Crimes and Punishments is a good old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes pastiche adventure game. There’s something really comforting about that. No mobile phones, no Benedict bloody Crumblebum, just a Victorian romp about ‘Orrible Murders. All the traditional Holmes elements make their appearances: Toby the dog, the Baker Street Irregulars, Watson being a complete and utter tool; it’s like a party filled with old and reliable friends.

Oh, the trailers are trying to make out that this is a dark and depressing tale told in blood red hues. It’s really not. There’s a bit more gore than you would expect and there is a little unexpected ethical examination but overall this game could have been released in the forties — As a film I mean.

Or rather a series of films. Wisely, instead of stretching a single plot to about twenty hours of game time, Crimes and Punishments has six self-contained cases to solve. There are a few hints of an overarching plot, but it is not important and not necessary to follow. This means that none of these “short stories” drag on and the explanations avoid getting too implausible. (This is Sherlock Holmes though, so some silliness must appear – a Chinese tree worshiping cult in the heart of London? OK?)

I like this line-up

I like this line-up

Overall I must compliment the writing – the actual mysteries to solve are very engaging, even if the dialogue is a little clunky at times. There are a couple of plot holes, but nothing major. Honestly, the ploting is strong enough that it could have been written by Doyle. If he made video games. I don’t think he did, but maybe he has been frozen and he’ll wake up in the future and solve VR crimes with a plucky sidekick.

And Crimes and Punishments is a video game. It has evolved significantly from the developer’s Frogwares original point and click games, now it is made up of minigames alongside interrogations and wandering about. Think L.A. Noire but with more logic puzzles. Though none of the challenges are particularly difficult, they serve at least to keep your interest. Also, there is a large variety of puzzles. You could be selecting the right option to prove a suspect is lying, or arranging objects in Holmes’ imagination to form a picture of the crime, or performing an experiment to examine a piece of evidence. Most forms of the puzzles are only used once or twice, and reoccurring ones become progressively more difficult. If it wasn’t for the occasional blood, I would recommend Crime and Punishments for nearly all ages and skill levels.

To prevent player frustration, the game does a pretty good job of telling you if you have missed anything in the various locales, and it gives you the choice to skip everything if you are getting stuck. I did have to use this option once when I was supposed to be building a crossbow and had no idea where the game wanted me to click – I suspect this was a bug.

Unfortunately you can't dress Holmes like this all the time

Unfortunately you can’t dress Holmes like this all the time

Once you have collected all the clues it is time to solve the mystery. This is represented in-game as neurons in Holmes’ brain for you to connect in the right way. It is actually possible to solve the cases incorrectly. The game gives you the option to check your result and replay it, but is possible and even recommended to carry on with whatever result you reach. Admittedly, if you are thorough and logical the solutions should come to you, but I admit the third case had me completely stumped until I really thought about it. Also, at least one case actively tries to make you choose the wrong answer – there are fiendish red herrings here.

At the end of each case you are also given the option of condemning or absolving each criminal. The game also tells you how many other players made the same choices. This is an ingenious addition to a Sherlock Holmes game. It raises an intriguing question – does Holmes stand for Truth, Justice, or neither? While the title may cause you to think that the plot is a take-off of Dostoyevsky, it is more clearly influenced by the Holmes story “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton“.

There are some negative aspects to be pointed out though. Holmes himself is controlled via WASD and mouse, but he walks like he’s on his seven-per-cent solution. Going through doors and around obstacles can become infuriatingly tricky and Watson, despite mostly unobtrusive AI, still manages to stand in your way.

It should be mentioned as well that this game is fairly graphically intensive. The reason I’m doing this as a written review as opposed to a video is that I was unable to get any kind of decent frame rate with my recording software on even the lowest settings. While I must praise the appearances of faces and landscapes, some of the texture work on the clothes is shockingly bad. Your mileage may vary.

There's a statue with a penis, but they try to hide it behind a tree

This is from part of the game where Holmes indulges in some Tomb Raiding

The game’s music is freely available, belonging to that ubiquitous composer Kevin Macleod. I’ve used his work for my own YouTube. This is not a slight on the game, I just find it amusing. The voice acting varies significantly. A few actors are excellent, others took their performance from the Big Book of Silly Accents. The guy portraying Watson manages, with some terrible line readings, to make the character an even bigger fool than the script suggests.

Crimes and Punishments is a must have for fans of the original stories and puzzle game fanatics. To everyone else I still recommend it, though it does have its problems. It is selling for £30 or $40 – a fair price I think, especially given as there is some replayability. If you ever see in a sale, pick it up and give it a go. Also, I hate Dr. Watson.


Review: Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments
"Watson, do instruct Mrs Hudson to bring us a copy of Crimes and Punishments, it is rather good."
  • Well written mysteries
  • All the Sherlock Holmes elements are here
  • Puzzles are fun and varied
  • Controls poorly
  • Voice acting and dialogue a little iffy
  • You may have trouble with the frame rate and textures
8Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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I dislike sharing biographical information. I write reviews and occasionally rambling opinion pieces. I'm not sure why you'd want to learn about my life, it's rather dull. Erm... Is this enough for a biography?

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