A total remake of its 2007 game of the same name, developer Frogwares has embarked on a complete overhaul of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened. This Lovecraftian adventure sees Sherlock investigating a series of disappearances that ultimately end up linked into the Cthulhu Mythos.
The Awakened opens with a pretty low stakes case to solve: where is Sherlock's newspaper, and why has it gone missing? This acts as a tutorial for the mechanics of the game, many of which are expected for a detective game; presenting evidence, questioning suspects and witnesses, and investigating the crime scene. The game also adds some interesting, almost otherworldly, elements, meant to represent Sherlock's aptitude for crime scene investigation and detective work. Pressing R1 activates 'Concentration', which allows Sherlock to see things that aren't visible to the less initiated.
Once enough evidence has been collected, Sherlock can recreate past events in Concentration mode using his imagination. Small synapses will appear on screen and Sherlock can interact with them, allowing you to pick the correct recreation based on the evidence you have obtained thus far. Successfully recreating the scene will add new information to the Casebook and allow Sherlock to summarise any deductions that have been made.
There are so many elements to investigating crime scenes that The Awakened really makes you think about things on many different levels. Looking at evidence in the Casebook, some items may have different icons, which indicate that more can be done with that entry. Whether that's pinning it as a key piece of evidence and asking a passer-by about it, or using Concentration to look at the scene with it in mind to come to another deduction, it feels like there's always something additional that can be done at a crime scene to eke out more information and collect valuable evidence.
Sherlock also has his 'Mind Palace', accessible through the menu, where he'll pose key questions about the case at hand. Once you select a question you want to answer, you'll see how many pieces of evidence are needed to answer that particular question, and they're colour coded into three categories; items, documents, and observations. Pressing L2 and R2 scrolls between the category screens and then you can select the items to answer the question. You often won't have the relevant piece of evidence straight off the bat, which means further investigation is needed to answer the questions correctly and proceed with the story.
With so many elements to investigating crime scenes, things can feel a little overwhelming. The Awakened differs from other detective games in that it doesn't give out hints or tips if you spend too much time in an area, and it really wants you to solve things for yourself. With an arsenal of investigation tools at your disposal, there's certainly more than one way of looking at things, and in areas we had been stuck in for too long, the answers were very much staring us in the face once we realised how to progress. Using the icons against pieces of evidence in the Casebook is a great indicator of what is outstanding to allow the game to progress, and perhaps the only hint that you'll receive. Pressing L1 in investigation scenes will show you points of interest; this does feel like a very temperamental mechanic, and there were times when we had to press L1 repeatedly for it to register that we were trying to use this feature.
Perhaps expectedly for a game which is based on the Cthlulu Mythos, there are plenty of fantasy elements. Sherlock will often find himself in an otherworldly plane, where the rules of physics and logic seem not to apply. These segments of the game are more puzzle-based, and really encourage lateral thinking.
Sherlock's investigation will take him all around the globe, from his native London, to Switzerland, to New Orleans and back again. This gives a really varied experience and allows the player to experience a variety of backdrops. They all have their distinctive feel and atmosphere, which makes each chapter a totally fresh experience. Some of the NPC lines you hear from walking around are recycled a bit too often, which can often feel quite repetitive, especially in early exploration stages when you may be treading the same path frequently.
Largely, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a visually spectacular game. Cut scenes are beautifully animated, and each chapter starts with a striking visual which really gives the whole game a truly cinematic feel. Character models are generally really well done, save for a few texture issues with hair and the rendering of some close up shots being quite patchy, but nothing that will ruin the immersion to a notable degree.
For avid Sherlock Holmes fans, The Awakened feels like a really faithful story featuring a beloved character. It really focuses on Sherlock's relationships with other characters and doesn't shy away from detailing his often fragile mental state, which is documented so frequently in his other adventures. It really adds an extra layer of authenticity to the game and shows that it has been created by a team that really love and understand the intricacies of the character, rather than using a big name to sell a detective game.
For a game that was never meant to exist, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a revelation. It has everything a Holmes fan could want; mysteries to unravel, fun dialogue and banter between Holmes and Watson, and plenty of investigations to be had. Playing through with barely any instruction or assistance from the game itself really gives a sense of achievement not often found with other detective games. A compelling and mythical storyline is really the cherry on top of a fantastic, thought-provoking game which will have players exploring every nook and cranny to get to the bottom of the mystery at hand.