Developer: Warner Bros.
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★½☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Movie-licensed games have a bad reputation, and, let’s face it, it’s well deserved. Sherlock Holmes Mysteries probably won’t change anyone’s mind about that, but it is a decent effort. It combines some interesting ideas and respectable production values with an assortment of lame mini-games and unpolished mechanics. The result is truly a mixed bag that is intriguing at times, despite its many rough spots. The game is a decent value for adventure seekers at $0.99, just be prepared for a few blemishes along the way.

IMG_0151Sherlock Holmes Mysteries gives you 2 cases to tackle, and their rather unoriginal titles are Missing Momento and The Case of the Innocent Man. Missing Momento is more or less a quick 10 minute tutorial, whereas Innocent Man can take roughly 3-4 hours to complete. The core gameplay has you hopping to an eventual total of 11 locations, where you can talk to suspects and investigate the backdrops. Each location is a static 3D representation that you can pan around by sliding your finger.

Conversations are a simple affair, where you just pick who you want to talk to and then click on your side of the scripted text to advance the dialogue. Inspecting a found object is slightly more involved, and is performed through a hidden object type mini-game where you use Holmes’ insight. You are presented with a close-up image of the scene, and then have to move a magnifying glass all over the screen looking for light bubbles to appear that you can tap. There is a time limit, but the discovery process isn’t nearly challenging enough to really matter.

As you speak to characters and inspect hot-spots, various logic clues and hard evidence is collected. This is where the most interesting part of the game takes place. Your inventory of items and story leads are represented as square icons. When you click on Sherlock’s Mind located in the bottom corner, you are able to choose from a list of mysteries or tasks that need to be completed, and they will each have a certain number of slots that need to be filled. You can then place clue icons into those slots that you believe will help solve that particular question, and correct choices will be displayed as glowing lights in Holmes’ brain. Once you’ve lit everything accordingly, you can click the solve button to reveal Holmes’ deduction. Although you can pretty much trial and error your selections, and you can’t simply drag your selections back and forth, this system is a novel way of coordinating your adventure and is pretty compelling.

IMG_0137There are a few other mini-games in Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, but none of them are nearly as interesting. From time-to-time you’ll be required to fight someone either to detain them or raise some money. This is done via a first-person view, and icons pop up that you must quickly tap to either defend or attack. There is an occasional swipe attack that can cause more damage if performed correctly, and you can also build up Holmes’ intuition, which then gives you opportunities to land more punches. This particular mini-game makes repeat performances, with opponents that are supposedly increasingly difficult to beat, but the whole thing is rather boring and rudimentary. I never came close to losing a fight throughout the game.

The two remaining mini-games are lock picking and foot chase, and they are surprisingly pretty much exactly the same. You are presented with a grid of tiles that look like straight or elbow-shaped pipes of varying orientation, and you need to swap pieces until a continuous route is drawn from A to B. It seems like ever since Bioshock was released on the consoles, pipe-building has become the default mini-game when nothing better can be found. The choice to use it here, and skinned as two different objectives, feels rather uninspiring.

IMG_0144While solving the case will take you a while and feels pretty satisfying, the overall story comes to a rather obvious conclusion when it comes to guessing the culprit. What’s not always clear throughout the game is where you need to go next, or where to find something. There is a little bit too much pixel-hunting of sorts involved, as well as some obscure placement of objects. The instructions for some of the mini-games are pretty lacking as well, as it’s not initially clear how to do certain things such as advance the dialogue or handle the tumbler when picking a lock. The interface is often clunky as a result, and the load time between actions can be unclear and stilted.

Sherlock Holmes Mysteries has its share of intriguing elements, notably the representation of Sherlock’s mind, but the game is considerably rough around the edges. For every idea that does work, there is one that falls flat. When you combine that with some non-intuitive tasks and interface quirks, you get a game that is more mediocre than great. Sherlock Holmes Mysteries definitely shows promise and is a respectable value, so hopefully more cases will be available in the future along with some improvements to the underlying engine.

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