Whilst Frogwares’ most recent release was the Lovecraftian-inspired The Sinking City, the developer is best known for their work on Sherlock Holmes video games. They’ve been pretty good in the past too, with the most recent entries Crime and Punishments and The Devil’s Daughter offering gripping sleuthing escapades that really put players’ detective skills to the test. You can expect the same from Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, the latest entry in the developer’s Sherlock Holmes franchise that gives the beloved detective an origin story in a more open-world environment.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One takes place at the start of the budding sleuth’s career, with Sherlock returning to his childhood home on the island of Cordona. That’s right, you won’t be wandering through Victorian London in this game, but instead a more luscious locale that’s placed deep in the Mediterranean. Whilst it might look idyllic though, Cordona is home to plenty of crime, with one such case actually tying to the death of Sherlock’s mother. Whilst he suspected she had died of tuberculosis, it turns out there may have been something nefarious going on behind the scenes – it’s up to Sherlock to investigate, discover the truth, and see how it links to other crimes occurring on the island.
It makes for an intriguing story full of satisfying twists and turns, and one that’s made even more peculiar thanks to the unusual cast of characters you meet along the way. Whilst London has its fair share of odd folk, Cordona brings with it plenty of eccentricities, meaning you’ll never quite know just who you’ll meet next. The same goes for the cases you’ll investigate too, with some especially peculiar circumstances found with some of the crimes of the island. But hey, this is a Sherlock Holmes game… you’d expect it to be a bit weird. It works though and you’ll certainly find yourself invested in the tale from start to end.
Sherlock is also a lot younger, which means he’s a bit more inexperienced, but also more smug and arrogant. It actually made him even more of a likable character for me, whilst his interactions with his accompanying ally Jon (who isn’t Watson, by the way) are always a treat – even if he isn’t afraid to let you know when you’re not doing a good job.
“It makes for an intriguing story full of satisfying twists and turns, and one that’s made even more peculiar thanks to the unusual cast of characters you meet along the way.”
When it comes to gameplay, everything in Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One revolves around investigating crimes, gathering evidence, and then piecing it together to come to your own conclusion. And believe me, there’ll be a LOT of investigating, with the game not holding players’ hand too much when it comes to leading them on. Whilst subtle clues do give a helping hand, it’s up to the player to take the time to question each and every person they meet, take a look around the Police archives to try and find pieces of evidence that link to people of interest, partake in small mini-games to analyse evidence, and then try to figure it all out in Sherlock’s iconic Mind Palace as you draw your conclusion. There’s plenty of variety to be found across the game, and whilst some cases will see you repeating similar tasks, there’s always something extra there to spice things up. It’s really enjoyable stuff, plus, you get to wear disguises, which is ALWAYS a good thing to me.
Admittedly, it can be a little overwhelming in places though, especially since the game doesn’t even necessarily point you in the right direction as to where you might need to go next, but there’s something so satisfying and authentic about having to do all of the sleuthing yourself. Believe me, you really will feel like you’re Sherlock Holmes by the time you’ve cracked your first case. Best of all, there are multiple choices to make when it comes to ‘solving’ the crime, so you might not necessarily get it right… it’s all part of the fun, though.
That being said, there were some aspects of investigating that could get a little tiresome. There are times when you’ll eavesdrop on suspects and try to connect what they say to the information you’ve gathered, for example, but it often felt a bit convoluted and like I was doing guessing work. Maybe I just hadn’t gathered enough evidence yet, but it was often difficult to tell what was relevant and what was hearsay. Then there’s the fact that it could be a little bit too difficult at times; there were plenty of occasions where I was completely stumped and just at a loss as to what I needed to do, with the open-world setup meaning there was almost too much to explore to try and figure it out through trial and error. Or, again, maybe I’m just a bad detective? Either way, these were a couple of things that hindered the experience a little, though thankfully it was never to the point where I felt frustrated.
“There’s plenty of variety to be found across the game, and whilst some cases will see you repeating similar tasks, there’s always something extra there to spice things up.”
There are two additions made to Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One that really help differ it from its predecessors, with that aforementioned open-world the biggest. Investigations have a much more explorative-based focus this time around and you’ll really have to scour through Cordona if you want to get to the bottom of each mystery, with plenty of areas to take the time to explore. There are some side quests to complete too, with extras cases to crack for those who take the time to look around. I was a little dubious as to how well the game would work in the open-world environment at first, but I actually really liked it – even IF the size of the area could make some crimes a little trickier to unravel.
The second big addition comes with combat, with Sherlock getting his hands dirty and heading into shootouts with enemies. It’s fine, albeit a little unspectacular, but it did feel out of place. Whilst it doesn’t hinder the gameplay in any way, I’d have rather spent more time looking for clues as opposed to heading into shootouts with enemies. At least it does add a bit of extra gameplay variety for players though, even if it doesn’t feel like it fit the character’s personality from previous endeavours.
“Best of all, there are multiple choices to make when it comes to ‘solving’ the crime, so you might not necessarily get it right… it’s all part of the fun, though.”
On the technical side of things, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One looks decent enough, even if there are some visual hiccups here and there. It’s clear that this isn’t a AAA-experience, but there were still plenty of pretty sights to be seen and well-designed character models (even if the quality could vary between them). I did run into a few performance issues though, with the frame rate dropping from 60fps on a frequent basis. It’s never anything unbearable by any means, but it could make moving from one area to another feel a bit janky.
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One Review
Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is a thoroughly enjoyable detective romp that’s only let down by a few iffy design choices. The narrative is full of intrigue and will keep players invested thanks to its twists and turns, whilst gathering evidence and solving cases is a satisfying as ever – even if the game doesn’t always tell you where you might need to go next.
There were some odd inclusions, such as the eavesdropping which could feel a little vague and the combat which doesn’t fit the tone of the game, whilst there are also some minor technical hitches. Other than that, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is another entertaining crime-solving adventure for the world’s most famous detective.
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC