There’s a reason why Sherlock Holmes is one of the greatest detectives of all time, and Sherlock Holmes Chapter One kind of confirms that. It’s hard not to be so spellbound by his genius, but equally, his character might rub you up the wrong way, and you have to question why he appears so disconnected emotionally.
In this origin story, he has returned to his childhood home on the Mediterranean island of Cordona. A 21-year-old Sherlock, or Sherry, confronts his past, notably the death of his mother. As can be surmised, her passing and implications of crime and corruption taint the peaceful retreat, and it’s not long until he pulls at the seams.
Accompanied by his childhood friend Jon, we get reacquainted with the locals, taking on cases that showcase Sherlock’s incredible skills, if somewhat unusual both in concept and practice. It’s a third-person crime adventure that mixes investigations with combat, open-world exploration, and first-person clue seeking. I’m not too familiar with Sherlock, probably knowing more about Basil the Great Mouse Detective and Enola Holmes, but Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is an interesting take, nevertheless.
As this is set in the late 19th century, those raised on a diet of Twitter may not like the representations of class, race and even gender. But the past can’t be rewritten – even Sherry turns his nose up at women, which is reflected in the source material. While history hasn’t been rewritten, it’s not deliberately offensive, though there will inevitably be portrayals that rub you up the wrong way.
Sherry’s dress sense is not so accurate in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. I’ll probably find out that his initial attire is 100% authentic… He looks like he’s a few centuries too early to join the bromance in Final Fantasy XV. That said, he’s a master of disguise, so plenty of garments can replace the default dress. Clothing is crucial as Sherry infiltrates the numerous cliques by dressing up to reflect the class he’s attempting to mirror. It reminded me of Hitman in many ways – both in presentation and the mechanics.
Dressing up in Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is one thing; dissecting a crime scene another. You’ll investigate the immediate area for clues through a pixel-hunting method which can be testing. Once you’ve gathered the evidence, Jon will help you reconstruct the crime by placing characters in a virtual scenario until satisfied. The most important part, and tricky in my experience, was pinning evidence. He’s not the most reliable for helping out though, so don’t expect many hints.
For each clue, you need to manually highlight one at a time to have that your objective, or use the d-pad as a hotkey. Anytime you engage with an NPC, the questions will be related to that particular clue, or if you are in the first-person mode, you may find visual clues to recreate the scene. It can be easy to miss if you don’t have the right clue pinned. Additionally, Jon has a habit of pointing out your errors if you do two consecutive actions that are incorrect, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t annoying.
Other than the investigations, Sherry gets into third-person shootouts. As a good guy, he doesn’t intend to kill, so you need to shoot off pieces of enemy armour, environmental hazards or throw some snuff in the eyes of your enemies, get in close, then give them a beating. From here, he’ll cuff them, earning some kudos to buy new disguises and even furniture for his family home, re-establishing a base. It’s a nice alternative to all the finding.
Frogwares made a statement regarding Sherlock Holmes Chapter One and the comparisons to big-budget triple-A titles:
…we need to prioritize what matters most – an emotional experience that is hopefully bigger than the sum of its technical parts.Wael Amr, CEO, Frogwares
I’m not entirely sure whether Triple-A is subjective or not, but know that this review is, as it’s my opinion. This statement resonates with what I’d like, not expect, from a game, and in this scenario, Frogwares delivered on the above. As indicated in my Conway: Disappearance at Dahlia View review, there were quite a few technical flaws in that, but the latter is one of the best games I’ve played, based on my tastes.
Sherry, as I’ve affectionately called him throughout, is intelligent, charming, quirky and flawed. He’s flawed because he’s human. His interactions with Jon were a highlight, but it took time to get used to the banter. Investigations can go against the grain, and some of the setpieces can feel like Deadly Premonition 2, but I liked that. This was my first Frogwares game (I think), so I can’t draw comparisons to other titles, but as a standalone origin story, I enjoyed it. I’m just glad that the deerstalker and FFXV attire were optional.