The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the newest in Focus Home Interactive's Sherlock puzzle series. This game, more than previous installments, explores the darker side of Sherlock Holmes. He is the main suspect for a theft and is on the run, trying to prove his own innocence as events spiral out of control around him.
I had a chance to check out the title at E3 2012, and it looks to be a fairly straightforward point-and-click puzzle game. Walk into the room, click on anything that makes your cursor change to a hand or magnifying glass. However, the amount of detail that goes into each clue is staggering. In the portion of the game I was shown, Sherlock is inspecting the body of a murdered bishop. You can zoom in on different parts of his body, finding little things, like hairs, or big things, like broken fingers or missing shoes. You can search every detail of the environment, whether or not there's anything there to find. You can also use the Sixth Sense, a sort of hint system, to help you find clues if you get stuck, but it's just meant to be a crutch, not a core gameplay mechanic.
After you've found your clues, you can go into Sherlock's journal to combine them and deduce the answer. For example, you found footprints from three people, but four different kinds of shoes; therefore, one of the men changed his shoes while he was in the building. The dead bishop is missing his shoes. Verdict: The killers stole the bishop's shoes. This mechanic makes it feel more like a true Sherlock Holmes mystery, where you're actually solving the crimes rather than just finding something to continue the story like in some "mystery" games.
You play mostly as Sherlock, obviously, but he's not the only character available. There are also times you play as Dr. John Watson, Sherlock's partner/roommate/friend. I didn't get to see him in the demo, but I imagine there are situations in which his medical expertise comes in handy. Also available is Toby the floppy-eared detective. He's Sherlock's dog and is rather skilled at sniffing out clues.
Fans of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies or the BBC TV show will perhaps find the characters a little more ... flat than they're used to. Sherlock comes across as more aloof, calculating and cold than the awkward, sociopathic and rude-yet-hilarious version that's played by Robert Downey Jr. There also doesn't seem to be much interaction between Holmes and Watson, though I imagine there must be some somewhere. When it comes down to it, however, the characters and setting are just meant to be a canvas to tell a compelling murder mystery, not the other way around.
The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is the first in the series to come out on consoles in addition to PC, and it was designed with controllers in mind rather than the keyboard and mouse. It's playable in first- or third-person, whichever the player prefers, and with over three hours worth of dialogue and who-knows-how-many of hunting for clues, it looks to be very long for a mystery puzzle game. Fans of the genre and of Holmes in general can expect to add The Testament of Sherlock Holmes to their collection in September.
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