Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery Of The Mummy (DS)

Graeme Virtue | 20 Aug 2009 19:00
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Whenever I spend quality time with my Nintendo DS, it's usually got something to do with sleuthing. My crime-busting stylus patiently connects the dots between hazy clues and submerged motives, whether I'm slouching around a flea-bag hotel in a grubby raincoat, yelling "objection!" during a lurid courtroom soap opera or unraveling the clockwork secret of a picturesque but curious village. Something about the methodical pursuit of justice seems particularly well-suited to Nintendo's wee handheld. (Its latest incarnation, the DSi, even sounds like a forensic cop show).

Coming a little late to the DS prosecuting party is the Master Detective himself, Sherlock Holmes, lugging all his iconic baggage - magnifying glass, deerstalker, Meerschaum pipe, manageable cocaine habit - along for the ride. With apologies to Mr. Spock, Holmes is literature's greatest logician, regularly astounding his faithful companion Doctor Watson by determining a stranger's occupation within seconds, merely by observing their comportment, the condition of their coat-sleeves, the callosities of their forefinger and thumb and other such "trifles."

So what to make of Sherlock Holmes: The Mystery Of The Mummy? At first glance, one can deduce a fair bit: that it's a port of a creaky PC point-and-click adventure game that was pretty basic even when it was first released in 2002; that despite such a passage of time, its transfer to the DS has been undertaken at high speed; that the game was originally created by a team who spoke English as a second language, but had nonetheless been exposed to Scooby-Doo; and that the publisher expressed concern that the opening scenes were too challenging for novice players. How do I know all that? To paraphrase the master, a conjurer gets no credit once he has explained his trick; if I show you too much of my method of working, you will come to the conclusion that I am, after all, a very ordinary individual. (In other words: Google. And slogging through the game for about 20 minutes.)

The case before Mystery of the Mummy's Holmes is concerned with inheritance: A famed Egyptologist has been murdered in his handsome country house, and suspicion hovers over those relatives most likely to benefit, though there are also wild rumors of a revivified mummy enacting an ancient curse. (The plot isn't based on any of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories.) Some intriguing assets have been passed down from the PC version: cinematic cut scenes of an acceptable quality, a country house modeled in some detail and some above average voice acting, if not scriptwriting.

With players navigating on the touchscreen from a first-person perspective, Holmes abruptly hopscotches between a series of predetermined points in each area. Thus perched, presumably stork-like, on one leg, Holmes can then spin around 360 degrees to look for clues. This is where the detailed modeling can hamper the investigation - the elaborate textures routinely obscure the location of vital items, and progress requires a methodical search of every room. A tedious but necessary chore, Watson!

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