Escapist Editorials

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

Graeme Virtue | 20 Aug 2009 19:00
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The top DS screen handles the housekeeping, with a shoulder button press toggling it to the touchscreen. There's a file to review retrieved documents, a notepad to doodle on, an inventory of obtained objects and an exhaustive hints system that will hold your hand for every step of the sequential puzzles. (The printed manual also cautiously walks you through the initial 10 minutes, presumably because overcoming the first few obstacles is alarmingly unintuitive).

Split into five levels that each restrict you to certain parts of the manor, Mystery of the Mummy doesn't burden you with red-herring objects - everything you pick up has a predetermined purpose and disappears after use. So when faced with the conundrum of trying to pry open the mouth of a stuffed lion, the temptation is just to try combining it with every last doohickey in your inventory. (Which could be an invocation of Holmes' oft-repeated maxim: "Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.")

After a clunky start and the rapid realization that the game is ruthlessly linear, you start to find a ragged groove. Aspects that were initially irritating wear you down - notably, the disconnect between the subtitles and voice acting, which is so pervasive it becomes campily amusing. And the final problem, involving the construction of an ambitious Rube Goldberg device to neutralize a powerful bomb, made me chuckle even as I was scratching my head. But then it's over, and Holmes is suddenly recounting his analysis of the case to Watson in a way that seems plausible - although his elegant deductive reasoning bears absolutely no relation to any of the "combine matches with lamp" legwork you've patiently poured into the experience.

This Sherlock Holmes adventure series has apparently flourished on the PC, with subsequent installments seeing Holmes cross wits with French gentleman thief Arsene Lupin, slash-happy boogeyman Jack the Ripper and even HP Lovecraft's doomy Cthulhu mythos. But this is an unforgivably fumbling start for the franchise on what should be a lucrative new platform. And even after you've unbandaged the mystery of the mummy, one persistent riddle remains: How can you create a Holmes videogame without ensuring your protagonist exclaims "The game's afoot!" at least once? There must be some rational explanation ...

Bottom Line: If you can adapt to the clunky mechanics and resist the impulse to proceed in lockstep with the embedded walkthrough, there are a few engaging hours here. But it's more sham than Meerschaum.

Recommendation: Best left undetected.

Graeme Virtue is a freelance writer based in Scotland. You can attempt to follow his spicy eating habits at Trampy And The Tramp's Glasgow Of Curry.

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