The series of games with the hero Sherlock Holmes has gone through many changes. From the use of live actors in The Case of the Rose Tattoo in 1996 to first-person adventures like The Mystery of the Mummy in 2002. Sherlock Holmes The Awakened was released in 2007 and was the first in a series of supernatural elements inspired by the Cthulhu mythology by Lovecraft. 16 years later, Ukrainian Frogwares is reviving The Awakened in the form of a new version, using various features from the recent Sherlock Holmes Chapter One.
In Sherlock Holmes The Awakened, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson embark on their first adventure as the dynamic duo of Baker Street. Unlike Chapter One, where Watson was replaced by Sherlock’s witty imaginary friend Jon, here we see the beginning of the two men’s relationship and the different approaches they take. Watson says a few words about his past and the war he lived through as a surgeon in Afghanistan, although these moments are rare in the game. On the other hand, Sherlock, not always finding a logical explanation in mysterious circumstances, seems to reach the limits of madness and hallucinations. The story takes place after the events that occurred on Isla Cordona, with scattered references to them from time to time, pleasantly “linking” the past with the present. With quite dark cases and brutal unexplained murders, the game combines Sherlock’s police investigation with Lovecraftian cosmic horror, or at least with a few touches. Although there is a complex story behind each investigation, the game is far from a thriller, and certainly the scenes with Sherlock’s hallucinations are anything but terrifying.
The game features three difficulty levels, none of which are considered “easy”. Young Detective is the default difficulty and is recommended for first time play if you are looking for a balanced experience. This setup displays hotspots for interaction, hints as to when it’s a good idea to connect items by creating synapses in the mind palace, tells you when you’ve collected all the necessary persuasions, and you have the ability to -easy and logically- block unlock minigames. As most challenging, Deduction difficulty master offers neither of these, often leading to pixel hunting, and not as recommendable for new players. The third and final mycroft option gives you the opportunity to customize the experience by creating your own difficulty. As for trophies, they are not affected by any difficulty.
Handling follows previous games in the series as a third-person point-and-click game. Explore environments for points of interest, spot details that make a difference, and talk to people who might be lying to you. By looking at the clothes others wear, the marks or scratches on them, and even how they stand, you gain insight into their personality and daily life that you then use to your advantage. Crime scenes consist of not only clues to collect, but also key points for re-enactments. He first locates them all in space through Sherlock’s attention span, and then chooses the most likely version of events. Once you hit them, you see a short scene of what happened. In most cases, the scenes and performances are interesting, as long as you don’t have a hard time finding these places, since they are sometimes located in rooms of houses or warehouses, and sometimes in outdoor areas.
Another type of manipulation is to “fix” elements and then combine them in the world as in Chapter One (sort of like the classic combination of objects with the environment, but with information). Pinning generally makes sense, rewards patient players, and enriches gameplay beyond literal point-and-click manipulation. However, many times you don’t know what to set and match the environment, which is a bigger problem on Master of Deduction difficulty. If we add to this the elements that you later combine in the palace of the mind, it results in a series of very time-consuming parts that seem like “puddles” in the development of the story, somehow delaying its smooth development. Repair a doll by finding all the necessary materials, neutralize a guard without using violence, or search archives to find what kind of animal left bloody tracks. Sometimes, again, you play as Dr. Watson, doing simple missions like finding some keys for Sherlock or impersonating someone else. The costume doesn’t play as much of a role in this game as it did in previous games in the series, but the change of clothing and accessories remains.
A change from Chapter One is the game’s return closer to the “hint” style and chapters rather than open world. Of course, each chapter consists of its fair share of explorable locations that vary in both architecture and color, but the step that had been taken in making the game more than just a point-and-click adventure is undone here. Possibly this is due to the difficulties the creators faced during the development of the game due to the war in Ukraine, or the fact that they preferred to return to the classic style that most adventure gamers prefer. However, the return to conservative adventure handling hurts the series’ natural progression somewhat, even if the end result is an excellent point-and-click adventure. On the other hand, the absence of Chapter One’s unnecessary and clunky battles is more than welcome and we hope this doesn’t change in a future title.
In the lively game world, passersby react if you bump into them, they have their own occupations and are willing to chat with you. The map doesn’t always help navigate each chapter, as it doesn’t have a compass, so you might get lost for a while if you generally have trouble with orientation. Also, the notification that you can’t return to a place after leaving reminds you of your confinement in space, unlike if the game were open world. Perhaps the game’s biggest weakness, though, is that you’re sometimes unsure what to do next, as there’s no to-do list. For example, if you don’t play the game for days, you might forget where you left off.
The decent, realistic graphics are an evolution of Chapter One and are clearly superior to the original 2007 title. Whether you’re walking through gloomy, rainy late 19th century London or finding your way out of an alpine asylum with insane patients, the the atmosphere is according to the circumstances. Strange symbols carved on tables, overturned chairs and discarded clothing hide a story. The characters are designed in detail, though they lack expressions and lip-syncing. Some characters don’t blink, while sometimes Sherlock and Watson look poorly designed compared to others. While the animation is decent as a whole, Sherlock is seen fighting in random places, like the corner of a table or a box. Other times, again, the camera and Watson itself make it difficult for you to see and find hotspots, something that a little movement can fix. Finally, the doors open relatively abruptly and awkwardly as you approach them, something we don’t expect from a game of this era.
The rich soundtrack of the game pleasantly enriches the atmosphere. Sometimes terrifying and sometimes simply orchestral, the music never repeats itself, it is different by region without suddenly disappearing. Sound effects vary in the same contexts, with sounds of heavy rain, carriages, lonely cats meowing in rainy London, newsstands, drops hitting the roof, and clock hands being just a few examples. As for the actors, they have done a great job bringing the characters to life with their voices.
With a duration of more than 10 hours -especially on a high level of difficulty- Sherlock Holmes The Awakened is a successful remake. Dr. Watson finally returns after his absence in Chapter One, much like the old, more limited style of investigation compared to the open world we saw in the previous game. It might be a bit disappointing if you’re looking for another Chapter One, but if you’re a fan of classic adventure games, you’ll breathe a sigh of relief.
- Remake with improvements
- Variety in puzzle types.
- There are no Chapter One battles.
- Absence of clues and objectives.
- Sometimes you don’t know what to do
- facial expressions
- It does not build on the positive aspects of Chapter One.
|PLATFORM:||ps5Xbox Series X/S, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC|