While the adventure genre isn’t exactly a blockbuster category in the industry today (the days of people lining up to purchase Myst are long gone), there are still plenty of fans. Those who’d rather use their brains than their fingers are often intrigued by puzzlers and adventure titles that stress narrative and cerebral challenges. The Sherlock Holmes series has never dragged down super high review scores in the past, primarily due to a general lack of polish, but perhaps the newest entry will give prospective sleuths reason to cheer. Developed by Frogwares and produced by Bigben Interactive, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter lands this spring and it could just be the brain-busting tonic detective lovers have been waiting for.
This is actually the eighth installment in the long-running series and as I said, most iterations have been underwhelming. Most present the player with a series of intricate and ultimately rewarding mysteries but the surrounding mechanics are almost always questionable, and this leads to frustrating gameplay issues. I still remember playing The Testament of Sherlock Holmes and wondering why the developers forgot one critical point: This is interactive entertainment and despite the minimalist approach to gameplay and control, the latter elements are never trivial. Bizarre and frustrating control and mechanical issues really hindered my progress in that game, which was unfortunate, because the mysteries were compelling and the acting was solid. I’m hoping Frogwares has learned from their mistakes.
In The Devil’s Daughter, young Katelyn comes to 221B Baker Street and she may have discovered the dark, disturbing truth about her family. Many questions require answers: Who is the charming clairvoyant who moved into 221C? Since when do we entertain supernatural nonsense like séances and occult rituals when we’re supposed to be exercising logic and rationalism? And perhaps most mysterious of all is the fact that the greatest detective in literary history must actually fight to hide a secret, as opposed to exposing it. The character of Sherlock Holmes has always had a dark side, as those who have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories fully appreciate, so perhaps we’ll see that darkness on full display in The Devil’s Daughter.
According to a press release, the publisher says the game combines exploration, investigation, and even “intense action sequences.” Obviously, there hasn’t been much action in this series – and rightly so – and it’ll be interesting to see how these supposedly more mainstream segments affect the franchise. On the one hand, you might entice more gamers to try it; on the other, those who really do want a straight-up puzzle/adventure might be turned off. Plus, let’s not forget that given this developer’s history of iffy mechanics, I have to wonder how they’ll fare with more action-oriented systems. That worries me a little. However, I should add that I didn’t get a chance to play Crimes and Punishments, and I hear Frogwares did a better job, technically, so perhaps there’s reason for optimism.
They are calling this a “crime thriller,” which certainly implies more action, so we’ll have to see what happens. The team says it’s “by far the most ambitious game” they’ve ever worked on, and with five big mysteries to solve, there might be plenty of content. That has been another sticking point in the past: Not enough content. This time, though, provided those five mysteries are fully fleshed-out and require the proper investigative approach from start to finish, the result should feel like a complete package. And in the interest of amping up your interest level, let me leave you with this PR statement:
“Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is an incredible adventure game with unique gameplay blending investigation, action and exploration for an extraordinary experience that will test the limits of players’ nerves and intelligence. Playing as the great detective, they will have to track down evil in the darkest corners of London and the human spirit, freely exploring several neighbourhoods in the city in search of clues and suspects while they untangle a web of intrigue leading to the final stunning revelation.
Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter offers unique game mechanics and an epic storyline for an interactive and immersive experience unlike any they have ever had before. For the first time, the powers of analysis and composure of Sherlock Holmes will be shaken by emotion as he is caught between family, dark forces and powerful thirsts for vengeance…”
Not bad, right? The Devil’s Daughter will release on May 27 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC.
4/4/2016 Ben Dutka