With Robert Downey Jr.’s “interesting” take on the fictional detective, there’s been a rise in the amount of interest in Sherlock Holmes. Being a bit of a retrogamer myself, here’s my list of oldish Sherlock Holmes computer games with some capsule reviews and technical notes on how to play them if you’re a die hard fan. There’s semi-randomly ordered although I’ve tried to list them chronologically with release dates.
- Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels
Ah. Interactive fiction. A gem in the world of gaming trod on and completely neglected by the impatient gamers of today. I have a soft corner for the whole genre and consider it a nice union between the interactivity of a computer game and the language of a good novel.
That being said, I’m sad to report that I haven’t really played the game to it’s end. It doesn’t really have much Holmesian feel to it and given the high quality of many of the other IF titles out there, this one falls short. That being said, it does have a “bookish” feel to it and if you’ve got an evening to waste, it’s worth a few hours. You play Dr. Watson. The Crown Jewels of London have been stolen and you’re investigating the case. Holmes is a bystander (thereby allowing the game developers to prevent him from bungling). You lead the way and Holmes on occasion steps in to make the game fun. Its got a few “find the object” type puzzles and gets old quite quickly.
- 221B Baker Street
This is a computer version of the famous board game 221B Baker Street. I haven’t played it at all but if it’s anything like the board game, it’s worth playing. This is not a solo thing. It’s something that a group of people have to play (first one to solve the mystery wins). It’s much more interesting that cluedo and is fine way for a group of Holmesians to spend an evening. This is not the same at the much more modern game 221B. I have no knowledge of this and it appears to be a facebook based marketing scheme rather than a real “game”.
- Sherlock Holmes: Another Bow
This is also an IF title but with some more graphical elements. It has a few simple 4 colour pictures in the scenes. The plot is a murder mystery on board a steamer. Holmes is an old man so steps out of the way for you (Watson) to solve the case but only in name. He pretty much dictates all aspects of what goes on making it a very simple game and interesting only to people who touch Holmes just because it is Holmes.
This game is downloadable at http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/529/Sherlock+Holmes+-+Another+Bow.html and can be played using DosBox on Windows and Gnu/Linux.
- Sherlock Holmes consulting detective
This is a sweet set of games. The original was just called “Sherlock Holmes : Consulting Detective” and was a computer version of the book based game of the same name. .
The games are full motion video based with charming music. Each “case” is structured as a video of the client visiting the detective and his friend at 221B and laying out the details of the case. You then have to decide on which of your resources (the baker street irregulars, contacts in the higher social strata etc.) to call upon to get more clues. The idea is to get as much as you can in the quickest possible time and then to present them to a jury. If the evidence is sufficient, a video of the heroes at their rooms will play discussing the details of the case in retrospect.
They’re fun to play and somewhat true to the “nature” of Sherlock Holmes that fans can detect quickly. There were addon packs released after the original that provided more cases.
- The lost files of Sherlock Holmes
These are my pick of the lot. Two games released in the early 90s by Electronic Arts. The case of the serrated scalpel and the case of the rose tattoo. The second improves on the first with more graphical and story content. The games are delightful to play. They’re basically point and click adventure games. You play the detective. Watson is a sidekick character who maintains notes and hangs around till needed. The plots are a little weak but the care devoted to all aspects of the game is so great that it’s a “don’t miss” for all Holmes fans.
The first game can be downloaded at Abandonia. The second I couldn’t find anywhere online but it should be available from a torrent site somewhere. They’re both playable using DosBox. Highly recommended to all serious Holmesians and gamers.
- Sherlock Holmes
This series of games by FrogWare is the most modern incarnation of the detective on the gaming platform. I’ve played just one (The Mystery of the Mummy). The game is absolutely horrible and playing it was a traumatic experience. Poor blocky 3D graphics, bad voice overs, extremely watered down plots with lousy puzzles, bad artwork, horrible music and the list goes on. To be fair, this was the first game in the series so the future ones might be better but it put me off so much that I just gave up on the whole series. Stay away from this one brother Holmesian!
On the overall, I feel that the series has a lot of potential to become a good game. The lost files comes close but I think more can be done.