Can you deduce the killer as well as the greatest detective of all time?
Rather than a film, this is an interactive murder mystery starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Similar to full motion video mystery games for the computer, this is made to work on your DVD video player and remote control. Attempt to solve 3 murder mysteries, and judge your abilities against Holmes himself. This is an innovative new use for DVD, but it may well try your patience to finish.
Before I started writing for DVD Verdict my writing career, if you could call it a career, was in the area of computer games; doing beta testing, writing reviews and strategy guides. Though I wouldn't say mystery solving was high on the list of types of games I excelled at, I've played several. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is another in that genre of games such as Sierra's Gabriel Knight series. Like the second in the Gabriel Knight series, this one utilizes full motion video for giving the results of your actions. However, unlike computer offerings in this genre, you get a beautiful full sized picture on your television, rather than the tiny window of video on your monitor that was the best video cards of the time were capable of giving us. Unlike the tiny speakers most people have attached to their computers, you also get the benefit of hearing everything through your home theater system.
In this game you hear an introduction about the crime from Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. From there you are sent to your desktop, which is the game interface rather than a Windows type desktop. All the resources you need are on your desk, with buttons for choosing actions that take you away from your study to other locations, check your files, read the newspaper accounts of the crime, and ultimately to approach the bench and give your solutions to the presiding judge. You can look up all people involved directly or indirectly with the crime in Holmes voluminous files, go to visit them personally, or send one of the Baker Street Irregulars (street urchins with their ears to the ground) on errands or to provide reports. The newspaper usually offers clues to give you some direction to head in. Each time you visit someone, the scene cuts to a full motion video of Holmes' (your) conversation with the person you chose to speak with. Once you piece enough clues together from the reports, files, and personal interviews, and you feel you now know who was the killer and his motive, then you go to the gavel on your desktop which brings you before the judge, white wig and all (thank goodness Sean doesn't make us wear those things, since we're American judges and all).
To accomplish all this, you utilize your remote control. Using your arrows to move about to buttons, icons, or names, you then press enter to see what that choice has to offer. It may be a full video scene, or just a graphical page from a book giving you information. Since you can do this from your easy chair, the whole family can get involved.
Don't think it's easy though. There are quite a lot of choices to make, and it is time consuming. Notetaking would be a preferable method of keeping all the clues you come across and try to piece them together. Some clues will seem meaningless unless correlated with some other seemingly innocuous fact. Some clues may be meaningless to finding the solution entirely. So certainly some trial and error is needed. However, you not only judge your success by solving the mystery, but in how few steps you can take to accomplish it. The "high score" would be to solve the crime in the same number of steps as Holmes himself, but that is virtually impossible on the first try, since Holmes already knows all the contents of his files and has no need to "waste" steps in reading them. The only steps that he uses are the interviews and reports from his Irregulars. If you fall short of that lofty goal, you will get a varying quality of congratulations from the judge for your efforts. I must say that it took me two days to solve the first mystery on the disc, and my parents, as my new-to-gaming guinea pigs, were completely stumped and gave up. Fortunately there is an ingenious method of saving your game without a hard drive to save it with. Once you decide to save your game the screen will give you four icons. Remember the four icons and the order they are presented in, and enter them later, and the game will take you right where you left off. I will say it is quite satisfying when the judge finally tells you well done.
The disc is well laid out, and the interface only takes a few moments to get acquainted with. A small basic manual is included inside the case, but you'll only need it for the first game session. The full frame video scenes are quite sharp and well defined; with better than average clarity and colors and a total absence of any film defect such as grain or nicks. The audio is stereo, with all speech intelligible, though you may need to listen closely if British accents aren't easy for you to decipher. If you get stumped, the manual does give you a URL to a website with hints, and complete walk-throughs on the mysteries. I dare say you will likely need it if you ever want to match Holmes record of taking the fewest steps.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Being a long time PC game junkie might actually be a handicap for this game. After becoming very used to the keyboard and mouse interface the remote control is a bit clumsy by comparison. Patience is definitely a virtue with this game, since you may end up going through dozens of steps before finally solving the mystery. You MUST save your game before attempting to solve the crime, since the judge will only let you make the attempt when you have gone through all the steps necessary to find the solution, and one wrong answer makes you start from the beginning. Forget to save the game at your own peril.
The game isn't easy, as I said above. But if you like mysteries, and you like Sherlock Holmes, give this a whirl. The acting is well done, and the video and audio much better than full-motion video games on the computer. The website is a welcome aid in keeping this from perhaps becoming overly frustrating, as you can always get a hint or just get the answer if you've given up. I think the game itself is an interesting diversion though, and this is the first in a series of such discs, so if you like this one, you'll be able to keep feeding your habit.
DVD International is commended on an innovative new approach for the DVD medium, and the game gets passing marks.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: DVD International
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