Casual Adventures: “Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles” (PC)

Note: This review was written in cooperation with fellow editor Annagram.

WaterLily Games and Frogwares‘ casual adventure game Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles adds an unusual twist to the famous detective story and gameplay.

Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles (PC)
(France 2010, developer: WaterLily Games, publisher: Frogwares, platforms: PC)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are asked by Henry Baskerville to investigate the strange curse of his family which is connected to a terrible hound roaming the English moorland.

A well-known tale told differently
Unlike a game like Hidden Runaway that simply used material from already existing titles and added hidden object puzzles to it, a completely new story based on or rather inspired by the Arthur Conan Doyle story is told. It might not please fans of the original because of the emphasis on supernatural elements, but the creepy atmosphere and often graphic presentation of past murders work surprisingly well. In addition, one learns much more about the individual family members, as their background stories are both sad and touching.

Exploring the mansion of the Baskervilles and later a few other locations of the estate is great, because one discovers all sorts of dark secrets, with each new room being different from the others, usually connected to some of the family members.

However, interactions with other characters except Henry Baskerville aren’t possible. So it’s just Holmes and Watson exchanging their usual witty remarks, with the doctor confessing to a high number of phobia in the process. Unfortunately, the ending is anti-climatic, which is a shame, because the atmosphere is spot-on creepy at times.

Oh, the horror
With stuffed animals blinking their eyes or the titular hound suddenly appearing outside a window, it’s certainly not a game for the squeamish. This can also be seen with many rooms covered in blood and in a secret chamber one even finds a dog corpse on a dissection table. At some point, the game becomes a bit surreal, too, as one can literally step behind a mirror and have a look at the room from the other side.

Puzzling exploration
Anyone expecting the typical interrogation or investigation scenes of past games will be disappointed, as one simply goes from one room to the next, solving puzzles along the way. These are a nice mix of item combinations, interactions with the environment, logic puzzles and hidden object screens. The latter are obviously the most repetitive ones, as one tries to find random things which are either easy to see or really hard to make out. This is also true for each individual screen where objects are collected to be used for various puzzles in different rooms.

More and more logic puzzles
Logic puzzles are sometimes a bit problematic, too, not only because their inclusion is random, but because there aren’t any explanations of what to do. Most of these can be solved quite quickly, mainly because they have been included in so many other adventure games and are rather conventional. But a few are too obscure, e.g. when one has to use different kinds of paint on a canvas, with the solution not being that they show a pattern underneath, but that no two colors should be adjacent to each other. Another example is a horrible labyrinth puzzle in which one can only go in specific directions, resulting in many detours to finally reach the exit.

More or less difficult
In general, the number of logic puzzles is too high, which is a shame because the object-based conundrums are fun, varied, and usually make sense. Thankfully, one can also skip the logic puzzles if one wants to. Choosing between 2 difficulty modes is possible, which offer fewer challenges in both puzzles and hidden object screens. Another interesting and highly motivating feature are achievements which are slowly unlocked and shown on a special screen, rewarding the player for being particularly good or fast with certain puzzles.

Places to go and things to do
Something that made games like Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened – Remastered or Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis – Remastered particularly annoying was the constant confusion of where to go and what to do. This became even more difficult with many empty spaces where no points of interaction or objects could be found.

Thankfully, this isn’t such a problem here, as one always receives information about each location on a map, indicating if there’s still a puzzle to be solved or not. In some cases one is even asked if one wants to immediately jump to the appropriate puzzle to use a newly found object, making backtracking so much easier. Tedious pixel hunting sadly remains an essential part of the game, though.

The power of abilities
Unlike the previous Sherlock games, light RPG elements are introduced. This doesn’t mean one can level up and invest experience points into skills, though. Instead one unlocks a new ability each time one saves a Baskerville family member from his or her curse. These have to be used in order to acquire new objects or solve puzzles, and while some solutions are straightforward, others are much more imaginative.

For example, Strength makes it possible to break or lift heavy objects; Perception lights up darker areas; Temporal Acceleration makes things move or rather grow faster; Telekinesis allows grabbing things from difficult to reach places. Last but not least there’s Figurative Transformation which makes for the most inventive puzzle design, e.g. making a key appear in a painting that can then actually be pulled out and used in the real world. Even the power of Temporal Acceleration is cleverly used to make termites eat through a wooden box faster. Despite these various abilities, one is never overwhelmed with possibilities, though.

Time is of the essence
Time is also a very important part of both story and gameplay. Of course time travel is completely out of the question in a Doyle story, but it results in some great moments in the game, as one sees the same room in a different, often quite disturbing new way in the past, compared to the present. One shouldn’t expect any time-bending puzzles as in Day of the Tentacle: Remastered, but the new versions of rooms one has already visited add to variety. As one constantly jumps back and forth between the present and past, the game also doesn’t feel as linear as most adventure games.

Playing-it-safe presentation
Graphically, the game offers some very well-drawn and detailed backgrounds with a few good scare effects which have already been mentioned before. Granted, the characters don’t look particularly great during dialogue scenes with their few facial expressions, but all in all, each screen boasts more atmosphere than most of the sterile environments of the standard Sherlock games.

Voice acting is generally good and it’s nice to have the original actors for Holmes and Watson make a return. Music would be great as well if it only had more variations and stopped being so over-dramatic in every single screen or puzzle, which doesn’t make solving the conundrums any easier.

A hidden gem of a game
Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles is a surprisingly good departure from the deduction-heavy gameplay of its predecessors. It has a good mix of inventory-based puzzles that are quite imaginative thanks to special abilities Holmes can use. While the story is a bit too supernatural, the presentation is atmospheric, despite often being interrupted by logic puzzles that are by the numbers. Still, as it stands, it’s probably one of the best hidden object games and even surpasses the adventure game series itself at times, even if it’s quite short with 5 hours of playtime on its highest difficulty level.

Score: 7.5/10

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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2 Responses to Casual Adventures: “Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles” (PC)

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