This Game is Anything but Elementary, my Dear Watson
Sherlock Holmes is portrayed here as the James Bond of his era in The Awakened. He’s dressed impeccably and has a rather cool demeanor, although he’s quite prone to rambling on at length. If you’ve been a little disappointed by adventure games as of late, you’re about to have your faith restored.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is one good game from start to finish. It’s not your ordinary Sherlock Holmes story. It’s more akin to Edgar Allen Poe than it is to Conan Doyle. In fact, it’s almost Doyle meets Lovecraft. This is a dark tale, as it involves the supernatural. Strange monsters, created from the mind of Lovecraft, such as the chilling Chthulhu figure prominently in this game, but they don’t actually make an appearance. Instead, we deal with the humans that worship these creatures and are attempting to resurrect these ultimate evils to enslave and destroy mankind. As far fetched as this premise may sound, thanks to the treatment of the script and the gameplay, this is still a believable detective story.
Holmes is ensconced in yet another mystery, even if it does stretch the traditional Holmes boundary. After Watson complains of nightmares, or rather premonitions, they discover that a butler of one of their prominent colleges has disappeared. The subsequent investigation leads our team around the world as they spiral to the depths of depravity as they learn of the impending unspeakable horrors about to be unleashed. The game is not particularly gross, although there is some blood and a few unsettling scenes. Lovecraft’s monsters are more terrifying than your average horror heroes, simply because they are naturally cruel. They are insane, and you can’t reason with insanity, so people have told me. Fortunately, you won’t be doing battle with the monsters directly. Instead, your sleuth powers will be directed at trying to stop the cult from reaching its objective. This will be accomplished by deductive reasoning, puzzle solving, and clue hunting.
Like any good point and click adventure game, The Awakened relies on exploring the environment for clues and useful items for your inventory. What is great about this game is that the environments are in 3D, and you move about them in a first-person perspective. It’s a great way to look for clues and enjoy the scenery. Events take place in the 19th century, and let me tell you the graphics are great. Tour quaint cityscapes complete with horse-drawn carts and pedestrians as they go about their daily business. Victorian homes line the streets. Inside, they are fully furnished with period specific chesterfields, ottomans, desks, tables, lamps, rugs, drapes, and wall coverings. So realistic are these environments it’s like a virtual history lesson. You can’t help but feel that you’re really back in time. You also get to interact with a lot of the objects in the environment, and not just the hot spot items. There are doors to open, stairs and ladders to climb, barrels to move around, and of course mechanized puzzles to tinker with.
Hot spot icons appear over items of interest. An options window appears which lets you choose the appropriate command for the items. Some items will be stored in your inventory; some will be used immediately at the scene. There is some arbitrariness to some clues, especially the ones that you can’t put to use immediately. Eventually, you’ll find some use for them. Some of the handwritten text can be difficult to read.
Along with the puzzles, you’ll have to pay attention to the dialogue, and there’s plenty of it. You can’t just skip it. At certain points, you’ll have to answer some questions to continue playing. It’s like a test to see if you’re paying attention. If you don’t know the answer, you may have to shut down the game and start over. Thankfully not from the beginning, but it is an inconvenience at times.