Frogwares’ innovative and unusual mechanics for representing Sherlock Holmes’ investigative skills set these games apart.
Frogwares just announced Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, presenting a brand new look at a young version of the detective as he starts down his career path. This is the ninth main installment in the development studio’s Sherlock Holmes series, which has been running for nearly two decades . Despite the number of games and the length of the series’ run, these adventure games have rarely made the splash that other titles have seen. With the upcoming Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, it’s time to dive into what has made these games so long-living and give them the attention they deserve.
Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games are, at their heart, adventure games, requiring players to visit different locations and talk to different NPCs in order to gather clues and objects to solve a mystery. With an emphasis on graphics, players control Holmes (and sometimes Watson or other side characters) as they move about a 3D world rendered in real-time.
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What sets these adventure games apart from the rest is their reliance on unique mechanics to help tell stories of the incomparable detective. Time stops while players scour witnesses for visual clues about their character to replicate Holmes’ eye for details, and players can draw literal connections between facts in order to make deductions in the case. Such one-of-a-kind gameplay mixed with more standard puzzle components of dialogue trees and hidden objects results in some truly compelling mystery-solving experiences.
Not only have the detective’s skills been brought to life in the Frogwares series, but the original storylines set for Holmes expand the Doyle canon in some wild ways. Sometimes dealing with real-life murderers, like Jack the Ripper, and other times confronting Lovecraftian cosmic horrors, the mysteries presented in these Sherlock Holmes games are compelling stories in their own right.
Yet these games rarely get the credit they deserve. Part of this is because Frogwares has had some trouble in the past with business partners. A dispute with distributors Focus Home Interactive saw 90 percent of its games — including many Sherlock Holmes titles — removed from Steam in late 2019. While the titles were gradually added back, the litigation has led to a rocky history with availability.
The last Sherlock Holmes title, The Devil’s Daughter, was also released in 2016. In the past five years, Frogwares has focused on the development of its horror adventure game The Sinking City (and presumably also contending with the effect the pandemic has had on production), but the lack of new Holmes games has contributed to the general reduced awareness of the series. Coupled with a focus on PC availability and limited console play, reducing potential audiences, it’s easy to see why the Sherlock Holmes series has been so underrated.
Despite these circumstances, the Sherlock Holmes games are generally commercially successful and have even garnered attention in the form of industry awards. The consensus seems to be that these adventure games make good use of established characters with twisting story lines and new ways to immerse the player in Holmes’ keen senses and cunning deductions. Adventure game fans who have slept on the Frogwares Sherlock Holmes titles have been missing some of the most innovative work in the genre, and these titles are must-plays for those eager for new forms of interaction and different ways to gain immersion.
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