Sherlock Holmes -
The Case of the Silver Earring
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Digital Jesters
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1
Words By:

In this game you play as the legendary, literary Victorian detective.

“No sh*t Sherlock!!!”

Ho ho ho. I just had to get that one in. Or how about:-

Watson- “What manner of rock is this Holmes?”
Sherlock- “Sedimentary, my dear Watson.”

Ahahahaha! The old ones are the best aren’t they? No? Oh dear, I think I had better order a horse drawn carriage…

I have often been described as the greatest sloth in my town, but never the greatest sleuth, so I thought I would try out my underused skills of perception on The Case of the Silver Earring. This is a real throwback of a game, a ‘point and clicker’ over pre-rendered backgrounds. It seems like decades since I have played a game like this and frankly it felt like I was in some sort of time warp, hovering precariously over a worm hole where adventures involve reading dull descriptive passages and pressing ‘N’ to go north. Although the game isn’t that prehistoric, it’s a world away from the billion polygon throwing, fast and frenetic first person shooters and high speed racers that we are served up regularly these days. But wait, this is actually no bad thing....

Picture the scene - late Victorian England, ornate wallpaper, crackling fires and urchins being chased up chimneys. That’s what you get served up here courtesy of very pretty but static backdrops spanning old mansions, cellars, train stations and even cement works. It’s atmospheric but wonderfully sedate and restrained. And so is the story itself.

Holmes and Watson are present as a murder is committed in Sherringford Hall, and though it seems as if the victim’s daughter was the culprit, after some initial investigation it becomes clear that things are far more complicated (as you always knew they would be).

To quote Holmes, this game is simplicity in itself. All you really have to do is point your mouse at anything remotely interesting in each room and pick it up. Sure, you can scrutinise stuff with your magnifying glass, you can measure stuff with a tape and even go all ‘forensic’ by collecting samples in your test tube. But at the end of the day the central mechanic is all about being observant, picking objects up and examining them - no DNA testing here, just good old fashioned police work. I shouldn’t forget that various characters who stand about like statues need to be interrogated too, but it all amounts to the same data collecting thing, though you have to be meticulous and observant, because let’s not forget, we are going to hang the guilty scumbag high.

Despite this rather basic gameplay I found that I got drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery and I am not entirely sure why. You see, there are numerous logic puzzles that come around every so often to shake things up and test the grey matter and they are both fascinating and incredibly annoying. Codes need to be cracked, keys need to be found and automatons need their bits playing with before they give you a present. It’s enough to blow a fuse in your brain.

Then there is the focal point of every level - a return to Baker Street and the dreaded questionnaire. Here you have to select the relevant evidence that you have rounded up, whether it be witness testimony, documentation or physical items, and use it to answer a number of questions. If you don’t get them correct you cannot continue with the game. Well, let me shout this word loudly in your ear trumpet - WALKTHROUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sooner or later you are likely to need one because the quiz takes no prisoners. You may think you have selected the right answers but without any hint as to where you have gone wrong you could spend several months trying different combinations. ‘Frustrating’ is not the word. ‘Internet’ on the other hand, is.

And yet I kept going and the faintest seed of enjoyment grew. Was it masochism? Was it a desire to indulge in the PC equivalent of the tea break section of the Daily Mail? Thinking about it, I can only come to the conclusion that it’s the nicely set atmosphere and the opportunity to truly BE a sleuth that won out. If you are really going to try and emulate the greatest detective in the world then you cannot expect it to be easy. I mean come on; this is the guy who can deduce a suspect’s height, weight, profession and where he was exactly a week ago by the tissue fibres left on those saucy magic lantern photographs.

And technically there is a little bit of niceness to enjoy too – things aren’t as antique as they look. There is some lovely, authentic chamber music going on here and top quality voice acting. The locations are extremely evocative and detailed. It loads quick-as-a-flash, allowing you to dip in and out when you get one of those sudden flashes of inspiration too. In fact the further I went in the game I became so immersed that I could just as well have been watching a film or reading a novel and trying to work out the murderer. Having said all this, it could just be the experiment section back at Baker Street that got me hooked because I always wanted to be a mad scientist. Give me a test tube, a Bunsen burner and some acid and I am a happy 4thenstein.

So The Case of the Silver Earring is indeed a strange one; dated in its method and presentation, frustrating and sticky in places, and at times a pain to manoeuvre with its flip screen, pointy-clicky nature. But if you are tired of template heroes, endless sci-fi and fantasy settings and you want to be put through your paces as a super sleuth then there is nowhere better to go. This is without doubt a game for those of more refined and reserved tastes. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it you uncouth young ruffians! And stop staring at that shapely table leg!

Best Bits

- A good period atmosphere.
- An involving case to solve.
- Excellent soundtrack and voice talent.
- A fine work-out for your underdeveloped brain.
- A rare point-and-clicker for fans of the genre.
Worst Bits

- Dated visual and gaming style.
- Unforgiving questionnaires.
- Mind-bending logic.
- Point-and-click is so 1990.

by: 4th Decade

Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silver Earring also comes boxed in a special double pack with a Sherlock Holmes DVD movie; Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (starring Basil Rathbone as the definitive Holmes).

Copyright © Gamecell 2004