Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Volume I
First posted on 10 April 2006. Last updated on 26 February 2015.
Sherlock Holmes. No other fictional detective is more infamous, beloved, and parodied. Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the character has earned a place in popular culture that is rarely bestowed. It is therefore of little surprise that there have been many computer and console games loosely based on the legendary detective figure. Among these is Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective - Volume I, a game initially developed by ICOM Simulations to take advantage of the multimedia CD-ROM in the early years of this technology. Many other games based on past fictional works rarely live up to deliver an immersing experience, but such is not the case here. Not only does the game remain true to the spirit of the original work, for the most part this game is unique in its approach in delivering the Holmesian experience to the player.
The game features a trio of cases to be solved. The first is The Mummy's Case. The second is The Tin Soldier. The third is The Mystified Murderess. In the case of The Mummy's Case, 4 men have died and the murderer appears to be a 4000-year old mummy. In the case of The Tin Soldier, a retired general who has fought in the war of 1815 at Waterloo has died and a king's ransom waits to be claimed. In the case of The Mystified Murderess, sibling rivalry between two sisters has led to the death of a suitor. In each scenario, you must gather the evidence, interview the suspects, interrogate the sources, and finally present your reasoning in front of a judge to solve the case.
This game is the first of 3 volumes in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series. It is arguably among the earliest CD-ROM titles ever published for the PC and console to take full advantage of both the multimedia capability and the massive storage space available in this new medium. The game is produced in 1991, a time when CD-ROM technology has not yet been widely adopted. The game disc includes both the DOS and MAC versions. This is a rarity now but is a common practice back then when it is nearly unimaginable that a game can be so big to fill up an entire disc. The game contains over 90 minutes of Full Motion Videos that feature both Sherlock and other characters from Baker Street. The use of Full Motion Video in a game is truly ahead of its time, since such technology becomes popular only years later in fueling the boom of so-called interactive games that also use Full Motion Video. Running the game using modern hardware can be problematic, particularly with sound support and memory conflict under Windows.
The 3 cases featured in the game are unrelated to each other. Since the stories in these cases are written in the literal style of Doyle, they also unfortunately inherit his overuse of stereotypes and his signature perspicacious deductive reasoning. The cases are moderately challenging and some can be difficult to finish. The dialogs, in general, are well written and sound a little more modern than what Doyle may have written himself. On the whole, the characters are engaging and all are well acted to convey the sometimes convoluted storylines.
I loath Myst. Imagine, if you can, a game that is the antitheses of Myst, a game which relies entirely on character interaction and deductive reasoning. There are no illogical puzzles, no computational puzzles, and no puzzles involving abstract configurations. This is such a game. The goal of this game is to solve the case by listening to the conversations and sifting through the evidence, with as little footwork as possible. To help you along the way, there are a number of characters with whom you can consult. Apart from the ever present Dr Watson, you also meet Inspector Lestrade, who is Sherlock's favorite Scotland Yard Detective, and the infamous Baker street irregulars and regulars. With Sherlock's address book, you have access to a number of socialites, establishments, and thugs from the dark side of London. You can even access the Times, with which no good sleuth should leave home without! The Times is filled with stories of the day but also includes a lot of irrelevant material. It is your job to discern what is and is not useful for your case. Both hard and soft copies are included with the game. You have access to Sherlock's files. These files are filled with short pieces of information about the suspects as well as information on other notable Sherlock Holmes characters. I am pleased to see that the game has made a mentioning of Mycroft, Sherlock's smarter but lazier brother. These additions give an added depth to the game.
When you believe that you have gathered enough evidence to solve the case, you need to go to the judge and plead your case. The challenge in this game is that you never know how much evidence is enough until the judge hears your case. The judge asks you questions on the motives, the suspects, and the methods. After you solve the case, you can hear Sherlock going through his own reasoning and you are then issued a score based on how many characters you have interacted within the game. Once you hear Sherlock's reasoning, there is not much point in replaying the scenario again since you are now aware of the best way to obtain full points for the cases.
On the positive side, the unique concept of gameplay in this game is both interesting and attractive. Fans of Sherlock Holmes are sure to enjoy the stories and even some of the farfetched conclusions he draws at the end. On the negative side, this game can benefit from more depth in some of its dialog trees and its scenarios. Some of the conclusions Sherlock draws are just so farfetched to make you scratch you head. As expected, the cases are rather short and there is no real motivation to replay the cases once they are solved.
In 1999, a DVD-ROM version of the game (renamed Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective Volume 1) is published by Infinite Ventures. The re-release features the same cases as the original CD-ROM version but contains remastered Full Motion Videos and uses a totally revamped user interface. Regardless, this title is more of an interactive movie than an adventure game. As an interactive movie, it succeeds as an one-off experience that can be very satisfying. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes or enjoy a decent dialog filled mystery, then this game is for you. Otherwise, as an adventure game, you may finish a bit disappointed.