It’s time to get your thinking cap on and be transported into the late 1800s.
Channeling your inner Sherlock Holmes, it’s your time to lead an investigation into a sinister crime scheme where you seem to be the only one able to stop it.
A remake of the 2007 game of the same name, and both developed by Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes the Awakened, takes players into H.P. Lovecraft’s myth of Cthulhu, a mind-bending tale that’ll have both Sherlock and you, wondering what’s real and what isn’t.
Before we get started, it’s good to mention that Sherlock Holmes the Awakened was made during a war, the Ukrainian War, that’s happening right now.
With power outages, constant disruptions, it’s an honour to have played the game early, before its release and to have the time to experience their love letter to another Sherlock Holmes game, and one they have worked tirelessly on for all of us to experience.
You can get a glimpse into what working on the game in these conditions was like for the team in the video below.
Although some time as passed since Sherlock Holmes Chapter One, in both our world and in the game’s fictional universe, the familiarity soon shines through its characters and the voice actors, featured the first game, Sherlock Holmes Chapter One.
Chapter One was ultimately an origin story; Holmes didn’t even exist as a real person until he turned up at the end of the first game. In comparison, the Awakened throws us straight into the traditional Sherlock Holmes’ tales, set at 221B Baker Street, London, with the real Dr. John Watson, not far from Sherlock’s side.
Sherlock is slowly becoming the eccentric character the stories have told us, among his constant struggle between reality and fiction. This theme is heavily explored in the Awakened. The misty and dark streets of London in the lates 1800s sets us up immediately in the moody, and gloomy Victorian London. It certainly was a stark difference to the bright and colourful Cordona of Chapter One.
Thrown into the game, it’s not long before you question if the game is going to tell you what to do, having been used to games’ constant handholding these days.
The controls are explained slowly over time, but a deep dive into the player menu, every nook and cranny is necessary to set yourself up as a player. Being familiar with the first game, dynamics started coming back to over time, but it’s not hard to wonder how difficult or not it may be for newbies, with frustrations possibly occurring. We can only hope players stick it out as you may find yourself walking in circles at times, especially in new locations and without a detailed map.
Despite this, after solving your first case and not being handheld, the Awakened reminds you of why you loved Chapter One.
Sure, there were moments that would take result in a stand-still, baffled by what you could possibly be missing, but ultimately, putting in the hard work and making your brain think, made the reward of solving the case even more worth it, perhaps even a tad proud and eager to take on more cases.
The Awakened makes you think a lot and may make your head feel as though it wants to explode at times, but you will get there and possibly not even realize what you could solve with hard work and determination.
Like all Kiwis, we get a kick when New Zealand is mentioned in stories or in few and far between places.
Not once was it expected to have it come up in a video game, especially Sherlock Holmes the Awakened.
Without giving anything away, the second mission plants the seed for the entire game to come, like a domino effect. As a Kiwi, you can’t help but be fascinated by the interpretation of a culture familiar to you and possibly not to others around the world, particularly based on the controversial relations and social roles of the late 1800s.
The loading screen for the Awakened does feature a disclaimer, as it did in Chapter One, acknowledging the reality of certain races at the time in history, suggesting it’s important we don’t forget this history, even if it is hard to hear.
By chapter three (there are seven in the Awakened), the game transports you to another location, an asylum in Switzerland, fully immersing you into your crime solving ways, and perhaps finding yourself hyper-focusing and finding your brain working in mysterious ways, just like Sherlock.
Not long after this, you’re transported yet again (Sherlock and Watson certainly get around), this time to New Orleans. The bright and sunny New Orleans location was a reminder of Cordona, the setting of Chapter One, as mentioned by Sherlock too in the game. For some reason it also made the map a lot easier to navigate, rather than squinting your eyes in some dark locations, struggling to have any clue where you’re going.
Least favourite moments, in terms of gameplay, came in a later chapter where you must drive a boat around a dark and murky swamp with a low light lamp.
Going in circles and struggling to navigate physically soon became a thing as the boat would often get stuck in the environment, even flipping at one point. Having no map didn’t help. It got to a point where my partner had to be recruited to start searching for me, also helping with the odd puzzle too. Another eye in tough situations helped a lot.
Something interesting to note was the lack of need to change outfits.
In Chapter One, the narrative constantly required players to change outfits to go undercover, changing your social status and acceptance, playing a huge part as to whether someone would even talk to you or not. In the Awakened, this was taken away completely, and not once do you have to change clothes to navigate different environments, except solely for cosmetic reasons.
Another difference in the Awakened was the story, being much more linear than Chapter One and having very minimal side quests or ‘open’ mini worlds for Sherlock to visit, depending on your chapter. Plus, once you move onto the next chapter, you’re told you can’t revisit.
Personally, it was easy to speed through the Awakened, in the best way possible, as I was eager to find out what happened next, playing in decent length gaming sessions, and determined to get through the harder puzzles. This could, of course, be a good thing or a bad thing, especially as we have Chapter One to compare to. As someone who loves ticking off a new game, it did feel as though one isn’t allowed the opportunity to linger in spaces or immerse themselves in a location before being shipped off to another.
The ending, without spoiling of course, was rewarding but somewhat simplistic. Perhaps due to the narrative limitations of being a remake, the Awakened draws from traditional Sherlock Holmes, crime solving cases, as opposed to Chapter One, that took a deep dive into the many layers of Sherlock’s past, present and predicting his future.
Players who are looking for a narrative mystery that doesn’t hand-hold or take you too far off the beaten track, will find the Awakened an exciting remake, allowing a new group of players the opportunity to experience a mind-bending tale.
Released: April 2023
Platforms reviewed: PlayStation 5
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive