Last week we covered one of the best of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I mentioned we’d have to take another look at it this week, but in a different format. That brings me to a game by developer Waterlily Games and publisher, Frogwares. Frogwares has been responsible for an array of great games featuring the Great Detective, and they’ve each gotten better over time. However, there is one that, while on the older side, remains wonderful since my first playthrough: Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of The Baskervilles.
This game holds a special place in my heart as well. When my son was younger, I had introduced him to it since it was a clever game and appropriate for nearly any age. I had been at work and came home to his excited story that he had solved a puzzle in… and I quote… The Hound of the Daffodils. How can anyone not love and remember such a marvelous name?! The funny thing is, I can see where he got it from too. Without knowing the name, it does sound a little like daffodils!
Alas, if there’s a complaint I have with the game which makes it hard to reconcile as a Sherlock Holmes story, it’s that it’s based too loosely on the source material and features time travel for Holmes and Watson to go back to see what really happened. I imagine this was before the idea of a mind palace and the idea is only able to be captured by actually “traveling back in time”. But you know what? Who cares? This isn’t meant to be a serious game. In fact, I’ve played it a dozen times, collected all 32 achievements and have still only clocked 8 hours of gameplay! (With a caveat…)
The Main Idea
The game is, at its heart, a very simple retelling of the actual episode with a massive dose of find the hidden object. You travel to static locations where in search of an array of hidden objects; some of which are used as puzzle pieces to other levels. There’s a Frankensteinian lab where a bit of acid can burn through a chain, a druidic site for performing rituals, and any number of rooms from Baskerville Hall. Eyes made of glowing gems allow us to travel back in time. There’s a menagerie filled with magical creatures, including a werewolf and a dragon. But none of that really matters because it’s just a lightweight game that is incredibly entertaining. Most of the search lists consist of 12 or more items to find, though in some cases it will be a mission of “find the 30 umbrellas” or some such nonsense. Then you’d be surprised how hard it is after you’ve nailed the first 25…!
There are a number of fun puzzles to work out. From connecting a series of orange/blue medals to opening grates to get into a fireplace to locate a part of another puzzle, these are enjoyable mental exercises. There’s a puzzle where a painting has to be constructed and you can rotate through a number of images per piece to figure out what the end result is. One puzzle has you shifting gems along lines to land in a specific pattern. There’s a rather lackluster puzzle where you have to place gears on such a way that they all connect and work a final, stationary gear to move on to another puzzle. There are an array of puzzles to flex the brain including a series of fun chess problems. Overall none of the puzzles are that hard, but none are so childish that an adult couldn’t enjoy playing the game.
There is one puzzle… there’s always one though, isn’t there? It entails a mosaic on the ground with 24 rotating tiles. Move one, and adjacent ones move with it. The first time I ever played this (which was years before I had it through Steam, so there is one additional playthrough not counted in my 8 hour clock, mentioned above) I probably spent 8 hours just trying to figure this one puzzle out. Well, unable to pull it off, I decided to skip it. However, this messes with the achievements and this is one game where I really wanted all of them. So I resorted to a walkthrough, There are 46 specific moves to make to solve this puzzle. In short, the only way to beat is is a series of moves that would even make Mother Teresa angry!
There is one other annoying puzzle but it’s far less irksome where you take a top-down view of Holmes and run him through some tunnels. Annoying but still doable so it’s not a showstopper!
One thing I loved about these earlier Frogwares games was the voice of the actor who played Holmes. While he was not Jeremy Brett, he captured the voice perfectly. According to IMDb, this is the voice of Guy Harris and I thought he was great. That’s probably my biggest complaint with the newest games in the series – we’ve lost that Guy!
Ironically, the artwork for the part of Sir Henry looks like the same actor from the Jeremy Brett episode. It’s lower grade artwork but for a game of find the hidden treasure, that doesn’t impact much. It’s colorful and I was rather happy when I completed the game and received all of the accomplishments.
This is a game I keep installed for those times when I just want to go back and play a light game between bigger games. The fun of playing as Holmes never gets old. This isn’t a great example of a Sherlock Holmes story because it relies too heavily on fiction but it is loads of fun anyway. Probably never featured on anyone’s A-list, but it’s one I can never quite get enough of. ML