Connect with us

Review

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter Review – A Curious Incident

Published

 on

I’m barely an hour into Sherlock Holmes‘ first case in The Devil’s Daughter – “Prey Tell” – in which Holmes is tasked with finding a young boy named Tom’s missing father. I’m starting to wonder whether this is a Sherlock Holmes game or a Victorian-themed Inspector Gadget.

Though Holmes eventually gets all the credit for solving the case, it seemed to me that it was the hard work of a child and a dog that made most of the major breakthroughs, which doesn’t really say much for the greatest detective of all time. First, Holmes sends a street urchin to follow a suspicious character who nearly suffocates in a chimney stack mid-chase, such are the ludicrous presumed perils of Victorian England. Then, Holmes instructs his faithful hound, Toby, to sniff out the last known whereabouts of the missing man rather than just do it himself.  After this, he finally put all the pieces together…and completely cocked up the case.

Okay, so maybe “my” version of Sherlock Holmes is more akin to Inspector Gadget. There wasn’t a single time I had to interrogate or profile another character, or make a snap decision, that I didn’t bungle in some way. It hurts to say it, but I am not the world’s greatest detective.  

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter offers a number of different playstyles, mini games, and different playable characters, as well as a good dose of sleuthing from Sherlock and Watson. Though it could easily have been a disaster, Frogwares have managed to meld all of these disparate parts together to form an engaging and highly enjoyable adventure that retains the feel of Conan Doyle’s classic tales while successfully presenting their own interesting take on the character.

Devil’s Daughter the eleventh Sherlock title in the long-running game series that barely anyone can be convinced to give a crap about, and the eighth installment with Frogwares at the helm. This particular title features a younger and more reckless incarnation of Holmes than seen in previous titles, which we all kind of knew they would do eventually.  Early on in the game, we are introduced to Holmes’ daughter Kate (yes, I know) who has come to stay, along with his mysterious new neighbour Alice De Bouvier.  As you progress through each of the game’s five cases, you slowly get to learn more about the pair as the mystery of Kate’s true parentage and Alice’s motives for moving to Baker Street are revealed. Each of the game’s five chapters feature wonderfully-macabre tales of murder and foul play with a tinge of the fantastic, featuring corrupt lords, Mayan curses, and even Sherlock’s own celebrity.

The Devil’s Daughter is also home to some of the best writing in the series to date. It creates a Holmes who is curmudgeonly yet likeable, and a Watson that is best described as long-suffering yet incredibly loyal. In between all the murder and intrigue, the game also has some great moments of repose, and Sherlock shares some genuinely touching moments with his “daughter.” Along with Holmes’ rapier wit (and Watson’s, for that matter) there are also some genuinely funny scenes, such as Holmes faking an exorcism to scare an old woman.

SHDD_EXORCISM

In a similar manner to how Arkham Asylum successfully made players feel like Batman, The Devil’s Daughter does a wonderful job of making you feel like the world’s first greatest detective. These versions of the characters sit somewhere between Conan Doyle’s original short stories and recent TV offerings like Sherlock and Elementary.

Each case plays out in much the same way as previous games (and the books for that matter), with clients coming to Baker Street, and with Sherlock profiling them before agreeing to take the case. Profiling plays out in a similar visual manner to the TV series, in which the camera zooms in first person as Sherlock studies every minute detail on their immediate person while making judgements based on what he sees. This isn’t just a case of finding all the things though, as you also have to correctly infer what some of these small details mean. Accurately profiling a character can unlock additional clues which open additional lines of questioning, or support deductions that will help you to solve the case.

Sherlock then follows leads to various locations throughout Victorian London, utilizing his renowned powers of deduction and reasoning to uncover more clues, by interviewing suspects, performing autopsies and forensic experiments, as well as plunging into his archives for some good old fashioned research. As well as being able to interact with object in the environment, Sherlock can also use his powers of intuition by pressing L1 to reveal obscured objects and small details that most would usually miss.  He can also use his imagination to infer the locations of certain missing items or piece together and replay a sequences of events with clues found at the scene.

