EXPANSIVE MIND PALACE GETS MORE EXPANSIVE
Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is a bold attempt by the company to revive the long-running series. The vintage-age master sleuth Watson and Watson are gone. Chapter One places players in the fashionable shoes of the Great Detective in his younger days and gives him a new partner for (solving) crime.
After the death of his mother, a 21-year old Sherlock Holmes returned to Cordona. While Cordona looks like a beautiful place to spend a vacation, he discovers something sinister about the island’s residents. With the help of Jon, he attempts to crack the secret of Cordona’s conspiracy.
This origin story has an initial alarming ‘New Coke” feel. The main characters look more like the young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle than they do the younger versions of him, especially when compared to their era-appropriate surroundings. Holmes is a petulant, grumpy teenager who is still quite good at deducing things. Jon is more of a jack the lad geezer type.
This is a refreshing change from the Holmes/Watson dynamic. Jon enjoys his wind-ups of an already annoyed Holmes. It’s also a little more relaxed about Sherlock’s eccentric attitude than others.
The cast may get a radical makeover but the proven formula for how the games work is still evident. It’s the most engaging and refreshing aspect of the series. Holmes examines evidence and searches for clues in various locations. He also questions anyone who has any pertinent information. Holmes’s mind palace allows him to compile relevant evidence and create a compelling case for the prosecution.
Frogwares Sherlock games have long had a core appeal. They modernize the point-and-click adventure format while maintaining the complexity and satisfaction of solving a larger crime/crime. It can be difficult to remember the evidence you need to “equip” to find the answers. And it is not fun to hear the same dialogue repeatedly imploring us to hurry up while searching for someone who looks a lot like everyone else in the area.
Patience is essential to get the best out of Sherlock Holmes: Chapter 1. But Frogwares still manages to tie that to invigorating new freedom of choice that’s sometimes aggravating.
Chapter One doesn’t punish players for missing evidence or arriving at the wrong conclusion. It almost displays a casual indifference towards your findings. You either make the right deduction or you don’t. If that means that someone gets blamed, that’s fine. It can seem a bit odd to be the world’s greatest detective. But it speaks to the brazen, confident attitude of young Sherlock, a bright boy who is just starting to become a man and all that comes with it. It could be interpreted as him being confident in his abilities. Jon’s journal entry about Sherlock’s decision-making shows that he is not afraid to make a mistake when he thinks it might be.
The open world allows Holmes to be more flexible in his skills and approach to solving cases. Cordona has a Dishonored 2 Karnaca air to it. It is old and majestic, but it is also darkened by the darkness. The music is fitting to some extent (Chapter One’s loading screen also draws heavily from the Arkane series). Its sun-kissed Mediterranean streets offer a wealth of intrigue and mystery. Holmes can now choose from smaller quests in addition to the major ones. Holmes will be able to look into the private lives of island residents, which gives him some relief from the grandiose conspiracy. Sherlock can use violence, deduction, or disguise to address any problem. It’s wonderful that there are multiple options in most cases.
It’s thrilling to put together an investigation by exploring an island and finding clues naturally with a very little nudging. Although such a broad scope can be daunting, it adds to the Sherlock Holmes formula Frogwares has previously created. It brought back memories of 2020’s Paradise Killer which is an open-ended detective game.
Frogwares past works are preserved in more ambitious, freeform packaging.”
You won’t be surprised if Chapter One continues Frogwares’ tradition of poor presentation and technical problems. Although there were some minor issues with frame rates, as well as more serious drops, these were manageable given the new ambitions.
The loading screen is rare and load times are fairly standard. Sherlock can’t respond to controls in general exploration. There is a need to be more precise and nuanced to match the rest of the game.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One offers several adjustable options for difficulty, including longer stun duration and increased decision-making time. The audiovisual adjustments that you would expect are all that’s needed.