Friday, December 11, 2009

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

ICOM Simulations / NEC

Hard as it may be to believe now, seeing this mystery game in action was a mind-blowing experience for players back in the day. Not that it made anyone actually rush out to purchase the stupidly expensive Turbo CD unit, but even those who mocked the peripheral (which was pretty much everybody, including those who owned it) conceded that Holmes' full motion video had gone way beyond what they'd ever expected systems of the day to be capable of. Impressive, it was: players stared at the grainy footage in awed disbelief; reviewers showered the title with undeserved good grades. EGM editor Martin Alessi was apparently the one sane person at the time, as he gave Sherlock a so-so score of 6 while everyone else was gushing over it.

Well, a few years (and a whole lot of Sega CD flops) later, gamers realized this video stuff wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Technical limitations became all too obvious, as did the lack of fulfilling gameplay to support the "cinematics." Nowadays, Sherlock and most of its ilk are looked at as laughingstocks.

Now, I'm not one to write a game off immediately just because of generalizations regarding style. I do love It Came from the Desert, after all. Sadly, even upon being given a "fair shot," Consulting Detective proves itself to be a dud.

Understand that I expect point-and-click mechanics from such a title, but I do prefer that the gameplay not feel slow and laborious. Sherlock's system isn't built for swiftness, and events unfold at a very unexciting pace.

I actually think the FMV is pretty decent, though I wish the shows occupied the entire screen like Desert's do.

Occasionally, one video will lead right into another, at which time one of these "dramatic transition" scenes is employed.

Sketched images are often utilized to portray flashbacks and recreate crimes.

Rethink your approach if you run into a dead end.

Once you've garnered enough evidence, head to court and answer some questions. If you happened to doze off during the videos, don't worry: just keep taking guesses until the judge is satisfied with the "case" you're making.

When Sherlock was brand new, critics often said "the" problem with the game is that it offers only three mysteries to solve. Well, that's ridiculous. J.B. Harold Murder Club provides us sleuths with just one case to crack, yet I (among many other players) have returned to it over and over again. See, Murder Club features an incredible plot and very cool characters (not to mention a superior interface and some sweet jazz music). Sherlock's mysteries are uninteresting, poorly written, and shabbily put together (and all three of them combined don't take as much time to solve as J.B.'s single case). In the end, Consulting Detective doesn't fail because of its outdated FMV or low case total. It fails because it's a slow, boring game.

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