The world's greatest detective is back (no, not Batman), and he is out to solve a string of cases that will keep you glued to the screen. Honestly, we would not mind if the development team behind Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments decided to do away with the game and just make a small CG video series -that is just how theatrical the approach of the games are. And it makes for a great visual presentation for a game, for you truly feel like the story unfolds with each step that you take. If you are a big fan of Sherlock Holmes or crime mysteries in general, then you should certainly give this game a try.
The visual style of this game is entirely unique to its own -from the character models, to the lighting choices, and even the obtuse camerawork for both cutscenes and gameplay. It feels like you are watching a CG movie spliced into interactive bits, and that is good, since Sherlock is more appropriate for an audience and not a direct player. While you, the player do get to play as Holmes, the game is designed in such a way that you are only facilitating his presence, and that it is his own innate skills that truly unlock the mysteries behind each crime.
We love the way the camera just manages to reveal just enough of a scene in each moment, enough to make the player understand what is going on, but not too long as to confuse you with details. And details are where this game has its strengths. Each character model and texture has been designed with intent and purpose -from character costumes to facial features, and even the accessories they wear. This is important as Sherlock takes the time to profile characters he meets based on their dialogue, mannerisms, and of course, physical features. Markings, clothing, accessories, and all other sorts of personal wear come into play.
The game is not out to get people to do criminal profiles or investigate crime scenes -though it feels like you are doing it. But at no point does the game assume to teach. Instead, Sherlock will automatically figure things out -you just need to prompt him. Much of the gameplay involves moving around crime scenes and checking out evidence. In particular, evidence that the cops have not been able to analyze or identify fully. There is no guesswork involved however, as players simply have to turn on Holmes' detective vision (which is not all that different from Batman's abilities in the Arkham series) and once subtly hidden clues will instantly pop into view. When it comes to dialogue, much of the exchanges are automatic, and Sherlock goes about with spurting whatever comes into his mind at the moment.
Most of the game plays like this: you go to a new place, explore a little, then Sherlock immediately puts together whatever clues you manage to find. It may feel a little disingenuous when you read about it on paper, but as a Sherlock Holmes story, it is perfect. It is just like the book -the flow of events is mostly logical and all that really matters is that you enjoy the delivery.
The game is divided into six main story arcs. Each arc is a unique case for Sherlock and Watson to solve. However, there is no "main" story that you have to follow. The game could have been divided into sex individual pieces and none of the stories would be affected. This is good from an episodic standpoint -you can opt to just play and finish one case, then come back for the others on a much later time. You will not even have to remember any details or characters from the previous adventures. But for some players, this can also be disappointing. The lack of a major villain making trouble (could use some Moriarty-esque ones for this game), is a bit surprising. Overall, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is a visually wonderful game that caters well to the tastes of mystery fans and those who just liked stories about the fictional, famous detective.