The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (Xbox360)

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When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first set pen to paper, I am sure that he did not know the legacy he would leave behind and I am pretty sure that he was unaware that this legacy would extend to computer games. I, for one, am grateful that it has, however, and I was keen to take my mind off high intensity games like Battlefield 3, FIFA 13 and so forth, and immerse myself in logic, deductive reasoning and puzzle solving.

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The plot of the game is entirely new and is not related to any of Doyle’s work. I am, however, quite happy with the plot and I believe that it could fit quite nicely into the life and times of the famous detective. The writers of the game decided to explore the characters of both Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson and, whilst I am not sure Sir Doyle would have gone in that direction, I am sure he wouldn’t mind the exploration of Holmes’ character under duress.

The game begins with Holmes’ search for a missing necklace. The initial scenes are set in the home of the victim and using investigative techniques, deduction and logic, Holmes is able to retrieve the missing necklace and return it to its rightful owner. The deduction board aspect of the game is great fun and I really enjoyed using this throughout the game. Things start going awry, however, when it is discovered that the necklace that is now sitting in the safe of its owner (where Sherlock was supposed to have placed it) is a fake, and the situation starts spiralling out of control.

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Sherlock Holmes is the prime suspect for the theft of the necklace and the game centres on him (and Watson) trying to prove his innocence. One thing I did like was that Watson was given a much bigger role in this game. Previous stories involving the pair have basically just had Watson following behind Holmes saying things like “By jove” and “Incredible Holmes.” It’s nice to have him as a playable character and to delve a bit into his personality. As the story progresses and Holmes spirals further and further out of control, you start playing the character of Watson more and more and this is a great addition to the game.

Over the years there have been quite number of characterisations of Sherlock Holmes, and each is different in subtle ways but remains loyal to the root of the character. Holmes is a cold, blunt, logical, aloof and condescending genius and this is portrayed very well in the game. From the novels we know that Holmes’ character hides a good heart, but don’t expect to see much of that in this game. Interestingly enough, Sherlock Holmes had a cocaine addiction.

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A new game engine – called Motion Capture – was especially developed for the game, and it was designed to really convey the scenery of 19th Century London. The depth and quality of the graphics, along with the well textured scenery, allow me to heartily congratulate the developers on a job well done. The detail and quality of the game world is excellent and really contributes to the enjoyment of the game. Some of the scenes really made my hair stand on end and the examination of a recent victim of torture was quite gruesome.

Overall the gameplay is very easy and comprehensive. The player has a full 3D view of the room or playing area, and make sure that you use the full range of vision when conducting your investigation. Look under things, in things and on top of things because a vital clue could be hidden anywhere. I thought that the game was a bit dark though but a bit of brightness control soon fixed that up. Don’t struggle with the default settings – make the environment fit your requirements, not the other way around.

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There are also two views that you can switch between. There is a first person and a third person mode that you can switch between and, whilst the third person is useful in understanding Holmes’ position in terms of the playing area, I spent most (if not all) of my time in first person mode.

At the heart of the game The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is a puzzle solver. I had a great deal of fun solving the problems and, although I am not naturally very good at solving puzzles (I lack patience), I did persist with each puzzle as they presented themselves. There were one or two puzzles that I battled with and the game offers an opportunity to skip the puzzle after enough attempts. I admit that I did skip one or two puzzles that were giving me a hard time.

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This game is definitely a game of patience and perseverance, and is a refreshing break from a lot of the games of the market that we are all playing. Be prepared to work out your brain quite a bit and to spend some time looking at the same scenery whilst you help Sherlock come to the conclusions he needs to solve the crime and ultimately exonerate himself.

The only real issue that I had with the game was the ‘meaningless’ parts of the game that you are forced to play. For example, at certain points Sherlock asks Watson to fetch him a book or something and then you have to take control of Watson, walk around the room finding the correct item and then return it to Holmes. These playable parts are pointless, in my opinion, and could be done without the help of the gamer. This doesn’t really detract from the game, however, and Watson’s part in the game becomes more and more meaningful as the game progresses, so this might be the developers way of getting you used to playing more than just one character.

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Overall I really enjoyed The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and can highly recommend it to those gamers who have patience and who can game without the ‘quick fix’ of a frag or a goal scored and the like. I know that some people might call that game slow-paced but, quite frankly, the game is as fast or as slow as you want it to be. If you can investigate, solve problems and make deductions based on evidence quickly, then the game will move quickly. Be prepared to be stumped a few times though. I wouldn’t recommend this to young gamers, as previously stated some of the visuals are quite graphic so it might not appeal to them just yet, and a puzzle solver of this nature might be a bit boring to them. Ultimately, this game should be a welcome addition to any gamers’ collection.