The Testament of Sherlock Holmes review
The Good:

Gorgeous graphics; skippable puzzles that remain challenging for the hardcore; three different control schemes; intriguing story with plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing.

The Bad:

Uninspired sound design with some odd voice work and clunky lines; Watson can get a bit annoying; poor lip syncing.

Our Verdict:

Arguably the great detective’s finest hour, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes makes for a thoroughly enjoyable adventure through the murkier side of Sherlock’s psyche.

It’s fair to say old Sherlock Holmes is enjoying a well-deserved renaissance in popularity lately, from the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. movies to the TV shows Sherlock and Elementary. But few current adaptations want to take Holmes back to his Victorian detective roots; they either want to modernize him or, dare I say it, make an action hero out of him. Enter Frogwares, long the purveyors of Sherlock Holmes adventure games, to once again give us a slice of good old fashioned British sleuthing. It's hard to believe they've been at this nearly a decade, but the experience is clearly paying off.  In The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, the seventh game in the series and the first to be designed for cross-platform release, Frogwares delivers their best adventure so far, and arguably the greatest Sherlock Holmes game ever made.

This latest investigation is full of references to not only Conan Doyle's Holmsian universe but also to the developer's established canon of games, largely based on their own invented stories. I’m sure everyone has their favourite (personally I loved The Awakened) but Testament feels like the game Frogwares have been building to for a long time. There’s a maturity to the gorgeous presentation, puzzle design and interface accessibility that can only have come by learning from their previous games.

Testament undoubtedly involves the series’ most intriguing plot yet, and a lot of work has gone into making it fit together. Eschewing the darkness and violence that has been a prominent feature in recent titles, this is instead a well-lit game with few corpses. There are still some grisly crime scenes and uncomfortable subject matter to be found here, rendered in vivid detail, but on the whole this is a far brighter affair. The “darkness” of the game’s tag line (“His darkest adventure yet”) comes from the psychology at play as Watson struggles to understand the motives behind his long-time friend's disturbing behaviour.

The last three games have relied on a ‘crossover’ hook (Cthulhu mythos, Arsène Lupin and Jack the Ripper) but in this instalment it’s all about Sherlock, and from the title alone you’ll know he has a lot to answer for. Unusually, the story kicks off at the end of an investigation. Holmes and Watson have just solved the case of the Marquess of Conyngham’s missing Samoan necklace, only to find the trinket to be a cheap fake. Upon returning to Baker Street, Sherlock is astonished to find the newspapers are pointing the finger squarely at him as the culprit for the switcheroo. Cannily knowing there’s more to this sudden slander than meets the eye, Holmes and Watson endeavour to clear his name by following leads that take them on an adventure all across London.

But is Holmes really innocent? As with previous games, the story is narrated from Watson’s point of view, meaning we’re not party to all of Sherlock's movements. You’ll control both Holmes and Watson in this game, but if at any point Holmes is called away from Watson’s side then it is Watson we stay with – inevitably leading to something horrific happening ‘off camera’ with Holmes looking like the guilty party. Before long, even Watson doubts his old friend after Holmes is attached to an increasingly violent string on incidents. The intrigue mounts throughout the game as you try to piece together the clues that will reveal the truth behind his seemingly criminal actions.

A few loose plot threads aside, the story works brilliantly. Although not formally divided, the game plays out in three acts: the introduction, where Holmes and Watson investigate the circumstances surrounding the fake necklace, the chase after the evidence becomes overwhelmingly stacked against Sherlock, and finally the confrontation when all is revealed. However, with so many twists and turns as the plot progresses, I couldn’t possibly go into further detail. Suffice it to say that Frogwares have been playing a long game with us, and there are plot threads dating back to The Awakened for the keen eye to spot. No knowledge of the previous games is required as everything is explained here, but series fans will be well rewarded for their attention to detail. There are even some returning characters like Lucy from Jack the Ripper and good old Inspector Lestrade.

As well as a brave new story, Testament also sees a radical overhaul of Frogwares'  game engine, which includes new motion and facial animations as well as high definition background graphics, three distinct control methods to suit different playing styles and a much more user-friendly approach to puzzle solving. The whole package feels like a much slicker operation than their previous instalments, and the graphics are the crowning glory. It’s rare to find a fully 3D adventure game these days, especially one that looks this good. The locations you visit are all beautifully crafted down to the minutest detail; a particular highlight occurs early on at the Bishop of Knightsbridge’s house, a small cottage in a leafy suburb where shadows playing off the side of the house and vivid garden colours give a real sense of beauty to the scene.

The streets of London are also bustling with life to add to the vibrant backdrops. You’ll visit various locations around the city, from a dank prison to grimy Whitechapel, where there’s a real buzz in particular. It’s possible to interact with background characters, but there are no lengthy dialogue chains, merely one sentence interactions like “Alms for the poor.” When you do engage in conversations, a wheel appears at the bottom of the screen with the dialogue options available. Anyone who has played either Mass Effect or Dragon Age 2 will be familiar with this mechanism, and it's clearly designed for console players, though it works just as well on PC. Regardless of platform, however, it can be a little unclear what Sherlock will ask once a word is selected. 

The character animation is a marked step up from previous games; people will sway and look around more naturally, and there are more dynamic facial expressions during conversations. It’s still not perfect, as the lip movements don’t sync with the words being spoken. Similarly, character movements can feel a little light, like floating down steps with little connection between the feet and the ground. Yet by adventure game standards, this is probably the slickest presentation we’ve seen since L.A. Noire or Portal 2.