Occasionally the game will toss in a random QTE sequence, like using the left and right sticks to try and balance on a beam to traverse scaffolding precariously placed across a street while following a suspicious character from the roof tops, or eavesdropping on conversations in a pub to help generate a lead. These sections feel like an annoying inconvenience more than anything, but are outweighed by the Devil’s Daughter’s more inventive set-pieces, like Holmes’ using his imagination to plunder a Mayan Tomb.

ME3050565659_2

The end goal of each case is to collect enough evidence and clues to create deductions. However, you can come to several different conclusions based upon the information you have collected throughout the case. This final conclusion, which finally reveals who you believe to be the culprit, in turn leads to a moral choice. This new element is an attempt to create a more branching narrative, but the “echoes” created by your choices just alter the contents of a few text files. That said, your actions do have minor repercussions in subsequent chapters, with characters reacting to your presence in different ways depending on ho you handled previous cases.

The pacing of Devil’s Daughter has improved greatly from previous entries in the series, in particular Crimes and Punishments, which suffered greatly from being too plodding and linear. Though The Devil’s Daughter does still stick to the case-by-case formula of previous instalments, it also successfully weaves an overarching plot line throughout each of the chapters that doesn’t feel surplus to requirements, creating a slowly evolving mystery that hooked me in from beginning to end.  I wanted to unravel the mystery surrounding Holmes and his adopted daughter just as much as I wanted to solve each case. Maybe even more so.

Whether tailing a shady character across the rooftops of Whitechapel as Wiggins the street urchin, escaping from an armed maniac in Epping Forest, or circumventing a series of deadly traps in a Mayan Temple, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter doesn’t let up for a moment, gleefully switching up the gameplay at drop of a deerstalker in order to better serve the game’s narrative. Though some sequences are more successful than others, and the moral choice system doesn’t add anything substantial, the tighter writing, superb performances from the principal cast and intriguing larger narrative make the Devil’s Daughter the best game in Frogwares’ series to date.

Sherlock Holmes: the Devil’s Daughter was reviewed on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher

Developer: Frogwares | Publisher: Big Ben Interactive |  Genre: Adventure | Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One | PEGI/ESRB: 16+/T | Release Date: June 10, 2016

[wp-review id=”75678″]

Review

Stranger Things 3: The Game Review — Mindflayingly Average

Published

 on

Stranger Things 3: The Game logo

The Stranger Things series has been a big success for Netflix. A love letter to ‘80s pop culture, with a focus on the science fiction and horror movies of the time, the show has been hugely popular, with the latest season screened on over 40 million accounts in its first four days. Accompanying the launch of the television season is Stranger Things 3: The Game. Developed by BonusXP Inc, which previously created Stranger Things: The Game for mobile devices, the game is an isometric brawler which competently retells the story of Stranger Things 3, but has little of its own to say. Mild spoilers for Stranger Things 3 ahead.  

The game opens one year after the events of Stranger Things season two. While trying to contact his camp girlfriend with a high-tech ham radio, Dustin overhears a strange recording spoken in Russian. Determined to figure out what it means, he teams up with Steve and his coworker Robin to try and decode the message. Meanwhile, strange occurrences have been happening around Hawkins, with rats devouring fertiliser and chemicals. Max’s brother Billy is looking decidedly unwell, thickly wrapped in jumpers while he works as a lifeguard. A tingle at the back of Will’s neck tells him the mindflayer’s presence still lingers around the town. As events progress, a group of average kids must save the world from an otherworldly monstrous threat once again.  

Stranger Things 3: The Game takes place in a semi-open world, with more locations unlocked as players progress. The player starts out in control of Mike and Lucas, who wield a bat and slingshot respectively. Two characters are always on screen, with the other person controlled by AI. Local co-op is available and seems to be the intended way to play—the AI for the second player is not very smart. When in single-player mode, the player can switch between the two characters on the fly, and any unlocked characters can be swapped to as well. The other characters unlock over the course of the story, with a total of 12 to choose from. Each character can attack and block and has a unique special move, such as Max’s healing hearts or Jonathan’s stunning camera flash. Special moves cost energy, which can be replenished by drinking New Coke or picked up from defeated enemies. With each character playing so differently, the game would benefit from restricting which characters can be used in each scenario, as finding a favourite combination and sticking to it is far too easy. This lack of restriction also caused some weird story occurrences, like Nancy wandering around the void or Hopper hanging out with Mike while he mopes about breaking up with Eleven.

