The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
After chasing down London's most notorious serial killer in
2009's Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, the master of deduction returns in
another adventure game from European indie developer Frogwares. True to his
past exploits, Holmes' newest case provides an intriguing mystery to unravel, despite
still falling for some common adventure game pitfalls.
If you haven't played a Sherlock Holmes game before, the series
has an undeniable hook. It takes everything you love about old-school adventure
games, adds its own unique, deduction-based puzzles, and ties it all together
with a plot befitting Sherlock Holmes. While investigating the grisly death
toll of Jack the Ripper was more intriguing, The
Testament's plot – involving a far-reaching conspiracy to discredit and
incriminate Holmes – kept me motivated right up to the end credits.
Sherlock is known for looking past the surface details of a
piece of evidence in order to find its hidden value; enjoying the game requires
a similar discipline. While The Testament provides the greatest graphical
improvement the series has seen yet, the game is still rough around the edges.
This includes some of the ugliest character models of children I've ever seen
in a game, featured in the mercifully brief interstitial cutscenes that frame
the storybook narrative.
The puzzles suffer from some occasional problems as well.
Many of the brainteasers are standard adventure game fare (19th century Londoners
sure had a lot of fancy, convoluted locks securing their doors and chests). Other
puzzles leave you feeling as confounded and stupid as Watson. Frogwares added
the ability to skip dedicated puzzles (though I'd much prefer a simple hint
instead of abandoning a challenge completely), but it doesn't apply to
environmental puzzles. Sherlock's intuition ability, which highlights important
objects in your surroundings, is helpful in this regard, but more often than
not it was of no use to the problems hindering my progress. It didn't, for
example, save me the half hour I spent scouring a garden because I didn't see a
coat in a tree, or the numerous other instances when I had to combine random inventory
items, recheck an object after triggering a subsequent event, or traverse an
obscured pathway. Like the last installment of the series, I had to check an
online walkthrough more than once. Once again, deduction-based puzzles shine; I wish there were more of them this time around.
The frustrating moments of confusion and downtime I experienced didn't hold the story back. There are a few questionable moments and unbelievable plot
twists (the perpetrator of the prologue's crime is especially absurd), but an
amoral Holmes makes it a compelling tale. Whether he's threatening children, breaking
and entering, poisoning junkies, or being pushed to the point of murder, the
crimes Sherlock commits and gets away with are almost as bad as the ones he's
framed for. Frogwares doesn't pull any punches in its irreverent yet thoughtful
portrayal of the detective, and is similarly unflinching in the intelligence
and attention to detail it demands of players. The Testament joins that small,
respected group of M-rated games that actually require maturity from players;
recommending this case to adventure game fans is elementary.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.