The Testament of Sherlock Holmes Review
A character study of one of literature’s greatest minds, with lots of brilliant puzzles.
Excellent art design properly evokes the world of Victorian England, but the graphics…We have two words for you: Creepy. Children.
Graphics & Atmosphere Overview
Given the graphical leaps and bounds made by consoles in the recent past, it's rather disappointing that The Testament of Sherlock Holmes looked as rough as it did. The general art design and all the other sensory elements of the game were excellent, but it was somewhat painful to watch the dead eyes and out-of-synch mouths after seeing what was done in visual titans like Heavy Rain.
From the squalor of White Chapel to the warm and comfortable apartment that is 221B Baker Street, every location felt fantastic. Every environment was unique, distinct, and a treat to explore. (There wasn't a whole lot to explore, but that's an issue with the content of the game more so than the art design.) Nothing ever felt recycled or underdeveloped, and not having to spend a ton of time in any one location meant nothing ever started to get stale. On the whole, Testament is a very well designed game that matches the world of Sherlock to such a degree that gamers can tell the developers really have a sense of respect for the source material.
For all the heart and passion that was clearly invested in the game's overall art design, it makes it that much harder for us to tell the disappointing truth: the animated graphics stunk. Mouths never move in synch with dialogue, facial expressions look choppy or dead, and eyes appear glazed over. Static items, such as newspapers or environments, actually turned out pretty well. They don't have the detail found in Skyrim or any other graphically super-powered game, but they don't look bad at all. It's the humans that ruin it, and while that's not an issue for many puzzle games, that fact that this one has so many cut scenes involving dialogue and emotional expression makes it a glaring issue.
Particularly terrifying are the small children in the cut scenes that frame the rest of the game. They put one in mind of the old Renaissance paintings of an infant Jesus, in which artists often painted a small body with the face of an adult. It looked creepy, bizarre, and just plain wrong...and that's what happens with the children in Testament. It's a huge flaw, and given the high quality of what we've seen on other games that have been released recently, all the more disappointing.
Luckily, the puzzles themselves always look fantastic. As we mentioned, static items look great, so the puzzles themselves (which consist often of static scenes that can be interacted with) were always crisp and clear. Crime scenes are shown in all their gruesome detail, placing ripped flesh and and other bloody wounds front and center for close examination. If it weren't for the creepy children and the mouth movements that put one in mind of badly dubbed kung fu films, the game would be nearly perfect.
The music in Testament isn't ground breaking, but it serves to heighten the atmosphere admirably. Nothing ever blew us away, but at the same time, the music never distracted us from what was going on in the game itself. Lots of dark melodies and classical-light tunes kept us firmly grounded in the time period, as well. Mood was enhanced and nothing was detracted...in our minds, that qualifies as an auditory success.
Sound effects generally consisted of the occasional placement of a wooden plank or shattering of a bottle, more or less. The sound design of the game, much like the overall score, managed to do its job in a subtle way that serves its purpose without distracting the gamer. It's one of those things that you would notice if done badly; our attention was never drawn to sound effects, so we'd say the developers have done a good job here, as well.
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