ROMper ROOM: Holmes game a bit elementary
The world’s greatest detective challenges a player to hone his logic skills in Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes (Legacy Interactive, single CD-ROM for PC or Intel-based Macintosh computer systems, $19.99).
The title requires junior proteges of the legendary literary character to work through 16 cases by deciphering a variety of visual puzzles. This fun, casual gaming experience set in Victorian England offers environmental conundrums and the use of reasoning, observation and memorization to quickly isolate evidence and suspects and solve a crime.
Unfortunately, the presentation is definitely elementary, dear Watson. (I couldn’t resist.) This is not a third-person action-adventure game, folks.
Familiar characters, such as Holmes, Watson and Inspector Lestrade are presented in slightly animated frames. Their movements — mainly limited to lips — offer less sophistication than a Clutch Cargo cartoon.
However, the nearly photorealistic environments used in the map and the rooms look pretty good. The storybook-quality surroundings are accompanied by slightly frenetic, violin-heavy chamber music.
The game is also not Clue. All it takes to solve a case is completing a series of the puzzles in the required amount of time and then watching the mystery unravel as suspects are revealed and eventually pared down via a memory test.
In a typical case, the player chooses a book from a shelf, such as the intriguingly titled “The Purloined Painting” or “The Mystery of the Billiards Blackmailer,” selects the place to visit on a 3-D map of London and begins the process of deduction.
Players get a set amount of time to go on a pair of major explorations. First, it’s spot the differences between two locations loaded with items. Next, the player tries a session of “I Spy” in which a set of items is more cleverly hidden in a larger space. (Forget about the random clicking strategy, it eventually means a time penalty.)
While exploring, the player can use a magnifying glass to enlarge tight areas, discover pipes that offer tips to an item’s location and even skip one of the minigames, although more time is deducted.
Extra minigames include cryptograms, matching challenges and jigsaw puzzles. Certain items, such as a locked box, might require the correct sequence of tumblers to open or a collar with broken jewel pieces must be fit together.
After a quick return to Holmes’ headquarters at 221B Baker St., the player categorizes suspects via a trading-card-style presentation and then isolates evidence and the criminal via a Concentration-type game.
Going through the cases a second time, puzzle elements do change and replayability is helped as players try to find all 16 of Holmes’ deerstalker caps to unlock another game in his laboratory.
Learning time: Exercising the brain with this type of progressively more difficult observational puzzle certainly is worth a player’s effort.
Crimes occur in actual locations such as the British Museum and Big Ben. How hard would it be to include a bit of historical background on the locations?
Also, considering the game is officially licensed by the Conan Doyle Estate, how about a biography of the famed author to unlock or a look at some passages from actual Sherlock Holmes books?