It takes a special breed of writer to pen a competent point-’n’-click, and Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper’s authors definitely fit the ‘special’ billing. Sometime between piecing together a ladder from planks of wood found in a scrap heap and reconstructing a hook to safely remove a king cobra from its cage in order to retrieve the gas mask next to it (no, really), it clicked: Sherlock is bonkers. Truly mad.
And brilliantly so. The leaps of logic that propel you from one puzzle to the next are rarely cohesive, but the invention of the overarching tale has to be applauded. It tumbles into most of the typical point-‘n’-click pitfalls but the pursuit of Jack remains enjoyable for many reasons, none more so than the puzzles themselves. Layton-esque brainteasers neatly break up the standard action, and whenever a victim is found Holmes and Watson engage in an entertaining spot of deduction, relying on you to collect evidence and then pick the correct conclusions from a drop down list.
The adventure needs these moments of inspiration because it’s plagued by problems elsewhere. Presentation is almost as bad as CSI: Deadly Intent, although Sherlock does at least have a ‘highlight all interactive objects’ button to ensure details aren’t completely lost in the grime.
The third-person camera is basically unplayable unless you love flitting back and forth between two screens because of bad angles and worse controls. Maddeningly the alternative first-person view isn’t without slowdown and screen-tearing either. Then there’s the frankly abysmal voicing and script discrepancies: subtitles are frequently at odds with the hilarious character voices. Bar the odd mispronunciation (and ad-libbing) the major characters aren’t terrible, but side-characters more than make up the difference. If we were saddled with voices like that lot we’d live as mutes for the rest of our lives.
Thankfully though there are enough compelling elements to explore which dampen these major irritations. Don’t go expecting a polished Guy Ritchie production and you’ll not be too disappointed by this quirky Victorian face-off.
Jan 8, 2010