If you’ve ever imagined combining Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective, Sherlock Holmes, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu universe into a strange tale, then Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is probably the game for you. In a gory myster/horror plot that sounds more like science fiction than a classic Victorian novel, Holmes and Watson must track down a strange cult before they can resurrect the Cthulhu.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened begins innocently enough with the Holmes and Watson investigating the disappearances of several immigrants from the neighbourhood, but soon the plot turns into a race across the world for the detective duo in order to stop a crazed cult from awakening a squid-like being, Cthulhu. During their adventure, Holmes and Watson must search for clues in the swamp lands of Louisiana, unlock the mysteries at a mental hospital in Switzerland and dig deep for answers in a pirate cave in Scotland, all the while racing against the clock of Cthulhu’s return.
The world Sherlock Holmes is a vast and 3D environment that gives Holmes a lot of room to move around in. The game can viewed from a first or third person perspective and it provides you with an icon to indicate what actions Holmes can take within his world like pick up or talk. Holmes can move around via the mouse or the keyboard and his movement is completely free within the 3D space. While the game does give you a fair amount of space to move around in each area, there are cases where Holmes must move to a new area screen or change his view of the street in order to move where you want him to, but in those cases, an icon will show a set of footprints to indicate the change.
The inventory system saves all objects, documents and map locations for later use and can also be used to combine objects. All conversations with characters in the game are completed through linear cut scenes for which you cannot direct the subjects at any point. Some of these conversations are triggered merely by clicking on a character, while others require you to complete a series of tasks before they will happen on their own.
While most of Holmes’ conclusions in the game come from gathering random clues found around the crime scenes, you will have the opportunity to take evidence back to Holmes’ famous 221 B Baker Street flat and examine it under a microscope or put it through some chemical tests. You will also have some puzzles to solve throughout the game like picking combination locks, deciphering cryptic messages and even solving a clock puzzle to open a safe.
One would think that a Sherlock Holmes game would allow a player more room to study the clues and follow their own conclusions in order to solve the game’s puzzles, but Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened seemed like it was set up to hand the player the answer to the mystery after they collected the clues rather than allow them to decipher the clues themselves. In most cases, when an answer was given to me by Holmes in a cut scene, point A and point B never really connected to point C, so I really found the Holmes’ answers to be extreme leaps in deduction for what little evidence you find for him.
Controls in the game were absolute chaotic and made the experience of moving Holmes around in a 3D environment horrible. More often than not, trying to use the mouse to click and move Holmes wouldn’t work right away, and the frame rate for the game’s animation was incredible slow and stuttered, so trying to find and center your cursor on an object took several tries. The game was a bit easy to control with the keyboard in first person view.
The character models were quite detailed from their facial hair down to their very skin; almost like pictures of real people were used and stretched over the 3D models. Unfortunately the detail didn’t extend to the background environments which were quite plain and lifeless. There were no real detail to the buildings and the lack of people and objects in the areas made them boring to look at, and even Holmes’ famous flat was missing some of the famous objects like his violin, smoking pipe and hunting cap.
Most of the puzzles in the game, while not actually hard to figure out on their own, where made harder than they should be due to the lack of instructions. Once you figure out how to play or activate the puzzles as it were, they become a lot easier to figure out.
At first I was excited to play a Sherlock Holmes mystery game, but after suffering through chaotic game play, a clue system that holds your hand and a plot that loves its blood and gore, I think I will stick with the classics. Generally I am a huge science fiction fan, but even this game’s plot was too weird and ridiculous for me too enjoy. Due the huge amounts of blood, gore and violence, this game is rated mature and I would highly suggest parents follow the suggested "Mature" rating on this game.
For similar games, try Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet, Dracula 3: The Path of the Dragon, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.