Reviewed: November 6, 2007
Released: September 7, 2007
Frogwares, founded in 2000, has been behind the Sherlock Holmes games since their release of Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of The Mummy in 2002. Unfortunately, I have not played any of their previous titles. But that has all changes with their newest Sherlock Holmes title, and the game I am reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a first-person perspective point and click adventure game, a first for the series, set in a real-time 3D environment. You play as both Holmes and Watson in a murderously creepy race to stop a cult from awaking the ancient, evil god Cthulhu. And yes it is that Cthulhu. H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’ beloved Detective meld seamlessly into one of the creepiest adventure games I have ever played.
I’ve played adventure games for a while now, and so far The Awakened takes the cake. As mentioned above this is the first Sherlock game that I’ve ever played, and quite frankly, I’m kicking myself for not having played the others. Among my favorite adventure games are Syberia, Still Life and more recently Agatha Christie: Evil Under The Sun.
The interface of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is one of the easiest I’ve ever used. The main in-game screen is completely void as not to obstruct the gorgeous 3D environments. The only thing that shows up is the items in you inventory that show up in the upper right hand corner of the screen when you pick them up or cycle through them. You can cycle though your inventory by using your middle mouse button or the left or right bracket keys on your keyboard.
The information you collect along the way is stored in one of the four categories in your portfolio. These categories include a Document, Inventory, Dialogues, and Notes Tab to choose from to read, inspect of combine items to help you along the way. You can gain access to all this information by hitting the designated hotkeys or by clicking you right mouse button.
Sherlock Holmes: the Awakened is a point and click adventure. You can play the entire game using only the mouse. Simply click in the direction that you want to go with the left mouse or double click the left mouse button to run. You have to look around with the mouse look function, but The Awakened offers another way to move around the world of our famed detective. The default movement keys are the arrow keys, but if you’re more accustomed to the WASD keys like I am, you can reprogram the keys in the controls menu.
As you can move around the world freely this is not your traditional point and click adventure. The only part that retains the old school adventure feel is that all interaction with objects, the non-playable characters (or NPCs), and item combinations are done with the mouse. For example, there is an extremely dark cave and you want to explore it. You must combine rum, rags, matches and a charred bone to make a torch so you can proceed.
What would an adventure game be if you didn’t have puzzles? Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened has a nice variety of puzzles that you must solve to continue. Unlike some adventure games I’ve played in the past, this is one of the first games that took a fair bit of logic to solve. One of the first things that you’ll find out is that you are given quizzes periodically throughout your journey. At first, I was like “how the hell should I know where to go next?” I came to find that the clue to the answer was hidden within all the documents, notes and dialogues that I collected up to that point.
There are several instances where you must look for clues or solve a puzzle in fixed screens. Now not all the puzzles are fixed screen, so there is a bit of a mix-up on puzzle variety throughout. As mentioned there are two fixed screen types; one is clue gathering the other is puzzle solving. You, as Sherlock, must search these areas with your trusty magnifying glass to uncover clues. You also have access to a tape measure, which serves only to find out the size of a person’s shoes. The fixed puzzles are not very easy but occasionally you are given clues on how to solve them, from information you gather.
One of the things I love about The Awakened is the environmental puzzles. By “environmental” I am talking about the non-fixed puzzles. These puzzles usually require you to use several things found about an area to solve the puzzle. There was one puzzle where your objective was to find a way to open a set of heavy doors that I found quite ingenious.
There was one puzzle/objective that is unsolvable if you miss a vital item slightly earlier in the game. I had to reload a previous save file to get it. This doesn’t make The Awakened a dead-end game, but the fact that I missed the item and had to redo it over from a previous save was a pain. The immediate effect of screwing up was rather cool though. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened does have load screens, but that’s to be expected considering how good the environments look. The loads are not too terrible long, but you do get to see the place you’re headed to go from a drawing to a 3D rendition.
One of the greatest assets to Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is its original storyline. When I first found out about The Awakened, I had my doubts. I am familiar with the Lovecraftian lore and of Sherlock Holmes, and I couldn’t be happier with this release.
The graphics of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was far from elementary. The detail that was put into everything was well done. To be honest there were a couple of times were I didn’t want to go to the next room or area. The atmosphere of The Awakened is a fairly dark game and it shows, big time. The Awakened has several cutscenes and one in particular had me pushing my chair away from my desk in a pure unnerving manner.
One of my favorite things about The Awakened were the character models. Each character looks gorgeous from the hair on their head down to their shoes. The environments in The Awakened are not pre-rendered like some games I’ve played. Playing in a 3D world from a first-person perspective not only deepens the story but also makes you truly feel that you are a part of the adventure.
The sounds of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened fit hand in hand with the graphics. If you want the player to be truly freaked out, you have to have sound to pull it off. Well, The Awakened has it in spades. From the get go the title screen music sends a message that you’re in for a bumpy ride. As I write this review I still don’t know which is creepier, the dungeons of Edelweiss or the swamps of Louisiana. No matter where you are, there are usually always ambient noises that vary from people screaming from cells to the sound of a horse-drawn carriage. Rick Simmonds did a superb portrayal of the famed Sherlock Holmes.
As I said before being both a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft, I had my doubts on how The Awakened would play out. All I can say is it is a creepy but intelligent masterpiece worthy of both authors praise. It took me about 18 hours to beat, and those were 18 hours well spent. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is pretty much a one time through game, but I will probably end playing it again for the thrill of the hunt. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened retails for $30 dollars.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a highly enjoyable, creepy but enjoyable experience. That almost dead-end moment (thank god for multiple save slots) was a pain and I could have done without that. If you are a fan of the previous Sherlock Holmes titles, or if you’re in need of a good adventure look no further. The game is afoot in this murder most foul.