In 2006, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening hit the scene, marking the third entry in Frogwares Sherlock Holmes series. To me, this is the most intriguing of the series, mainly due to its use of supernatural elements. The fact that it also delves into HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos is a huge bonus, a world that I absolutely love, so to see the iconic detective that is Sherlock Holmes tackle this phenomenon is a treat.
Luckily for me and anybody else that appreciates a good mystery game, the Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening remake is finally here. Naturally, this means I couldn’t help but dive into this gothic Victorian world all over again with Holmes and Watson and join the pair as they explore various open-world environments in search of answers.
As with any game that features a narrative shrouded in mystery, there are twists and turns in the story that I simply won’t touch upon here. In fact, I’d rather give the bare bones. While I understand that the game is a 2006 original, there are some players yet to experience Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening, and what good is it to try and unravel a string of secrets when you already know the truth?
However, what I can say is that the story holds up well all these years later, continuing to show what mystery games can truly do. In all honesty, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening is at least in part to thank for games such as Call of Cthulhu, which just so happens to be one of the best mystery adventure games out there, in my humble opinion.
You can see the influence throughout the story, as The Awakening embraces the Cthulhu mythos through the use of a cult (of which I shall not say anything more about) and supernatural elements that are best left as a surprise. But trust me when I say that there are twists and turns aplenty as Holmes looks to crack another case.
Of course, it’s not possible to solve a mystery unless you’re ready to be a Scooby and look for clues. In The Awakening, it’s vital that you fully explore the world around you. Useful information and items lay in wait in even the most unlikely of places. Mind you, the people around might also be privy to some vital details, so it’s a good idea to chat with the NPCs, too.
Stumbling upon a plethora of clues is only as helpful as you allow them to be. In Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening, not only do you need to collect evidence, but piece it together too. One instance of this is in the opening segment of the game. You need to look into the local bookkeeper and after you discover a range of clues, you need to decide whether or not he’s a mere workaholic or perhaps involved in a plot against the detective. How you interpret the evidence does impact how certain events play out, something I greatly appreciate, for, as we all know, not everything is as it seems, so it’s an experience that tests you on an intellectual and moral level.
Oh, and if you need to examine certain pieces of evidence further, you can do so via a microscope at Holmes’ famous flat on Baker Street, another little detail that I greatly appreciate. However, while I appreciate the solid design when it comes to the main aspects of the game, there are a few things that I take issue with. For one, if a game features fast travel, it’s customary to explain how it works. At no point does the game bring this feature to your attention, while it’s not a major inconvenience, it might go over the heads of some players for a while – yes, I speak from experience.
It also pains me to say that the performance of the game on Nintendo Switch isn’t quite up to standard, with blatant rendering issues that break the immersion. The fact that there’s a frequent drop in frame rate doesn’t help either. While not game-breaking, it’s annoying to witness, and the chances are it runs a lot smoother on another platform.
So, while I highly recommend Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening to fans of mystery adventure games, I can’t say that it’s the Switch that you should play it on. Give it a try on PC, Xbox, or PlayStation, and you’re in for one heck of a ride as the famous detective tackles the supernatural. Just remember these words from Holmes himself, “there is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.”
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening continues to show why it’s heralded as one of the best mystery adventure games of all time, though its dodgy performance on Switch lets it down considerably. Still, I implore you to play the game on a different platform, where I’d happily score the game considerably higher.