Computer/Video Game Review #4 – Sherlock Holmes: Murder at the Diogenes Club

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titleSherlock

Title: Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries

Game Publisher: AppEndix LLC

Platform: iOS 7.1 or later, iPhone or iPad

Release Date: May 26th, 2014

Buy this on: iTunes for $1.99

Screen shot
Screen shot

When I was a young girl, I loved choose-your-own-adventure books; my favorites were the Give Yourself Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. They were immersive and exhilarating for me, as I could go on these journeys without ever leaving my room. They also combined two of my favorite things – games and reading. When I was offered the chance to review Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump back into an adventure.character creation page

This game is just like those choose-your-own adventure books I poured over as a kid. It is an interactive adaptation of the original “game book” published in 1987 by Iron Crown Enterprises. You play as Watson’s cousin, James G. Hurley, though you can change the name of your character if you wish. In your inventory, you have a notebook, pencil, penknife, and some money. There’s a place to keep notes, as well as a map of the area in which your mystery is set. Using these tools, you must join Sherlock and Watson to solve the murder at the Diogenes Club!

As a digital version of a game book, the story is crucial to the overall success of the experience. My judgments here are not geared toward AppEndix LLC, as they did not write the main text. You start the game off with a smaller mystery – the poisoning of a prized race horse favored to win the big race. This was my favorite part of this game, as more snooping around is involved. The story was fast-paced and fun to work through. After solving this mystery successfully, you move on to the main story of the murder at the Diogenes Club. This one was much slower, as a huge chunk of your investigation is interviewing the many suspects. It didn’t engage me nearly as much as the previous mystery because it relied too heavily on dialogue and bland exposition. The writing is decent, though, and fits in nicely with Arthur C. Doyle’s world.

screenshot of the game
screenshot of the game

I wasn’t able to solve the mystery this time, but the game gives you the option to go back and try again. Because of this, Sherlock Holmes has decent replay value, especially since you can always skip past dialogue you’ve read already.

What sets this apart from a regular novel is the RPG elements. Every page or so, you are faced with a decision or a challenge. If there is a decision to be made, whether it’s to interview a certain suspect or snoop inside a room, you press your choice on screen and go to a new page with text. If there is a challenge, such as picking a lock or getting the right information from someone, you have to take your chances by rolling dice, picking a random card, or scrolling through numbers. If the number you roll is high enough, you are successful – otherwise, of course, you fail.

The challenges, I thought, were too luck-based. One time, I didn’t roll a high enough number, and didn’t obtain the evidence I needed to win the game. That one roll took away all the investigative work I did previously. Therefore, I don’t think you are really making any decisions or using any skills in this game. Sure, you could decide to not interview someone, but why would you? Of course, you interview every suspect! I was ultimately going through the motions without feeling like I had any control over what I was doing. I did like the different rolling options, though.

sketchsherlockAt the start of the game, you have six skills you can assign bonuses to, which are: athletics, artifice, intuition, communication, observation, and scholarship. If you assign a bonus to athletics, for example, your chances are higher for making a successful roll during a fight. The problem here is you don’t know what skills will be needed until you play the game, and you can’t assign bonuses to all of the skills – just some of them. It’s giving you the illusion of making game-changing decisions, but I didn’t feel that was the case at all. Also, I never once used the objects given to me in the inventory. I also never had to look at the map. I’m not sure how or when you’d use them, so their inclusion seemed superfluous.

There’s a nice bookish theme to the game. The text is clean, though I’m not a fan of the font used on the skills and notes pages. I played this both on the iPad and iPhone, and it scales nicely. The screens where you roll your dice or pick a card are aesthetically simple, yet stylish. There are a few illustrations included in the story, but it’s mostly text. The introduction text has a lot of typos, by the way, but they are eliminated once you start playing the story.

Audio Quality:

There is background music in this game, and I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off without muting the entire iPad. The soundtrack is nice, but after a while, it becomes grating. It makes it impossible to play in bed with your significant other without the use of headphones. There’s also sound when you roll the dice, which adds a cute touch.

Accessability:

Here’s my main beef: you can’t adjust the size of the text. I looked everywhere, but couldn’t find that option. You can’t even pinch-to-zoom. However, the text is selectable, meaning you can use it with VoiceOver. Still, it would have been nice to be able to enlarge the somewhat small text. The interface is confusing at first. The introduction doesn’t really address how to use it. But once I got into the game, and touched a bunch of buttons, I got the hang of how it works.

If you have limited range of motion such as myself, you may have trouble with the interface on an iPad. You have to reach the top of the screen as well as the bottom. Obviously, this is not as much an issue on the iPhone.

Bottom Line:

Decent implementation of the game book, but it suffers from accessibility issues and a lack of decision making.

 

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