Way back in December I was browsing through my Steam library, trying to find a game I could play over the Christmas period when I was home in Leeds. I wanted a point-and-click adventure to play with P. Something with lots of puzzles we could both work on. I settled on The Testament of Sherlock Holmes.
I’m going to have to be careful here. So, let’s start with the positives, shall we? The story is pretty good. It follows Sherlock and Watson as they uncover a mystery in London which starts with a stolen necklace. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that we meet poisoners, Lestrade of the Yard and Moriarty. It’s not actually based on any of the classic stories, but it’s along the classic themes.
Also, it is absolutely packed full of puzzles. The difficulty of these varies wildly and even with two of us working on them, a few left us stumped for while. Others we got almost immediately. If you don’t want to have to grapple with these and just want to move along with the story, then after a couple of attempts the game gives you a “skip puzzle” option. I wouldn’t blame you.
It’s also a pretty good approximation to your classic point-and-click, in spite of having originally been released in 2012. You wander around, searching for clues, picking up apparently useful objects, interrogating NPCs, combining objects to make new tools and solving puzzles. If you like the genre then this is very firmly within it.
Ok, that’s the good stuff. Ready for the bad stuff?
It’s apparently a port from console games and it’s very clunky. The controls are awful but the camera-ing is worse. You can choose from three viewpoints, first, third and somewhere in between and you’ll need to switch between these simply to navigate some areas. On occasion, you can completely miss rooms in third person view, only realising they exist when you switch to the third person. Obviously, this is extremely frustrating.
Then there are the characters. Watson is infuriating and very easy to get annoyed with. If he never spoke (or if all characters were relegated to the use of subtitles and no voice actors had been involved) the game would have been better. Likewise, Holmes is utterly hateful. There’s this weird story-telling mechanism whereby we occasionally switch to a group of children who are apparently reading the story you’re playing. It’s awkward and cringy and doesn’t add anything, at no point do you get the opportunity to play as these kids and I can’t help wondering if that was originally the plan but got scrapped. If it was, I can’t help but be relieved.
Probably the worst aspect, though, is the contrived ways of dragging out the game-play. Call me lazy but if I find a locked door, talk to an NPC, solve their puzzle, get a key as a reward and then return to the door, I think it’s reasonable to assume that I want to use the key. I don’t want to hear Holmes saying, “I need something” or “Closed” forcing me to then open my inventory, select the key and use the key on the door. I know it’s closed! You already told me! That’s why I went to get a key!
Similarly, I don’t want to have to collect three bits of wood and two bits of string to create a long bit of wood. Long bits of wood just aren’t that interesting. Tying them together isn’t creative. This isn’t a fun way of solving a puzzle it’s just slowing down the game.
Oh, and at one point they make you play as a dog. It’s a strong contender for the worst point of the game.
All of this meant that as much as we liked some aspects, we found the game draining. We’d rarely play for more than half an hour before getting infuriated with Watson walking into us or whatever and giving up. Hence, we’ve only just completed the game. It took us ~16 hours. I’m sure you could do it faster if you kept your patience but I don’t recommend it.
Other games exist in this series too. I think if I spotted one available for a very very low price on the Playstation store I might pick it up, just to see if the awkwardness also exists on the consoles, but I wouldn’t, y’know, actually play it. I can’t sit through any more of Holmes and Watson’s dialogue.