The Testament of Sherlock Holmes Review

By Rebecca Smith,
The Sherlock Holmes adventure franchise has been running since 2002, but most gamers didn't know of its existence until 2009's Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper arrived on the Xbox 360. With PC being the main platform for the series of point-and-clicks, Ripper was a port that carried a few bugs and issues as a result. However, this time Frogwares' sixth instalment in the franchise, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes Achievements, has been developed for the console audience. Our official review is here to explain whether this makes any difference and whether this game is worthy of your time.

29/9/12 Logo

Three young children investigate the attic of their home where they find lots of interesting paraphernalia. The item that interests them the most is a Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson puppet show. While trying to pull down Watson's puppet, the strings get broken and it tumbles to the floor. Lodged in the back of the puppet is a book. When the eldest child begins to read, it becomes apparent that this is a lost account of one of the duo's many adventures. Players are then transported back to 1898, where they join Holmes and Watson in the investigation of the theft of a priceless pearl necklace.

Controlling a perfectionist

This first, short case represents the game's tutorial where players are introduced to the control system and the basics of investigation. Although the majority of the controls remain the same as Ripper, the action option is now confined to the A button. RT has been repurposed for a more natural toggle between sprint and the characters' more leisurely pace, with players holding down the trigger for sprinting. That leisurely pace seems quicker than before, making character navigation seem less laborious. Players can still switch between first- and third-person views with the X button, while the notebook, inventory, map and deduction boards remain on the Y button. RB and LB retain their purpose of easy selection of inventory items while on location, or navigating between tabs while in the notebook menu.

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Searching for clues is still very much a large part of the game. Clues that need to be observed are marked with a blue magnifying glass, which turns green once all of the information has been collected. Objects with which players can interact are marked with a blue hand; this disappears once those actions are complete. Players that need help can press LT to bring up any clues that have been missed, although this 'sixth sense' now needs a small amount of time to recharge so that the feature can't be abused. Coupled with the game's refusal to move on until all clues have been collected, it is extremely difficult to miss anything in the game.

The harrowing journey

The duo's search for clues takes them on a dark journey where we see sides to Holmes that you never thought existed. Holmes is being accused of forgery, theft and all manner of things, and Watson's faith in his friend is tested to the limit as Holmes' behaviour seemingly deteriorates throughout the game. The pair's decision to not always act on the right side of the law only adds to the intrigue. Their investigation takes them from the rich decor of a judge's abode, through middle-class streets and on to the grimy hovels of Whitechapel. Fans of Ripper will recognise some of the locations and characters, but the only recycled location is the Whitechapel dispensary — the vast majority of the locations are new.

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The map plays very little part in the game, as each section of the investigation plays out independently and covers one location at a time. There is little need for players to navigate back to previous locations, with the exception of 221b Baker Street and another location that I won't mention to reduce spoilers. Listening to the dialogue between Holmes and Watson is also imperative, as the pair often state what would be the best step in continuing the investigation. Players always feel guided rather than needing to second-guess where they should be. To some players this may feel like hand-holding, but I feel that it strengthens the game's ability to tell the story with as little confusion as possible.

A puzzling conundrum

Puzzles play a large part in the game too and they range from challenging to fairly easy. Most have instructions for players on what they must do, but not all. There seems to be no method behind those that receive instructions though. Often, the simplest and most obvious puzzles have a full set of instructions, while others leave players guessing what they need to do. Compared to the guidance offered throughout the rest of the game, this seems out of place. Players who find the puzzles too challenging can elect to skip the puzzles, but be aware that skipping a single puzzle will also skip an achievement.

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As mentioned at the beginning of the review, deduction boards also make their welcome return. Whereas the first Sherlock games made players feel like they were there to play the part of Watson who is forever struggling to catch up, the deduction board in Ripper finally brought players onto the same level of realisation as Holmes. You feel like the person leading the investigation and the boards mean that all of the deductions are your own.

London's sights...

One of the greatest improvements in the game lies in the graphics. There is a marked improvement between this game and Ripper. The characters are much more detailed with their expressions often telling the character's feelings before any dialogue is spoken. Unfortunately the same can't be said about lip-syncing, with very little dialogue matched to the characters’ mouth movements.

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The London environments also show more detail, although these are not perfect either. Players will spend most of their time looking at objects on the ground or at eye-level, but the occasional glances into the sky can show distinct texture box outlines around trees. The instances of pop-up have been drastically reduced, but still happen every now and again.

...and sounds

Watson is seemingly voiced by the same actor responsible for the character in Ripper, although Holmes is now voiced by a different actor. The voice acting is of a very high standard and the range of English accents is very convincing. Even the NPCs have been brought to life admirably, with the exception of the three children that we meet at the start of the game; these often sound like they are simply reading from a script as opposed to acting a part.

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Whether this is a drop in the acting standards as opposed to the rest of the cast or just a lack of understanding of the language is not certain, but the entire cast appears to be from Frogwares' native France. Every now and again it tells that English is not the actors' mother tongue, with a couple of different pronunciations of the same word from the same character. The subtitles make the language challenge more obvious. There are a few mis-spellings in the normal dialogue, and some of the children’s' noises made during play or reactions from older characters are just completely different to what appears in the subtitles. This is only a minor detraction from an otherwise stellar performance though.

Achieving full marks

Ripper had a reputation for being an easy 1000G, and this game is not going to do anything to stop that reputation spreading across the franchise. Although there are a couple of missables, the vast majority of the achievements are unlocked through natural story progression. The full 1000G is easily done in one playthrough. That playthrough would take about 10-12 hours if not using a guide. Of course, using a guide would shorten the length of time needed for the full gamerscore, but would also drastically reduce any enjoyment got out of this game.

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The Testament of Sherlock has one of the darkest and most gripping storylines that I've experienced in the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Players get to see a side of Sherlock Holmes that has never been seen before, and watch as his faithful assistant Watson starts doubting the integrity of his friend. Through the many districts of London, evidence needs to be collected, puzzles have to be solved and deductions need to be made. The journey will take 10-12 hours and rarely feels frustrating.

The controls feel natural and do not feel at all clunky, a rarity for a point-and-click on the Xbox 360. The game looks visually stunning in most places, although occasional texture issues pop up. The voice acting is also pretty good, but players have to bear in mind that English is not the native language of the development team. This only tends to become obvious when viewing the subtitles though. Testament is definitely a game worthy of a purchase for point-and-click fans.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.