Developed by Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is the tenth outing for Holmes and Watson in the ongoing The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series that first began in 2002. Now Crimes & Punishments originally launched in 2014 for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One but now Frogwares has brought this investigation-themed title to the Nintendo Switch.
But is it a perfect fit for the Switch or merely. . . elementary?
Thrust into the shoes of Sherlock Holmes himself, Crimes & Punishments is a narrative-based investigation game, a point-and-click title given the full 3D makeover. As the legendary detective, it’s your job to take on the cases that have stumped Scotland Yard and use your brilliant intellect to deduce the truth. You do this by scouring every location for clues, talking to witnesses, interrogating suspects, and using Holmes’s homemade lab.
There are six cases for Holmes to prove his deductive superiority, each a well-written tale of dastardly deeds, steeped in late Victorian ambience. Each case comes with a set of locations for you to scour for clues, along with a couple of witnesses and potential suspects to said dastardly deeds. Like most modern adventure games, areas and items of interest will be highlighted for you to interact with, easing the pain of scouring an area without the pixel-hunting of classic point-and-click titles. Whether it’s just one item to find, or a table to peruse multiple items, you can pick up and rotate objects for examination, or collect notes to be read and catalogued. Once you’ve exhausted each area, the game highlights the hotspot green, letting you know you’ve found all you need to.
Of course, environments also contain hidden clues that you can find while searching for things others may overlook or by using Holmes vivid imagination to put certain key pieces of evidence together.
When speaking to suspects or witnesses, you can create a character profile of them through Holmes’s astute observation skills. The game allows you to do this by minutely examining their appearance so that you’d know Suspect A was a gardener by the state of his hands, for example. This character profile plays into the questions you can ask, especially when you need to confront them with a correct observation during the interview. Along with the clues you find at the crime scenes, new avenues of investigation and questioning can be opened up, which usually complicates the case more than clears things up.
Holmes’s “Mind Palace”, a screen where all the clues are located and can be combined to create deductions, is where you will correlate all you know to find the correct answers or chains of answers. The Mind Palace can also end up giving you extra avenues to investigate – such as having to perform experiments or go undercover by using Holmes’s skills of disguise.
Crimes & Punishments is also full of minigames to spice up the experience. All will have a direct bearing on the case at hand, such as hand-to-hand combat or performing an experiment at Holmes’s homemade CSI lab. The more action orientated ones are by far the least interesting, but all of them can be skipped if you’re having trouble successfully completing them. It’s one way to make sure you don’t get stuck when all you want to do is focus on piecing the evidence together.
Initially, it took me awhile to get used to Crimes & Punishments take on the adventure game formula. However, once I began to delve deeper into its systems and the narrative, the more obsessed I found myself becoming with solving the conundrum each case presented. This came down to two reasons: the narrative and the flexibility of the outcomes through the Mind Palace.
Crimes & Punishments, while not having an overarching thread to connect all the cases, is extremely well-written and voice acted throughout. Each case, acting as a standalone story, presents a great cast of characters and mysteries for you to unravel. And while all of them deal with murder, the manner in which each one is handled is unique. Blood Bath, for instance, is a favourite of mine that has you searching through ancient Roman Ruins to find out why an eminent archaeologist was murdered.
But it’s really the collecting of clues and trying to see how they fit together in the Mind Palace that grabs you. Now while there is only one correct answer to each case, Frogwares have managed to craft a set of whodunits whose chain of evidence usually gives you multiple possible answers. What’s more, it’s entirely possible to accuse and send the wrong man to the gallows and complete the case with that conclusion going forwards since each deduction seems just as plausible!
Once you’ve decided who the culprit is, you can either condemn or absolve them to some degree. The game will give you a stat list of your decision, along with the amount of clues you’ve uncovered per case, and the option to change your decision before shutting the file for good. If you’re unsure, you can also check to see that you’ve made the right decision – though I do think that this robs the game of its replay value.
Visually, Crimes & Punishments, which is running on the Unreal Engine, looks fantastic on the Nintendo Switch Lite screen. Character models look detailed, with high-quality textures for skin and clothing. The environments are a particular highlight. While small, they’re steeped in tremendous set dressing and detail, making for a gorgeous take on Victorian London with beautiful textures and modelling work on the props. Performance is also great, benefiting from the slower nature of the gameplay. That said, Holmes’ running animation can look a little janky.
The load times between areas or when starting a conversation can be quite long and, since you’re moving between areas quite a bit and starting up conversations regularly, that means there’s a lot of loading going on. It’s not frustrating, but it does feel as though this is an area that the game can be improved in. Also, Crimes & Punishments is something of a battery chewer. The usual four hours of battery life that my Switch Lite usually gives – game dependant of course – was just a little over three hours while playing Crimes & Punishments.
In conclusion, while I initially found Crimes & Punishments gameplay a little awkward to get into, once I’d spent some time putting clues together I found myself hooked on each case and unable to put the game down. With some gorgeous portable visuals, great voice acting, and wonderful writing, Crimes & Punishments isn’t just a fantastic port of a fantastic game for the Switch, but a wonderful narrative driven whodunit adventure that will always leave you second guessing yourself.
A Review code for Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments was provided to Gameblur by the Publisher
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & PunishmentsSherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments
Story8/10 Very Good
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
Length8/10 Very Good
Visuals8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous visuals
- Fantastic writing
- Excellent cases
- Long and frequent load times
- Chews battery life