Exploring Hawkins involves lots of switch puzzles, and using characters’ special abilities, like Dustin hacking into a locked door or Joyce cutting the lock off of a gate with her bolt cutters. The puzzles are generally straightforward, with the Russians inexplicably leaving clues in English for the player to find, but more complicated riddles can be found by wandering off the beaten track. The creepy deserted pizza place has some based on pi, and exploring optional rooms in the Russian base will reward the player with rare crafting items.

Crafting in Stranger Things 3: The Game is poorly implemented. Items can only be made at workbenches, which makes sense for complicated contraptions, but is annoying at other times (for example, having to retreat out of the pool area because Eleven needs to put duct tape on her swimming goggles). When looking in a store, no indication appears on what items are already in the player’s inventory. Apart from plot items, the player can also make trinkets, which improve the party’s statistics. A wide variety of trinkets are available, from improving a single character’s attack to increasing the health of the whole party. Finding the missing items to create a trinket is tricky due to the poor shopping interface, and the sparse placement of workbenches gives the player few chances to actually craft the items. Fortunately, fighting enemies is easy enough that crafting can mostly go ignored.

Combat is simple, for the most part, with the player smashing everything on screen to progress. Hawkins is absolutely infested with rats and Russians, with even the library packed to the brim with bad guys. Though the excessive numbers of similar enemies is normal in the brawling genre, more variety would have been appreciated. The late game Russians become more interesting, with knife throwers, chemical spills, and grenades, but the first three-quarters of the game consists of the same baddies over and over.

An exception to this repetition is the challenging boss battles, which are far tougher than the average gameplay. Bosses will need extra conditions to be met before they can be damaged, like switching lights on, dodging charge attacks, or keeping several baddies away from each other. Some work better than others—for example, one battle relied on keeping two boss creatures apart to prevent them from healing each other, which simply did not work in single player since the AI fighter closely follows the main character. Instead, defeating the boss required exploiting Nancy’s critical hit ability to do enough damage to kill the monsters before they could heal, a strategy that required some luck to succeed. Other boss encounters fared better, with the trial of constantly repairing Hopper’s cottage as slimy creatures crawl through the windows proving tough and intense.  A dodge button would be a useful addition to the movement options, since the bosses run so much faster than the player does. The game is also a bit stingy on providing a place to stock up before a boss battle, which should be included considering the spike in difficulty they represent. Still, these battles are where the game shines brightest, showing creativity and variety that is sorely lacking in other areas.

Stranger Things 3: The Game is faithful to a fault, feeling like a very detailed recap of the season. A few sidequests tell their own story, like doing chores for the creepy Granny Perkins or exploring the abandoned electronics store, but for the most part, the player will be re-enacting scenes from the television series, with a bit of extra rat murder and crafting thrown in. Clinging so closely means the story has nowhere exciting to go since the player has presumably already watched the season. If the player has not seen the show, that would be even worse, as it is a non-scary adaptation of a horror show that completely loses the tone. The occasional dialogue choice is thrown in, but the response makes no difference either way. Adding in some choices alongside possibilities of events going differently would make things far more engaging. 

A highlight of Stranger Things 3: The Game is the art direction, with some beautiful 16-bit recreations of the cast and environments. With the exception of Jonathan, who looks like his pointy-chinned cousin, the sprites are a good resemblance of the cast. The monsters are appropriately fleshy and gross, with the final boss, in particular, looking foreboding. Environments can get a bit repetitive, with one sprite for all the beds, one for all the cupboards, etcetera. Sprite laying issues do occur on occasion—the ashtrays all hover in front of the characters, for example. The chiptune recreation of the show’s music, however, is spot on, and converting the title theme into a Zelda-like solved puzzle jingle is impressive indeed.    

Stranger Things 3: The Game gameplay

Stranger Things 3: The Game is only for really big fans of the show. Even then, the title is hard to recommend since it is an inferior version of the television season. While the gameplay is not bad, it is too repetitive to be enjoyable on its own. The game would perhaps be best played just before season four comes out, as a novel way of recapping the previous season.   

OnlySP Review Score 2 Pass

Reviewed on PC. Also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS and Android devices.

Continue Reading