Continued on the next page...



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Game Info

The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

Platform:
PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Genre:
Mystery

Developer:
Frogwares


Game Page »

Europe September 20 2012 Focus Home Interactive
United States September 25 2012 Atlus

Where To Buy

The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

Available at

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User Score

Average based on 35 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Niclas on May 13, 2013
An interesting story with some nice environments to explore. What I particularly enjoyed about this game is the deduction board where Holmes... Read the review »

Posted by Adventure on Apr 10, 2013

Pretty but flawed

Not a bad game by any means but the story and puzzles really take a nosedive after an otherwise solid first act. In terms of production... Read the review »

Posted by aftaklas on Jan 15, 2013
It`s a 5/5 for me.. Nice riddles, awesome plot and it`s been a long time since i enjoyed an adventure game so much.... Read the review »

Posted by McPillager on Jan 2, 2013

A masterpiece

I don't know where to start from... The excellent story? The superb graphics? The unique atmosphere? The beautiful scenes, the great puzzles... Read the review »



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About the Author
Rob Franklin
Staff Writer

Comments

LancLass
Oct 5, 2012

Thank you for a thorough and informative review! The game is definitely on my must-buy list now.

Sylvia

tsa tsa
Oct 5, 2012

That review rings like a bell! Definitely a must buy for me.

Canio
Oct 6, 2012

Case of the rose tattoo is the only sherlock holme games that leaves a deep impression on me,  I truly hope this latest installment can surpass that !

Devilfish Devilfish
Oct 6, 2012

It’s a minor nitpick, but when Watson says “You frighten me, Holmes!” regarding the shovel he just picked up, I thought it was because he was about to use that shovel to dig up a grave. So, not that random. But yes, his delivery is odd sometimes.

Still, some good Watson moments in this one. Him getting frustrated with the doctor is one of my favorite scenes in the game.

Necrosis Thanatos
Oct 6, 2012

I have an original boxed copy of The Case of the Rose Tattoo still in shrink wrap sitting on one of my shelves.  I just can’t bring myself to open it.

My PC isn’t quite up to snuff for this one.  I’m not sure if I should wait until I get a new machine next year or try one of the console versions.  The review doesn’t really address the differences between the PC and console versions, but that could simply mean there are no differences worth mentioning.

gray pierce gray pierce
Oct 6, 2012

I hed really low expectations of this game and wanted to wait for the first reviews before deciding to buy. Now that I have I am definitely gonna buy it! I loved all the previous SH games from frogwares and this one sounds even better! I’m kinda worried about the ending seeing as I am a huge fan of the books though things don’t have to be kept exactly the same for me. For instance I like the idea of a female Watson (it’s just everything else that’s wrong with Elementary) But Ritchie’s action hero who just happens to be called Sherlock Holmes was more than I could stomach.

adventor
Oct 7, 2012

Too many games… so little time! This game looked interesting, but I haven’t gotten into any of the other ones so it was just left as a “maybe”. Might have to give up on Secret Files 3 to play this.

Irongiant909
Oct 8, 2012

Not sure why this has such a glowing review - on the technical side, the graphics are cliunky. Also, the voice acting is awful. The music is bland. The script is poor.

I wasn’t remotely impressed.

UruBoo
Oct 8, 2012

Great review! I had the same thoughts about the game when I played. The End is perfect and touching, for me. A really 5 stars game, one of the best I played recently.

Iznogood Iznogood
Oct 14, 2012

A good and fair review of a good game, though 4½ stars is a bit generously, personally i would give it 4 stars.

I have never been a big fan of the Sherlock series, but it is defintely the best game in the series.

bucketface
Oct 26, 2012

Just completed that game now. Absolutely wonderful. Puzzles are just difficult enough without causing you to resort pulling your hair out….and as for the story… Just when you think it can’t get any more interesting ..it does.
The piece by Beethoven is incredibly well selected.

Can’t recommend this enough. The first frogware holmes I’ve perservered with so I wouldn’t be a seasoned sleuth.

SamuelGordon SamuelGordon
Oct 30, 2012

What the hell is up with the ending?? WTF?? Too many standalone puzzles (tex murphy) style, i’d rather have some situations where i have to use item x and in clever monkey island way. The mouth synch was TERRIBLE!! the graphics and locations were really amazing and the story well…it started great and then it went downhill (i think they lost the plot somewhere) plus that ending is ridiculously retarded.

3,5/5 is my score.

McPillager
Jan 2, 2013

A masterpiece. I most enjoyed everything including the James-Bond-style credits Smile 5 stars, definitely.

aaroncarney
Jan 3, 2013

Definitely the best Sherlock holmes since The Awakened! Good length, puzzles not too difficult/not too easy! Watson always amuses me how frustrated he gets with Holmes! Smile Amazing graphics, beautiful! Loved inspecting the gory crime scenes (wish there was more of that).  Thoroughly enjoyed it Smile

the only bad things about the game was the lip syncing, and the sometimes- unfluid animations. Some of the voice acting was a bit crap too lol.

Really enjoyed the credits at the end!

Skipjack
Jun 21, 2013

While definitely one of the better of the SH series, both my wife and I liked SH vs Jack the Ripper a lot better. In fact we considered this game a bit of a let down after Jack the Ripper and I would reverse the ratings for the two. It is still a great adventure game though and definitely one of the best I have ever played. Very high production values and good script.



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