Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened Review
The writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft have always shared one thing in common: they've stood the test of time and continue to draw new readers into their very loyal fan base. Other than that you've got two very different bodies of work. One is rooted in logic and deduction and set in Victorian London, while the other is set in small Twentieth Century New England towns at the nexus of ancient demonic forces. In spite of their disparate worlds, the game Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened tries to bring them together into a single storyline. The result is an interesting setting for a game that is at times enjoyable and at others deeply frustrating.
The Awakened is an adventure game, but in some ways it breaks from the traditions of the genre. The biggest departure is the move to a 3D environment. When moving around the game's levels you'll feel more like you're playing a first-person shooter than an adventure game thanks to the WASD/mouse-look control scheme. Rather than moving from one static scene to the next, you're free to stroll through the game's environments. While this is a welcome change from the standard adventure game format, something has unfortunately been lost in the process. Adventure games have often featured unique, interesting, and in some cases stunning artwork; the screens may be static but they sure are nice to look at. The environments in The Awakened, though, are generally very bland. There are a few memorable scenes in the game, but for the most part the environments are dull and non-descript. 221-B Baker Street has some nice details to its interior, but step out of the front door and you're in a nondescript ghost town locked in a perpetually cloudy early winter's day.
Probably one of the biggest reasons that adventure games are only a niche genre is that they rely too much on tedious pixel-hunting gameplay. Systematically moving a mouse pointer over the screen looking for a hotspot is not most gamers' idea of a good time. The Awakened has not completely forgone this gameplay technique and there are times when you'll be spending some time looking for the right place to click to collect a required item … except now you need to do so in a 3D environment. There will be times when you will be stuck wandering aimlessly about with no idea as to what you're looking for or where to find it. The game is rigidly linear; you can't progress until you find every last item even though the game doesn't give you any direction as to what you need to find. Making matters worse, some items are needed right away, others will need to be carried for a while, and some Holmes will refuse to pick up before a required event has been triggered. These inconsistencies not only lead to backtracking and a lot of failed attempts to use the items in your inventory, they at times make Holmes' detective work come across as scattershot. Holmes is the epitome of reason and logic, and yet the game has you doing illogical things all of the time. For example, at the beginning of the game Holmes will refuse to leave his home until you pick up a book of matches. However, the matches aren't used until you later return to Holmes' home with some evidence. Where's the logic in that?
Despite these issues, The Awakened is not a terrible game. The story itself is rather interesting and the writers have managed to tie together Doyle's and Lovecraft's fictional worlds without making the whole thing come off like a bad 1950s B-movie. And yet to enjoy the whole thing you'll need to put up with the frustrating aspects of the game design. If you're an adventure gamer then odds are you're a pretty forgiving player and when all is said and done you'll probably find that overall you've enjoyed the time that you spent with the game. If you're a casual gamer, or someone not used to the annoyances and peculiarities of the genre, then you'll probably give up in frustration pretty early on in the game.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 67%. The Awakened will only appeal to those intrepid adventure gamers used to a healthy dose of frustration in their gameplay.