When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first introduced Sherlock Holmes to the world in the late 1800s, I doubt he could have foreseen the immense longevity of his creation. The fictional master sleuth and his faithful companion Dr. John Watson have been solving crimes for well over a century now through a multitude of mediums, and they show no signs of slowing down. It was inevitable that the duo would make the move into video games, and for years now they have run the gamut of play styles, from the early INFOCOM text adventures to FMV point-and-clicks through to the latest 3D graphic adventures.
Frogwares have been releasing Sherlock Holmes adventures since 2002 and their latest offering, The Devil’s Daughter, spins a strange tale featuring liberal doses of murder, mystery, madness and the dark arts. Despite dealing with separate cases, the story rockets along and feels slightly more cohesive than the previous game, Crimes & Punishments, so fans of the series and those who love a good mystery in general will appreciate the narrative. However, your enjoyment of the gameplay this time will depend on your tolerance for faster-paced action sequences and an overabundance of minigames and Quick Time Events.
The story presents us with Sherlock solving five distinct cases and confronting deep personal issues. Although the investigations themselves are largely unrelated, there’s an ongoing narrative involving the arrival of Sherlock’s young adopted daughter. The presence of a mysterious clairvoyant neighbour who takes an interest in her initially at first only annoys the great detective, but eventually draws him down the path of suspicion and paranoia. As you progress through each crime, the overall story arc is slowly revealed and as the tension increases, you'll be desperate to find out what ultimately happens in the finale.
The five cases presented are varied and interesting. Controlling Sherlock and sometimes Watson, Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars and Toby the faithful canine, you'll look into missing persons, murders and abductions. In doing so, you'll need to figure out how a horrific accident between multiple carriages occurred, disarm explosives and conduct a rather humorous "exorcism", all in the name of evidence gathering.
There is quite a thrilling set piece in the first case where you must try to evade a hunter; even the minigame required to hide and escape traps couldn't derail the tension and excitement throughout the scene. One confusing turn is when Sherlock takes a sojourn into a Mayan Temple, which is filled with puzzles that feel like they were left over from a Tomb Raider game circa 1998. It's tedious, makes very little sense, doesn't really help the narrative, and just isn't all that fun to play.
While it is an interesting story that could have stood on its own, Frogwares made the unusual choice of completely redesigning the two lead characters whilst maintaining story continuity with previous games. In addition to the voice actors changing, this is a brand new, slightly more modern Sherlock and Watson. The two men look younger: Holmes now sports a full head of hair and looks more dashing than his previous incarnations, and Watson has gone from a bowler-wearing older gentleman to a younger chap who wouldn't look out of place in a Peaky Blinders episode.
This would all be fine if The Devil’s Daughter were a total reboot or prequel. It's not the first time Sherlock has seen a retooling or different take on the lore; the characters wouldn't have stayed relevant if they'd never gone through changes over the years. However, other characters such as Inspector Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson look pretty much the same, while Wiggins has inexplicably stayed the same age, and Toby the canine is as old as ever.
Adding to the strangeness is that the game paints itself as a sequel. Plot points from previous games are referenced, including a significant one relating to Sherlock’s daughter in The Testament Of Sherlock Holmes (in which Holmes and Watson are clearly middle-aged). So while The Devil’s Daughter takes place at least a few years after the conclusion of Testament, they have apparently discovered the fountain of youth and de-aged themselves considerably. It really doesn't make any sense that Frogwares would go this far in redesigning the two iconic characters while still attempting to maintain story continuity.
The voice acting is well done: everyone sounds like they're from London and there are no glaring accents or odd vocal deliveries. The script doesn't suffer from any translation errors either, so that's always a plus. The soundtrack was also a highlight for me, as the moody music that accompanies the deduction scenes really helped immerse me in the task at hand, and the bombastic orchestral score really pushed the intensity of the action sequences.Continued on the next page...