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Sherlock Holmes Chapter One review for PS5, Xbox Series X, PC


Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, Xbox Series X
Publisher: Frogwares
Developer: Frogwares
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

It’s kind of remarkable that Frogwares have been making Sherlock Holmes games for about twenty years now, and yet they still don’t know what to do with him.

That’s a little unfair of me. After all, I’ve only played the games they’ve made over the past ten years, so it’s entirely possible that the first ten years of Frogwares’ Sherlock games were amazing, and I’ve just had the misfortune of playing the worst ones. Somehow, though, I doubt it. Despite the fact that they have one of the most iconic characters in Western literature, whose exploits have been adapted and reimagined into all kinds of different media over the past century-plus, they still find ways to make his adventures wholly forgettable.

 

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is no exception, though at first it feels like you’re in for something new and different. Not only is the Sherlock here much younger than what we usually see, the whole world seems brighter and more vivid thanks to the fact the series takes place on a Mediterranean island, rather than dreary 19th century London. No fog and rain here – this is all sunny weather and beautiful scenery. On top of that, the island is an open world, so rather than going from one set location to another, you get to explore around and see what you can stumble across. Further, there’s no Watson in site, instead replaced by a mysterious young man named Jon.

Of course, once you actually start playing the game, you quickly discover that it’s still the same-old Frogwares Sherlock. The scenery in cutscenes may look nicer, but the people still look bizarre, with faces that are trapped somewhere on the wrong side of the uncanny valley, and lip movements that don’t quite match up with the words.

This feeling of “almost, but not quite” extends to the whole city. The streets may be relatively bustling – especially if you compare it to Frogwares’ last game, The Sinking City, which was basically Sherlock-via-Cthulu – but you quickly discover that they’re all just ornamental, walking the same paths and not really acknowledging your existence. You can talk to a few of them, but they say the same canned lines over and over again. The open world does give Sherlock Holmes Chapter One an excuse to add in guns, since you now have the option of breaking up bandit lairs – but if you’re giving Sherlock a gun and having him blast away at his enemies, you’ve kind of missed the appeal of Holmes entirely.

And “Jon”? You quickly find out that he’s Holmes’ imaginary friend, thereby disposing of that mystery in the least dramatic twist imaginable.

Once you get beyond those changes, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen from one of these games before. Sherlock searches for clues, he puts them together in his “mind palace”, and eventually he solves the mystery. As we saw in The Devil’s Daughter (not to mention The Sinking City), it works, but if the goal was to make this game different from previous Frogwares Sherlock games, it doesn’t do that.

Then again, as I said up top, this far into the Sherlock series, it seems like expecting anything different is kind of ridiculous. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One may try to dress itself as something more or different, but when you get right down to it, not much has changed.

Frogwares provided us with a Sherlock Holmes Chapter One PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C