REVIEW – Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a bold attempt to bring together the famous detective and Lovecraft’s monsters – for the second time, as a remake of a 2007 game. But for all its exciting ideas and solid premise, the game often feels roughly unpolished and half-baked. And while the story is at times exciting enough to still want to jump in, the strangely unpolished gameplay and severely mediocre graphics often get in the way of a truly enjoyable story exploration.
On 11 April, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened was released, so let’s see how well the combination of the famous detective and Lovecraft’s monsters fared in this remake, based on the 2007 title. We bet, dear Sherlock and Cthulhu reader, that you’re rubbing your palms together with excitement at the title alone, because who wouldn’t want a game where Holmes meets Cthulhu? But before your enthusiasm gets too carried away, stay tuned for a quality rollercoaster ride!
Where horror meets investigation
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a game that tries to combine the classic detective story with Lovecraftian horror. The concept is thrilling and terrifying, as anyone who has heard of H.P. Lovecraft’s work knows that fear and madness go hand in hand in his world. The game’s story starts out as a familiar abduction case, but as we progress, a dark and sinister thread unfolds, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy become blurred.
The characters of Holmes and Watson, while not bringing anything new to the detective genre, still feel pleasantly familiar. Perhaps the game’s greatest strength is the story itself, which offers such excitement that you want to keep going even with the gameplay problems.
Unfortunately, the gameplay is not always up to the high standards of the story. The investigation and mystery-solving sections can sometimes be confusing and frustrating, especially if the game doesn’t give you a clear direction or objective. Also, the graphics and character models are not the best, sometimes making it difficult for players to immerse themselves in the world fully.
The controls and interface are also somewhat clunky, which adds to the frustrations of the self-proclaimed detective genius (the nice players). Despite all this, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened’s unique atmosphere and haunting story can keep the player engaged, provided they can overcome these problems.
Which is not always elementary, dear Watson
The meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s horror gives the game a unique and special opportunity to show how the brilliant detective struggles with dark and inexplicable forces. At times, the game really captures this atmosphere, creating exciting confrontations and situations in which Holmes’ wits are put to the test.
However, the aforementioned gameplay problems often take the focus off the point, and the player struggles with technical difficulties rather than puzzles. During the investigation, the interface is not always intuitive and the player often has difficulty navigating between the different menus. This sometimes prevents the player from enjoying the game and concentrating on solving the puzzles.
In solving the puzzles, the game sometimes shows a lack of elaboration, which results in the player needing more trial and error and patience than would be required in a better designed game. The elaboration of logical puzzles and investigative mechanisms is sometimes a big opaque mess, which makes the game experience even worse.
So, while the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft horror provides an exciting and unique basis for the game, the gameplay problems and the shortcomings of the interface can sometimes discourage even the most dedicated Sherlock Holmes fans from delving into the story and solving the mysteries.
Experience or headache? Graphically, The Awakened is often both…
Unfortunately, the technical difficulties of Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened include the visuals, which, like the rest of the game, are a rollercoaster. The game, developed by Ukrainian studio Frogwares, offers an outstanding visual experience in some places, while in others we were left scratching our heads at the surprisingly low quality of the textures and other amateurish graphics. For example, I haven’t seen such stiff animation in a video game in over 10 years.
But some of the game’s locations – especially in the later stages of the story – are visually stunning. The detail of the buildings and streets creates a sense of atmosphere, but overall the graphics still feel like a poor remaster of a PlayStation 3 title – especially the less refined rendering of the blurred, not very detailed textures.
The modelling of the characters’ faces also leaves something to be desired, often looking as if they were made of clay, which is a detriment to the overall experience of an adventure game. The game’s animations are not always satisfying either, sometimes with strange, alien movements.
Overall, the graphics in Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened are a rollercoaster ride of varying quality that may disappoint many, but of course, it is understandable that in the shadow of the brutal war in Ukraine, the developers have not quite lived up to the expectations set by Chapter One, which has set the bar very high in this area.
This case has not been truly resolved
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a game with great ideas and a unique atmosphere, but unfortunately, it hasn’t fully translated them into gameplay. The story is quite high quality, but the technical flaws and confusing gameplay make the game only recommended for those ready to overlook these problems and delve deeper into the story and the investigation.
The game really deserves a try for those who like mysteries, detective stories and games with a special atmosphere. However, if smooth gameplay and a bug-free experience is your priority, you may want to look for other alternatives. If you haven’t played Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment or Chapter One, I would recommend these two games if you are new to the digital adventures of the famous detective, as they (especially the former) are orders of magnitude higher quality.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened may be an exciting choice for die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans, but those who care about smooth gameplay and 2023-appropriate graphics will leave before Holmes says “elementary, dear Watson!”
+ Original, interesting basic story: combining the worlds of Holmes and Lovecraft
+ Atmospheric atmosphere and exciting mysteries
+ Feeling of successful investigations when the picture comes together
– Frustrating and confusing gameplay in many places
– Technical and visual deficiencies
– Exciting pace and amateur game mechanics
Style: detective, adventure
Release: April 11, 2023.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened
Gameplay - 5.6
Graphics - 6.2
Story - 7.5
Music/Audio - 6.2
Ambience - 7.2
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is a game with an exciting story, but unfortunately, it doesn't reach its full potential. The gameplay and interface can be confusing and frustrating at times, but with a focus on the story, it's worth giving it a chance. However, if smooth gameplay and detailed, 2023 graphics are important to you, then push this Holmes game out the door in a true Benedict Cumberbatch style!
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