If you stumbled upon this game hoping to see a video game recreation of the original story of Hound of the Baskervilles, you will be disappointed. In this game world, the Baskerville family truly is cursed and there is a real hellhound out there that is threatening to kill them. It is up to Sherlock and Watson to find a way to break the curse and save the family. This is not your typical Sherlock Holmes mystery story (and more like Holmes and Watson living out an episode of CW's Supernatural), but it has its share of strange puzzles that are certainly worth solving.
The thing about this game is that it actually makes more sense and is more fun to play if you already know the actual story of the Hound of the Baskervilles. We will not linger on too long that, but here is a brief summary for those of you who have no idea what the story is.
Hound of the Baskervilles is the third book about Sherlock Holmes and it features the famous detective and Watson trying to solve the mysterious deaths of members of the Baskerville family. According to rumors, their ancestor made a deal with a devil and that the bloodline is cursed. The latest death, Sir Charles Baskerville, was from a heart attack -but suspiciously, he was reported to be running away from something and there were giant pawprints near his body. The book resolves when Sherlock manages to find out that the Baskervilles were being killed by one of the heirs to the family fortune and was using a trained mixed-bred bloodhound-mastiff dog (dressed with phosphorus paint) to make the killings appear supernatural in nature.
This game turns that whole book around on the most important plot: that the hellhound is real, and the bloodline really is cursed. As expected, there is also an all new antagonist as well, and the motive is far more sinister than just being the only heir to a vast fortune.
Much of the game's puzzles are solved though point and click execises. There are a good amount of hidden object scenarios as well -though there are times when it feels a little unneeded. The end result is a pretty linear and simplistic game in terms of problem-solving and strategy. It is fun however, as the game has a really good sense of delivery with its visuals. The hidden object scenes are plenty, but they are also well detailed. Small visual elements fill the screen to form a giant composition and each scene looks like it deserves to the properly scrutinized.
For those not familiar with how hidden object puzzles are played, here's a quick breakdown. Players are given a huge scene full of clutter and they must seek out and find certain objects in a list. This seems easy enough on paper, but the game makes a particularly clever approach at making a lot of things very hard to notice. Some would be hidden in plain sight, while others are carefully positioned to blend in with the background and other surrounding objects. Not surprisingly, this Sherlock Holmes themed game will have you looking for items in crime scenes and other macabre locations.
One of the things we love about this game is the way the visuals are presented; they make wonderful use of colors and lighting. Each scene in the game -be it part of the puzzles or anything in between, looks like it was designed to be part of an art book. The character artwork for Sherlock and Watson feel like they were taken out of a classic novel and colored with modern digital tones. Puzzles are presented in a very neat and organized way -in a manner of speaking, some details are naturally less obvious and harder to discern, but these are intentional design decisions that directly complement the gameplay more than anything else.
Ironically, as good as the art for the game is, the music does not fare as well. The music for the most part, is forgettable. What is really jarring is the voice over dialogue. Most of the lines for Holmes, Watson, and Sir Charles are read with a very flat tone. This goes in contrast with the often urgent or dire topics they delve into. The lack of sarcastic edginess in Sherlock's voice is also a bit of a shame, as it is an iconic character trait.
While not exactly a "crime story" and more of one that resembles a haunted hotel tale, this one in the series is a good mystery story to follow -though one that is obviously themed more towards the occult. There's a certain sense of danger in the way that the game plays out, despite the more drawn out approach of the puzzles, the narrative does not fail to communicate a sense of dire urgency to the plot. As a game, this one will have you glued to the screen for the greater part of the day -which is a lot considering that most of the game mechanics are straightforward and inclined towards a more casual audience. And yet, despite the long gameplay, Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles never feels padded or too fussy. By the time you reach the ending of the game, it truly feel likes a conclusion that was well earned -a playing experience that anyone would appreciate.