Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments Review (Switch)

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments Review: Elementary, my dear!

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment

Despite his protagonist’s keen insight, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously underestimated the public’s enduring affinity with Sherlock Holmes. Knowing that the author was happy to have withdrawn the Holmes before the public were too weary of him, one must wonder how Doyle would react to the innumerable iterations of Baker Street’s most famous mind. Although Doyle was glad to see him go, mystery fans have been enjoying each new adaptation Sherlock Holmes and his partner in crime-fighting, Dr. John H. Watson, find themselves in for decades; Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is no exception.

Originally a 2014 release, 2022 sees Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments ported to the Nintendo Switch. Developed and published by Ukrainian dev team Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments was well-received 8 years ago, so with a little updating and love, it stands to reason it will be a hit on the Switch. How does this nearly decade-old game hold up? Let’s get to the bottom of it!

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments features 6 contained cases loosely connected by an overarching plot and in-game achievements based on morality choices. Some of the cases are adaptations of actual Sherlock Holmes stories, while others draw their inspiration from elsewhere. All cases have two things in common, and that’s Sherlock Holmes and his companion, Dr. Watson, solving mysteries left and right in Victorian England, so if you enjoy mysteries and that era, you’re in for a treat.

There have been countless releases of Sherlock Holmes games, so at this point it’s a bit of a challenge for developers to set their title apart from the pack. In Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments’ case, I’m delighted to report that the mechanics featured are a breath of fresh air in the mystery genre and that they feel wonderfully on-brand for this famed detective. First, the different vision options — pressing the left shoulder button initiates a re-enactment of specific scenarios, allowing Holmes to replay key points in his mind to better reconstruct what happened. Pressing the right shoulder button will give Holmes a sort of tunnel vision, allowing him to sniff out clues that lesser sleuths would surely miss. These two vision settings tremendously re-enforce Holmes’ status as the detective of all detectives (sorry, Hercule Poirot), giving him an edge over everyone else in his sphere.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

Another feature I found myself fawning over was the observational moments, where Holmes would take a good, hard look at the person he was questioning. Time would come to a standstill, allowing players to maneuver over their figures with a cursor to collect identifying points of interest, such as a missing button, a wedding ring, or dirt underneath fingernails. This information could then be used in the heat of the interrogation, shocking the individual with what they assumed had been carefully concealed information. Just like the Holmes we’ve come to know and love over the decades, this one relies on the powers of observation to come to a neat conclusion.

After evidence has been investigated and clues have been collected, Holmes will have key phrases rolling around in his brain that need to be connected. By drawing a link between two phrases, a neuron will light up; sometimes, no more actions will need to be taken once the neuron lights up, but there are other times where the neuron will present an option to choose from. These options are meant to lead Holmes in one direction or another in terms of conclusions; for example, an early case had the pair throwing harpoons at a butcher’s shop to see how much force it would take to pin a man to a wall. Upon conclusion of the experiment, Holmes can choose to believe that an experienced harpooner would be needed to do the deed, or that anyone could skewer another under the right — lucky — circumstances. Collect all the neurons and ensure there are no conflicts in logic to determine one of several outcomes — who is guilty, and who will walk free?

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments

There are so, so many little details that come together wonderfully in Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. I love the voice acting, which feels as dry as I’d expect from a purely logic-based Englishman, but also because of the sheer variety of the English accents. Each character seems to hail from a different part of the UK, their Geordie, Mancunian, working class, and other accents reflecting those differences. Additionally, I was tickled by the loading screens, which featured Holmes (and often Dr. Watson) in a horse drawn carriage either reading a book, smoking a pipe, or looking out the window. In these moments, players can go through their clues or look at other pertinent information, which is a brilliant use of downtime during an otherwise frustrating standstill for impatient players.

As a game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments wowed me — initially, I didn’t realize it was a port! But as time went on, I did start to have my suspicions because a few things were slightly off. For one, the environments, while beautiful, are fairly bare when it comes to clues and items of interest, and there’s almost no variation on dialogue line. And although the cases feel lengthy enough, the investigations are almost a little too shallow for what appears to be a much deeper game. I want to say that it would have packed more of a punch in 2014, but even older games like L.A. Noire made players really get involved with the meat of the city and its inhabitants. I have a hard time knocking any game for being too “on rails,” but Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments has far too many cool mechanics and details to be anchored by extremely short story beats. It has all the clever gameplay I could have dreamed of in a mystery game — I just wish I got more of it.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is one of the best Sherlock Holmes games available on the Switch — and maybe even ever released. The sum of many outstanding details working together seamlessly, it has uniquely clever mechanics that really drive home that “wow” factor — the added morality behind choices is a breath of fresh air in a long-standing series that usually relies purely on logic. Although the Switch port performs wonderfully, the game itself is starting to show its age in a few areas; with that being said, there are just too many little details that still keep this 8 year old game competitive against newer releases. If you’re a fan of mystery titles, getting Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments is simply elementary!

Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: PS3, PS4, XBox 360, XBox One, PC, Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Frogwares; Developer: Frogwares; Players: 1; Released: February 3, 2022; MSRP: $29.99

Editor’s note: This review is based on a digital copy of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments provided by the publisher.

Heather Johnson Yu
Born at a very young age; self-made thousandaire. Recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend things. Covered in cat hair. Probably the best sleeper in the world. Still haven't completed the civil war quest in Skyrim but I'm kind of okay with that. Too rad to be sad.

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