leaves the player with a feeling of confusion. In my personal experience, this was most apparent in the third case. Without getting into spoilers, the evidence against a particular suspect was quite damning and, during interrogation, the suspect all but confessed to the crime. Yet, the actual criminal was a character with very little reason to perform the crime and some of the evidence became irrelevant upon said character's arrest. There becomes a point where plot twists are simply nonsensical.
Some conclusions are also nit-picky and unnecessary. In some cases, a crime is committed but the method by which it was committed is in doubt. Therefore, there are multiple conclusions to be drawn differing only by a small margin. This is most apparent in the third case, where there are three suspects and each suspect could have performed the crime in one of two ways. As a result, there are two conclusions for each of the suspects that differ only in the type of weapon used; and the ending cutscene does not change based on this decision. This creates six possible conclusions, but only three truly different scenarios.
The narrative also suffers at times due to the fact that it often falls into tired cliches and tropes rather than innovative and interesting plots and sub-plots. It is difficult to give an example of this without revealing spoilers, but know that cases frequently set themselves up to go in one direction only to later disappoint the player with a simplistic conclusion such as "the husband did it."
Aside from those issues, the game can sometimes be frustrating as it will present quick-time events unexpectedly and without instruction causing missed achievements, force the player to repeatedly backtrack for interrogations or evidence gathering, or otherwise punish the player for attempting to perform a task in a way that differs from the very specific method the game expects. Guides and walkthroughs are sometimes necessary simply because the game offers limited direction and will not progress unless the player follows the set path.
That being said, Crimes & Punishments is an overall enjoyable game. It has moments of legitimate humor, interesting storytelling, and fun gameplay. Most likely, the player will finish the story with more good memories than bad; but this game does nothing that other games don't do better.