Hateplaying Sherlock Holmes

6:58 pm - 11/17/2014
I'm relatively new to steam and purchasing games online. I was seduced only a few months back by a Humble Bundle of Sherlock Holmes mystery games. Great, I love mystery games and I love reading Holmes! But in my naivety I was unaware that the developer of these games, Frogwares, which was indeed the developer of all the games in the bundle, is one of the worst. ever. game. developers. ever.

But I paid (very little) for these games so I'm bloody well going to play them (is hate-playing a thing? I think it should be a thing...)
So this morning I started Sherlock Holmes: The Awakening.

The game begins with a cutscene showing Watson writing on his bed and moaning Holmes' name. Calm down, johnlockians, he's having some kind of bad dream. The cutscene then jumps to two years prior.

Like all of these Sherlock Holmes games, The Awakening begins with Holmes between cases and driving Watson up the wall with his monologues about the emptiness of existence.

Watson tells Holmes to stop whining and read a fucking book, or something (I might be paraphrasing there slightly). Watson leaves and the cutscene ends, leaving Holmes standing in his drawing room and under the player's control.

I wander around the room. There's nothing to see or interact with, except a box of matches. I go outside into the street and talk to a street urchin, which prompts him to leave his post as a newspaper salesperson and scamper about the street looking for gossip on some Scandinavian princess, in the hope of earning a few coins from Holmes. He'll probably get flogged for that later. Oops.

I read the unattended newspaper. Hmm... there's going to be some sort of astronomical event soon, with seven stars aligning and revealing the presence of an eighth. I don't think you understand how astronomy works, game.  There's some pretty epic stellar shifting going on to allow a new start to be visible from Earth.

I wander around the streets, but there's nothing at all to interact with until I stumble across the bookshop. Alright then, I'll follow Watson's advice and find a book to read. The bookseller tells me he has a book on fish identification and another of pirate myths that he thinks Holmes might like... but he doesn't know where they are. Thus follows a 'puzzle' of finding two books in a bookshop with no order and the inability to read any of the titles. Yay. Am I having fun yet?

Through my random clicking around the bookstore I also trigger another cutscene, where Holmes deduces that the bookseller is trying to impress the flower seller from down the street, and then proceeds to give tips on seduction.

What. Is this even Sherlock Holmes? Holmes who, "never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer"? For fuck's sake, Frogwares. For. Fucks. Sake. I use the map to jump back to 221B Baker Street, because I've clearly exhausted any other actions out on the street. I wander around the interactionless room. I stare out the window. I stare at the indistinct pictures on the wall. I'm starting to get a taste of Holmes' inter-case ennui.

I tab out of the game and pull up a walkthrough online. Turns out I shouldn't have jumped back to Baker Street, I needed to walk through the empty streets to trigger a random meeting with Watson. Of course. For fuck's sake.
I jump back to the bookstore and walk, meeting Watson.

He simply introduces me to Captain Shinypants and Sergeant Snagglemuffin. Or something.

Captain Shinypants is telling me about a servant who's gone missing. The servant was brought back from Australia months ago, but has never left the house before because he's afraid of the city. When Holmes asks if the servant has any money, Captain Shinypants responds no, why would his servant need money? Captain Shinypants keeps the servant's wages in his vault for safekeeping. Oh no, oh no no no... This is starting to sound familiar.

The servant's name is Baowpa. At this point I'm 99% sure he's an Indigenous Australian, and I now have even more trepidation about what this game holds. Frogwares does not to "foreign" very well. At all. Sign. But no! Baowpa is a Maori. ... Okay. (For those playing a hom, Maoris are the native people of New Zealand).

Sergeant Snagglemuffin Rufles (he doesn't need a silly name when he's legitimately called Rufles) states that Baowpa needs to be found because "considering the wild customs of his native land, who knows what damage he could cause!". Sgt Rufles suspects that, due to a spate of similar disappearances, "some low class brothel has opened its doors to the local ethnics".

Have I mentioned there's a lot of brothels in these Sherlock Holmes games?

I poke around the backyard, investigating footprints and measuring their size, finding scraps of cloth and stuff. It's all very Holmesian. Yay! Back to Baker Street to check this stuff out under a microscope, which is kinda cool. FYI, this is where Baowpa lives:

Quaint, ain't it? Sigh...

After Holmes has sufficiencly scienced his clues, Watson turns up and Holmes tells him to go talk to the street urchin newspaper seller outside. The urchin says that the Scandanavian princess' bodyguard has disappeared, but nobody is worried because he's probably just off brotheling. Those pesky foreigners and their brothels, honestly...

I stopped here. Enough now, pig. Enough.

(I tried to take my own screenshots of this game, but all I captured was my own desktop. Is this game even real, or is it all a dreaaaaaam..... *voice fades away*. Screenshots have been stolen from this post in screencappery.)
greensquiggly 17th-Nov-2014 08:27 am (UTC)
ejia_arath03 17th-Nov-2014 09:59 am (UTC)
Is this the one where Watson teleports near you but just outside your field of vision?
world_dancer 17th-Nov-2014 03:30 pm (UTC)
No, that's a YouTube joke called "Creepy Watson." It plays on him teleporting and having a kind of uncanny valley effect. I think they used the model from Silver Earring and imported it into the set for Awakening.
tiathyme 18th-Nov-2014 07:21 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen any teleporting Watson in this game so far, but I don't often play in first person mode.

Watson does have a lovely tendency of standing right in the doorway though, with Sherlock perpetually walking into him when he tries to leave.
world_dancer 17th-Nov-2014 03:29 pm (UTC)
Didn't get the Mystery of the Mummy one in your pack? That's really the first one (followed by the Silver Earring). It's easier to play them in order since the technology improves over time, as does the interface.
scolaro 17th-Nov-2014 07:19 pm (UTC)
AHAHAHAHAHAHA...that was hilarious, thank you!
Every time I see a Sherlock Holmes game I'm tempted, but the more I find out about them the less I usually want to play 'em.

Ages ago I actually wrote a similar piece about Gabriel Knight - The Beast Within, maybe I should dig it up and (if it's up to par) post it here as well - damn, I had totally forgotten this comm existed!

Oh btw, did you try Steam's built-in screenshot feature?

Edited at 2014-11-17 07:21 pm (UTC)
tiathyme 18th-Nov-2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
Cheers. :) I've only played one other of the Sherlock Games (plus two other Frogwares) but it's enough to get the sense of how truly terrible they are.

I'd like to see your Gabriel Knight piece!

Yup, I've now discovered Steams screenshot button, will post some more soon.
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