Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter PS4 Review
Publisher: Bigben Interactive Developer: Frogwares Genre: Adventure Players: 1
Age Rating: 16+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Having never played a Sherlock game before, I was curious to know how one would actually handle. Now I’m no avid fan of the worlds most famous consulting detective, but Frogwares have dealt with Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter with much more pride than Artefacts Studios did with their attempt at Poirot, and with 11 Sherlock titles now under their belt, no other developer is more qualified to create a Sherlock game than Frogwares. The game has been done very well, with lots of unexpected moments to shake up the story and gameplay, from statues that come to life, to exploring a hidden Mayan temple filled with booby traps that you have to escape. The game certainly keeps your attention, with many details added to vary up the gameplay and making excellent use of all of Holmes’ special abilities.
There are multiple cases to solve and they all offer something different, from finding a young boys dad to finding out who attempted to blow up your famous home on Baker Street. The way the cases allow you to solve them are highlights, with Sherlock making use of his extrasensory vision to see where missing items previously were, or to see well-hidden evidence in the most discreet of places. Using Sherlock’s deductions skills, you can piece together all the evidence you’ve found; to do this, you first connect clues and see which ones go together, though you are given multiple choices as to which you feel is the right path. Once you have settled on a path, you can then make a Moral Choice, here deciding who the culprit is and whether you should condemn them – send to prison – or absolve. This allows for cases to have multiple endings, though there is only one correct choice, meaning you could send an innocent person to the gallows.
How you attain evidence is also done well. Upon entering a place, you can take a look around and examine the environment for clues. A circle will appear on objects you can look at; a green circle means there is nothing more to be found, though if it hasn’t changed colour or there is an exclamation mark, the area needs further investigation. Upon finishing your investigation, you can then follow up on clues you have found, by going elsewhere and searching there, or chatting to, or interrogating, characters of particular interest. With them, you can form a character profile by examining them. However, an improper character profile can affect the path of the case later and you can’t go back to change your choices afterwards, so you do need to make sure you have chosen correctly before validating the characters profile.
Back at Sherlock’s famous pad, you can add additional details to the investigation by using his vast collection of books and newspapers for reference. You can also work out your next moves by looking through Sherlock’s casebook. Here all the evidence you collect can be found, as well as the profiles of characters, the map of the area, and even a record of the dialogue from previous cut scenes.
As mentioned, gameplay is very varied, with lots of moments that keep the game feeling fresh. At times, you won’t even be playing as Sherlock, instead taking control of other characters to progress the story. One moment you’ll be controlling a young boy, from Sherlock’s homeless network, to trail a character of interest, another time you’ll gain control of Watson as you solve a puzzle. At one point you will even take control of Sherlock’s dog, Toby, as he sniffs out the trail of a missing item. As well as taking control of other characters, there’ll be some sneaking around for you to do, and there’s an interesting moment using Sherlock’s Mind Palace as he wanders around a hidden Mayan temple in order to put a series of events into chronological order. Sherlock will be shot at with arrows, perform a fake exorcism, and becomes involved in a confrontation that requires quick reflexes and decision making on your part. Sherlock can even use disguises to infiltrate certain areas to gain vital clues – never a dull moment for the detective.
The puzzles in the game aren’t the most thought-provoking, with the usual lockpicking, deciphering codes, jigsaw puzzles with letters, avoiding traps, choosing correct pathways, using the environment to reach places. But the puzzles are only one small piece of the pie, with other elements – such as investigating areas, using Sherlock’s sensory abilities, interrogating people, placing events in order – combining with them to make the puzzle-side of the game much more substantial. The game also allows you to skip puzzles – in some ways I wish the option hadn’t been there, as most of the time I found myself halfheartedly attempting the puzzles, only to then skip them, and this does reduce the sense of urgency. Still, if you can resist the urge to skip, it does leave a greater feeling of achievement.
Each case has it’s own full story, with some being better than others. As varied and exciting as the gameplay is, the stories themselves never seem to quite reach the same depths. The gameplay surrounding the stories themselves is the interesting part, though I never felt the stories were truly compelling, the same with the characters in the game. None of them are particularly well written, including Holmes himself. There’s enough there that you care about their predicaments, but not enough that you feel attached to the characters. Surprisingly, Holmes eccentricity seems to have been downplayed here, and because of this, at his most eccentric, he seems out of character… or maybe I’ve just got too used to watching Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. Whatever the case, the characters and story never quite live up to the gameplay, with generic revenge plots or money-making schemes by run-of-the-mill characters.
As for the graphics of the game, there is a lot of detail in the scenes, though they aren’t the best that the PS4 has to offer. At times characters can look a little dead-eyed and lacking expression, though you can tell that a lot of effort has been put in to bringing the environment to life. The game uses a fast travel feature, though one sore point of the game is the long loading times. Frogwares was obviously aware of this, and so they have given you the option to change the loading screen to one of Sherlock travelling to his next destination by carriage, and here you can browse your casebook or make deductions as you wait. Unfortunately, not every time will you need to do these things, so often waiting for the next area to load can still be aggravating.
At times, I also felt the game would leave me in the lurch; there were times when I had no idea what I should do next. Referring to the casebook was useless as there were no clues as to where I should go next, other than the mission objective which is vague, and I couldn’t use the deductions as I hadn’t yet discovered what I needed and had already combined what I already had. These aimless moments were few and far between, though it was a little frustrating having to travel to multiple areas and search around to see if I had missed anything. At one point I even unintentionally discovered the correct way to go, and when you are lost, it shouldn’t be left up to chance about where you should be going next.
Still, the loading times and aimless wandering around are only a couple of bugbears I had with the game and it didn’t impact the overall enjoyment I experienced. Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is certainly a well-planned and well-made game with enough there to keep you on your toes and your interest piqued, with an excellent twist ending.