[Review] Sherlock Holmes (PC): The Mummy and Silver Earring – Rudimentary, But Elementary

It’s two reviews for the price of one day on Caught Me Gaming!

In this review, I will be looking at two of the three games that are the Sherlock Holmes Trilogy series for the PC. The third game will be reserved for another time (I’ll explain why at the end).

I came upon the Sherlock Holmes Trilogy while shopping at Value Village. It was for sale, out-of-box for $2.99. The CD only has “Sherlock Holmes Trilogy” written on it, so I wasn’t clear what the CD included. Here, it includes 3 games – the Mystery of the Mummy, The Silver Earring, and The Awakened.

When first installing the trilogy, a title screen comes up. You have your pick of the three games to install. I chose the Mystery of the Mummy, only because it was first on the list. I clicked on the icon to load the game, and this loud “EEENN” blasts through the speakers. At that moment, I guessed I should have turned down the receiver from when I last watched Doctor Who, because I scared the beejeezus out of myself.

Up first, the Mystery of the Mummy.

This game was released in 2002 and was the first of the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes games. The story is interesting; charged with investigating the disappearance of an archeologist, Holmes goes into his abandoned mansion full of relics looking for clues. To anyone who plays point-and-click adventure games today, they would definitely look at the Mystery of the Mummy and think this game is a little rough around the edges. Mummy tries very hard to portray characters and environments realistically. The skin rendered on the characters, for example, looks half-way real and not like something in Night of the Living Dead. The characters themselves, however, look very cylindrical, and walk around very stiffly. The music and voice acting was bothersome: The archeologist’s cousin, a lady who asks Holmes to investigate his disappearance, had a voice that sounded like she was being strangled. The music sounded tinny and often drowned out the voice acting. You play Holmes throughout the game, and Holmes YELLS AT YOU with authoritayyy every time he has something to say. It was quite off-putting.

The game navigation basically has you play Holmes in first person, moving your cursor with your mouse in the direction you want to go. Wow, I got dizzy playing in that perspective. It didn’t help the graphics were pretty crude and that any time you moved the perspective would extreme-close-up on the carpet or wall. Once you get the mechanics down, you basically click around the screen until you find some clues. At one point, you come upon a puzzle that relies on you being able to read tiny plaques of Egyptian relics with dates on them. Better get your pen and paper ready and write down dates ’cause the puzzle will not save your results if you exit out of it before you’re finished filling in your answers. You couldn’t zoom in on the dates on the plaques, but you could on the fugly carpet (go figure…) The game got old pretty quickly.

Second game up is the Silver Earring.

This one is from 2004, and in contrast, there were some real improvements to gameplay. What a breath of fresh air! If you are seeking examples of half-decent point and click adventure games from the past, I would suggest this one. Of course it had it’s problems, but the graphics, mechanics, voice-acting and music were ten times better than the Mystery of the Mummy. In this game, Holmes is investigating murder of Sir Melvyn Bromsby. You get to navigate Holmes (and in some scenes, his partner Watson) in third person, clicking in the direction you want him to move, and picking up items as you go. You are also able to interview suspects and click through potential questions to ask. As you navigate through a labyrinth of rooms in a mansion, you collect clues and add them to your inventory. You can also use your trusty magnifying glass to observe areas and use a test tube to collect samples.

Even though gameplay, story and graphics were much better, I was a bit in the dark on the game mechanics. For example, I didn’t even know how to access the inventory in the game. Holmes was collecting items, but who knew where he was keeping them? I found it by accident (right click)…I also ran into several dead ends. At the start, you are wandering around a great mansion with many rooms, talking to people and collect items. Holmes wouldn’t leave to talk to Watson until all evidence was collected, which of course makes sense. But, I had been and talked to everyone, and thought I had collected everything. A good old walkthrough saved me, and that is where I had missed a tiny piece of cloth someone had left on a chair that I would have never been able to find in a million years.

Let me preface what I say next by confessing that I have never read any Sherlock Holmes. I only really know him from popular culture and that stinker movie with Robert Downey Jr. I’m not completely clueless; I know he is a detective, I know he has sidekick in Watson. These games were sort of an eye-opener for me in terms of how he is as a man and how he operates.

This is what I took away from playing two Sherlock Holmes games: Holmes is very smart – esoterically smart. He is five steps ahead of everyone and really already has a clue as to whodunnit. These games sort of reflect that. You are not challenged to feel you need to figure out who the murderer is because your only responsibility in gameplay is to lead Holmes around so he can tell you why he smells gun-powder in a room, why there are footprints outside the window…He tells everyone what happened without saying “I suspect” at the start of his sentences… because he has conviction. And what he tell everyone is what is esoteric – you would have never drawn the same conclusions as Holmes from the story and gameplay, ever. It leaves you mystified, dumbfounded…And Holmes does it all with a whiff of propriety, and a reek of absolute boredom. A “been there, done that” yawn. Maybe this was “the English way” at the turn of the 20th century; I have no idea. All I know is if the main character seems bored with a mystery…I tend to tune out, too. That viewpoint aside, I am sure The Silver Earring would appeal to Holmes fans. I have decided I am not a big Sherlock Holmes fan myself, but I can see the value for the fan in that game in particular.

And that’s where the story ends for the Holmes Trilogy, at least for now. The Awakened will have to wait. Why? I am getting burned out on Sherlock Holmes.

Time for a cup of tea…

Sherlock Holmes Trilogy (Mystery of the Mummy and The Silver Earring) (PC)
Developer: Frogwares / Publisher: Ubisoft
Released: 2008

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