THE HISTORY OF THE SHERLOCK HOLMES PC GAMES
Author: Bálint Teller (Walentin) - Translator: Revati
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective inspired not only filmmakers, but computer game creators as well. Many games were made by Japanese, but at the beginning of the 1990s Holmes appeared in a Hungarian Commodore 64 programme. These show that it is impossible to list all Sherlock-related games, I only want to mention some of them.
The first Sherlock Holmes game, „Sherlock”, from Melbourne House, was launched in 1984. The company was famous for its Lord of the Rings games. According to the standards of that time, players had to control Holmes with text commands. The game had no graphics (in the 1980s possibilities were much more limited), and its text recognizer was very poor which made progress to higher levels very difficult. What is more, it had lots of BUGs (errors), despite the fact that five programmers worked on it for 18 months, and even a Holmes expert took part in the project.
Later several other text adenvture games appeared with Holmes as their hero, for example „Sherlock Holmes: Another Bow” from 1985, which tells the old detective’s case with a mysterious steamboat. Another game from that age is „Sherlock Holmes and the Vatican Cameos”, which was very enjoyable at that time, thanks to its fine graphics and the great number of NPCs (non-player characters) – the latter were revolutionary innovations.
„Sherlock: The Riddle of the Crown Jewels” came out in 1987 from Infocom, which was the most famous text-based adventure games creating company of the era. In the story we play as dr. Watson and we are called to Baker Street by a mysterious message on a foggy Saturday morning. During the game we have to study a very detailed map of London, with 90 different scenes. Further bonuses were the different motifs typical to Doyle (lost jewels, strange sects, political conspiracies).
The following games were also launched in the 1980s: „221 B Baker Street”, „Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Beheaded Smuggler” and „Sherlock Holmes: The Lamberley Mystery”.
Games of the 1990s
Icom, which was famous for its innovations in graphics, presented an extraordinary game to Sherlock and computer fans. „Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective” was the first game that came out on CD, and it contained a 90 minutes long movie shot with real cast. The story was too linear and the amateur actors were atrocious. What is more, it did not really deserve to be called a game – players had to solve fake logical riddles between the movie inserts. As time passed, the game became a trilogy with two follow-ups and it came out in DVD as well.
In 1992 Electronic Arts tried its luck with a Sherlock Holmes series entitled „The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes”. The first piece, „The Case of the Serrated Scalpel”, told the story of an actress who had been killed brutally. It proved to be a success. The virtual notebook and the home lab, which appeared first in this game, were taken over by another company, Frogwares (we will return to them later).
The second (and last) part of the game was „The Case of the Rose Tattoo”. It appeared in 1996 and had digitalized scenes and cast. The plot was too complicated and the acting was disappointing, so the game failed.
Failure and glory
The future of the Sherlock Holmes games seemed not too promising. Lots of people predicted the end of adventure games genre. This could have been fatal for the future Holmes games, because the figure of the sleuth cannot be used in other kinds of computer games. It would be very odd to see him in a car race or town building game.
Fortunately things were shaping well, thanks to the fact that adventure games survived the millenary and to the appearing of Frogwares group. The Ukrainian team clearly loves the literature of the Victorian era (they made game adaptations from the works of Jules Verne and Bram Stoker), and they create Sherlock Holmes games for years. Their first attempt had been „Sherlock Holmes: Mystery of the Mummy” in 2002. It was not the best because of the team’s callowness, but their 2004 game, „Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silver Earring” was very popular.
The third part of the series was „Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened” in 2006, which had a quite horroristic storyline based on Lovecraft’s Cthulhu myth. In 2007 came „Sherlock Holmes versus Arséne Lupin” and in 2009 „Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper”. The team continues its fine work, they launched „The Testament of Sherlock Holmes” in 2012.
Their games are not perfect, but they are always full of the true Holmesian mood. And to top it all, Sherlock is modelled after Jeremy Brett, who starred in the legendary series of Granada Television during the 1980s and 1990s. For many people he rightly is the definitive Sherlock Holmes.
It seems like other companies do not try to make the Victorian genius their game hero. The Canadian Victory Square Games made an attempt, but their „Elementary, My Dear Holmes!” had been cancelled because of fraud accusations.
So we have to settle for the Frogwares games. They will launch their seventh game, „Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments” in 2014.
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" The history of the Sherlock Holmes PC games "
Author: Bálint Teller (Walentin)
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The name of Sherlock Holmes
Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories