While the casual game market is flooded with hidden-object games, very few actually tie in an intriguing story, memorable characters and relevant items to find. While not a flawless adventure, The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes does a terrific job with delivering a cohesive interactive detective experience worth investigating.
You get to work with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous (and believe it or not, fictitious) Victorian detectives in London, Sherlock Holmes and his trusted colleague, Dr. Watson, to unravel 16 intriguing mysteries; these well-written individual missions have such titles as The Vanishing Actress, The Death Card Devil and The Maestro’s Violin, but one of my favorites is The Assassinated Aerialist, where murder strikes the circus at 1,000 feet in the air. It seems a hot air balloonist is murdered and suspects include the strongman, clown, apprentice, contortionist, knife thrower and fortune teller. Can you figure out who the killer is by solving puzzles?
While there are many variations of the core gameplay, you’ll spend a lot of time searching for items on the screen in The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes. As with many other hidden-object games, you’re presented with a busy scene, and you’re asked to find a handful of items listed on the left side of the screen. In The Assassinated Aerialist mission, for example, items you’ll be asked to find include voodoo dolls (from the fortune teller), short swords (from the knife thrower), dumbbells (from the strongman), and so on. This is refreshing as most hidden-object games ask you to find unrelated items like a wheelbarrow in a restaurant.
Click on incorrect items too many times and some time will be shaved off the clock. At times, Holmes or Watson might pop up to give additional info on the characters or events that took place, such as the clown having an argument with the victim, and so on.
This game also features many different kinds of mini-games to keep the play fresh and fun, whether it’s clicking to find differences between two similar scenes, arranging items in a box so that none of them touch one another (think Tetris shapes), putting together jewelry from scattered pieces, turning dials in a correct order, Concentration-like memory activities, sliding tile puzzles, and other head-scratchers all related to each individual mission.
Once enough clues have been collected it’s time to deduce who the guilty one is. This screen involves dragging and dropping suspects into a specific spot on a grid, such as male or female, distinguishing physical characteristics (such as hair color or clothing type) and any other evidence that ties them to the scene of the crime. Once you correctly guess the culprit, the case is over and filed as solved, and you can click on other missions to solve from Holmes’ bookcase. The on-screen map will take you all around London and surrounding areas including a museum, greenhouse, theater, tearoom, and close to 40 other spots.
We loved the clever dialogue and competent voice acting, but the graphics depicting Victorian styles and environments – aren’t up to par compared to some other hidden object games. In fact, they resemble point-and-click adventure games from the mid-to-late ’90s, complete with cheesy lip-synching. I dunno, perhaps it could be considered part of the game’s charm. Also, the lack of detail on some of the items you’re searching for also means they can be hard to find, but at least the developer added a right-mouse-click magnifying glass feature to zoom in on the scene. (Note: Gamezebo’s preview of this game mentioned it was difficult to find some smaller items, so it’s good the game makers added this magnifying feature. Also, the magnifying glass can now be turned on or off).
If you can forgive this game’s minor shortcomings, The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes is a gratifying hidden-object offering with many hours of fun in store for armchair sleuths. The mini-games, characters, relevant clues and sheer number of missions more than justifies the investment for detective fans.