Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened review for PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Switch

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, Switch, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PS4
Publisher: Frogwares
Developer: Frogwares
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

In a way, the quality of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened feels almost secondary to the mere fact of its existence. After all, it was developed in about a year in Ukraine ? which means, obviously, that the team at Frogwares were working on the game under some insanely adverse working conditions. The fact the game is here at all is an act of defiance and a testament to the team?s bravery.

It?s also quite possibly the best Sherlock game that Frogwares has made in years, if not ever.

Admittedly, this isn?t a super high bar. Last year?s Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One was mediocre at best, while their Switch re-releases of games like Crimes and Punishments underscored that this mediocrity was nothing new. Saying that Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is better than those is kind of damning the game with faint praise.

And this game definitely deserves more than faint praise. It feels like Frogwares looked at all their previous games, figured out the relative strengths and weaknesses of each, and decided to focus on what made the games good while staying away from their shortcomings.

For starters, this means that Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is the closest these games have come yet to making the characters look and move normally. I?m not saying that the game features the most incredible graphics the world has ever seen or anything, but it no longer feels like you?re watching uncanny valley robots whose lip movements don?t match up with the words coming out of their mouths. That counts as a huge step forward.

The Awakened also moves away from the open world that we had in Chapter One, reverting to the separate locations for each case that were typical of the earlier Sherlock games. Given how poorly implemented that open world was, this is a good thing. The maps for each location are big enough that you get to explore a little and discover side quests and mysteries, but not so big that the emptiness of the open world becomes glaringly obvious. While this wasn?t my main issue with Chapter One (or with Frogwares? other Lovecraftian take on their Sherlock formula, The Sinking City), it was still something that grated on me, so I?m glad to see it fixed.

As for drawing on what worked in those other games, The Awakened does a good job of focusing on the mystery, rather than trying to shoehorn in silly action sequences. The ?Mind Palace? deduction system may be getting a little long in the tooth at this point, but it?s hard to complain when it seems so suitable. You gather clues, and you piece them together: it?s a pretty faithful representation of how mystery novels are supposed to work, and how you adapt that process to gaming. Couple that with a story that moves along at a nice pace, and you have the recipe for a very solid Sherlock game ? which is something we haven?t had in years.

In other words, despite the crazy circumstances under which the game was created, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a huge success. I don?t know how much of this can be attributed to the fact this game is a remake of the 2007 game of the same name, rather than an all-new projet ? but seeing as that game also had middling reviews, I don?t think this qualifies as slapping a new coat of paint on a game that already worked. Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is one impressive achievement, and probably would be even if it wasn?t developed as bombs were raining down on the developers? homes.

Frogwares provided us with a Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-