Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, created by Frogwares, is a remake of the 2007 game that pits Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective duo against the madness of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos.
Firstly, let me make note that I never played the original or the remaster. With that in mind, this version has so many questionable design choices that it made me seek out an old playthrough after the fact just to try to get a better understanding of the new one.
For a game that lets you play as the world’s most perceptive super sleuth, there is a frightening lack of elegance and intimacy to the investigation process. You walk around and click on items that have a small white circle hovering over top. At designated areas you can take a slightly closer look and move across an item until the reticle turns yellow. In this manner you collect clues that you combine to formulate ideas in your mind palace. Sherlock can also recreate investigation scenes in his head, which can only be solved once you’ve collected enough clues.
It feels cold, automated, and necessary because the story logic is either dull or difficult to follow at times. Some of Sherlock’s deductions are massive leaps based on nothing paired with more sensible thoughts, like thinking that someone tried to poison him with a cactus compared to the more likely event that someone dropped their plant while enroute to work. It works when you’re playing as Watson, not just because of the way he is depicted in the books, but because you can’t access investigation mode with Watson, so brash assumptions fit his character’s limitations.
As this is the duo’s first major case together, there’s as much emphasis placed on the relationship of Holmes and Watson as there is on the doomsday cult they’re chasing across the world. While I am incredibly fond of Watson’s characterization, and the origin of Sherlock’s obsessively logical mind, I am not a fan of this clueless rendition of Holmes. He’s naive, arrogant, and is rightfully reprimanded for being so early on. That’s before the tendrils of madness make their way into his mind.
Sherlock is routinely sucked into a maddening hellscape devoid of reason, but finding the logic within a realm of the illogical is my favorite part of the entire ordeal. The hazy green abyss is where the graphical and audio overhaul truly shines. Figuring out environmental clues in an eldritch void is much more fulfilling and cannot be brute-forced like the ones in the real world. However, these parts are so few and far between that I can’t help but wish Frogwares had completely committed to investigating within the Cthulhu mythos.
As it stands, this game falls prey to its own desire to splice together a faithful retelling of the original, and to balance Sherlock’s reasoning skills with Cthulu’s unreasonable madness. There are captivating set pieces like the bayou, but the core gameplay loop serves the narrative first and foremost. There isn’t much of an immersive investigative process, and the thrill of solving puzzles isn’t present. In its place is a rigid collectathon that encourages brute-forcing your way through every encounter. The original struck a fine balance between solving and speculating, but this one pushes the balance heavily towards the speculation of the unknown.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened is available now for $39.99 on PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, and Nintendo Switch.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened.