Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes - “P” is for Pixel Hunting

Written by Joe Pranevich



Last week, we started into this “Lost File” of Sherlock Holmes, investigating a murder possibly committed by the infamous Jack the Ripper. We searched the crime scene and interviewed the witness, discovering a complex (and richly detailed) case involving an attack by a man wielding a serrated scalpel, a broken-into dressing room, a secret admirer, and an actress that stood to gain by the death of her partner. We also found oily black hair samples on the doorframe. There are so many clues to sift through and sort, I hardly know where to begin but Holmes (with our help) is piecing it together. Already, he is pretty sure this isn’t a “Ripper” case, rather something much more interesting. We shall see!

After ending last time, I replayed the whole first section again just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. This game is a bit of a pixel-hunt and I managed to find and pick up some white powder residue from the corpse that I missed before, as well as some cigarette butts. The game suggests that Holmes might be able to analyze the sample back at his flat so we take off, not to the dead woman’s home as I intended to last time, but back to where we started.
Is this where Holmes mixes his “special” medications?

Back at home, I remember that there is a lab table in the upper right hand corner. By using the residue there, I get a close up of the instruments. I try adding the residue to the tube and Holmes adds sulphuric acid instead. I can then light the burner with the matches before Holmes adds zinc that he pulls off the shelf and the residue itself. The whole thing plays like a copy protection scheme that they took out at the last minute as we have to keep “using” the residue and it causes Holmes to move to the next step in the process. I can easily see how we might have had to select the correct chemicals off the shelf and add them to get the result, but it’s all solved for us here so it becomes an exercise in clicking. Once all this is done, a black “mirrored” surface appears on the sides of the test tube and Holmes confidently tells us that it means that the powder contains arsenic. Why would the attacker have had arsenic on his blade, enough that we could even take a sample well after the murder?

As I have been playing, I have been in the habit of checking Watson’s journal now and then. Completely by accident, I checked it at this point and it revealed that Holmes found Becoeur’s Arsenic Soap, a “common preservative”, on the blade. Now, he didn’t actually say that out loud (only that he found arsenic), so it’s either just some dialog that was missing or a small bug. It doesn’t matter but I’ll have to remember to keep checking the journal just in case there’s something else in there that I might miss otherwise.


Not exactly the lap of luxury.

With my side trip over with, I head to where I was planning to go from the start: Sarah Carroway’s flat. Glancing at my map, she appears to be living quite close to Paddington Station, so London-philes out there might be able to intuit something about her financial station from that. As for me, I just wonder if she’s ever met Paddington Bear. (Answer: No. Paddington Bear wasn’t created until 1958.) Her room is tiny and poorly furnished, more “starving artist” than successful actress. Exploring around, I immediately discover that someone recently forced the door open. The police? Or someone else? Sarah’s books next to her bed may have been disturbed as they are scattered and a few of the spines are broken, although perhaps they were just well-loved. Searching the rest, I learn that the fire escape is still barred, so likely no one went in or out that way. The teapot looks like it might have been used only 24 hours ago, so Sarah was probably at her flat the afternoon before she went to work at the theater. In her laundry basket is a man’s rugby sweater, from the Kensington Ruby Club. It has the same oil and black hairs as the door frame back at the theater. It doesn’t take Holmes long to deduce how a man’s sweater might have ended up in a young lady’s laundry. I’m just disappointed that she’s not a lesbian, despite my theory last post. Continuing, I discover that Sarah hid a bit of loose change in removable brass bedknobs, but not enough to really mean much. The coup de grace comes when I have Holmes open Ms. Carroway’s umbrella: out pops a small key! Could this be to the drawer back at the theatre? Or something else? Thinking on this, I’m still confused how the hair and oil ended up on the top of the door frame at the theater. Am I supposed to imagine that the mysterious boyfriend is very tall? Was he potentially kidnapped and carried out by someone else, bumping his head in the process? I honestly have no idea.

Before leaving, I also chat up Dr. Watson to see what clues he sees that I might have missed. I should not have bothered as he only complains about the victim’s poor housekeeping skills and the police’s poor searching skills. Holmes replies that he does not think the police are the only ones who searched her flat. The plot thickens!

I take the key back to the theater to try it out on the dressing table, but I have no luck getting in. Scotland Yard has left, leaving behind only a chalk outline of the body. (Watson helpfully tells us that the body was probably moved to the morgue.) Worse still, the door is locked and apparently we can’t actually enter in the front way to ask to look around. I’ll have to come back later.


I now know even less about rugby.

I check my map and I have only a few new places that I can go: the morgue, South Kensington Field, and a perfumerie. I pick the field, just in case it lets me find out what became of Sarah’s boyfriend. Is he a victim or a suspect?

I arrive to a coach barking practice instructions to a team that appears to desperately need practice. An injured player on the bench refuses to talk to me. The waterboy is more forthcoming, but even after bribing him he doesn’t have anything useful to tell me: he’s never heard of Sarah and he doesn’t get to talk to the players much. It takes five attempts with the coach to get to speak to him all as well, but he won’t help me at all unless I can name the player I want to meet. Since I do not know his name, I’ll have to come back later. He also explains to me that his players are too busy for a lovelife so this mystery man couldn’t possibly be dating the victim.


Do you happen to know a guy named Igor?

My next stop is the Southwark Morgue, far on the other side of London and to the far right of my game map. When we arrive, the coroner invites us to look around a bit as he finishes his work. There are two dead bodies in the room, not counting the subject of our investigation, and both seem to be Ripper murders. Eventually, I talk to the coroner again and ask him to show us what Sarah was carrying at the time she was killed. He does so, revealing a few key items in a manilla folder: facial powder, a large key, a charm bracelet, and a silk handkerchief. The bracelet appears to be a birthstone, suggesting that the owner was born between January 20 and February 18. But is that Sarah’s birthday or someone else’s? I have no idea. Before leaving, the coroner explains that he found a while power on the body but he hasn’t analyzed it yet. Holmes is faster and tells us that not only did he find the powder, he also analyzed it. Before we think that might be related to Sarah’s death, the coroner smacks down that line or reasoning: arsenic was not the cause of death. So what was it for?

This whole time, Inspector Gregson has been off in the corner going over files for an unrelated suicide. Holmes asks if he can release some of Sarah’s stuff to us, but he has to say no since he doesn’t have the authority. We’ll have to speak to Lestrade at Scotland Yard before we can take anything. When I leave, I now see Scotland Yard on the map, but that’s not where I want to go next. It’s time to buy some perfume.


Perfume: almost as good as a bath.

As I arrive at the perfumerie, I go back through my notes. I’m here to find out who the “secret admirer” is that sent Sarah the perfume. If the rugby player is leaving clothes at her place, he’s probably not a “secret” admirer, plus the note appears to be written with a feminine hand. The place itself is divided into two parts: a perfumery and a clothing store, although there’s nothing I can buy at the latter yet unless I want a designer dress. A cleaning lady will not talk to us for fear of being fired, but the main saleswoman, Belle, is nice. We learn from her that the purchased perfume was their “Eau de Seine”, a moderately-priced brand. She asks me to describe the man that I am looking for so I give her what I have: oily black hair, probably quite tall, and that’s it. She recalls a rugby player that matched that description bought some perfume, but she does not remember his number. She also is happy to sell me some perfume but I decline. Maybe I will need some later? This seems to be a dead end so I will head to Scotland Yard now.


The first place important enough...

The only place left to go is Scotland Yard, to get approval to take Sarah’s stuff from the coroner. Outside is an “apparently” blind vendor with the “apparently” added in his mouse-over description itself so that must be important. Other than saying hello, there isn’t anything we can do with him. A constable is blocking the door and he tells me that, because of new security restrictions, he cannot let us in without being invited. Holmes responds that Inspector Gregson gave us permission, but that’s not enough. We need to talk to “Inspector Palmer” to get permission. Palmer who? Now, I can talk to the beggar again, but he just tells me that he cannot help me get into the building. I’ll have to do something else.

I backtrack to the morgue and talk to Gregson again. He’s miffed that the Yard wouldn’t let us in on his word and offers to come back there with us to get through the door. He takes us back and talks to the constable, eventually convincing him to let us in. Horay!


To have two screens!

Inside the Yard, we can see Lestrade in the bullpen, working very hard. We have to talk to Sergeant Duncan at the desk first, but he tells us that Lestrade has his orders not to be disturbed. We leave, dejected. Another dead end? No! Because on the way out we can talk to the blind fruit vendor again and ask for his advice. He says he will help us, for a fee, but Holmes simply threatens to expose his blindness as a scam if he doesn’t help us. (Holmes caught his eyes moving behind his glasses, plus noticed that his apples were arranged to keep blemishes out of view.) He tells me that Sergeant Duncan is susceptible to flattery. Armed with that, we head back in.

This time, when Holmes talks to him, he butters him up with flattery and tells him that someone as senior and important as he is would obviously be able to tell when something is important enough to countermand an order. He thinks on this for a second and calls over Lestrade. Holmes chats up the Inspector and requests dispensation to take some of Sarah’s belongings. Lestrade agrees since he believes the police are done with them as this is an “open and shut case” involving the Ripper. He writes us a pass that we can show to the coroner. We leave. Embarrassingly, we have to come back again immediately because when we get to the coroner, we still can’t take the stuff. I had to talk to Sergeant Duncan again to get the pass. Oops.


I had no idea that they had manilla folders in the 19th century.

Now that we finally have the pass, I show it to the coroner and he lets me take some of Sarah’s things. Unfortunately “some” is only the large key as the facial powder, charm bracelet, and handkerchief are still being used for the investigation. Still that’s what I needed. With luck, that will let me open the theater door so that I can try the small key that I found in Sarah’s apartment in her locked desk in the dressing room. Either that, or it will open something else entirely. I have no idea! But either way, I am going to end here for now and will resume my explorations in a few days.

After a very intensive first segment, this area of the game has been a bit slower. We had several dead ends and the largest puzzle so far simply involves dealing with the police bureaucracy! The only real investigation we performed was in Sarah Carroway’s apartment and all we found there was that she’s sleeping with a rugby player. (Not a lesbian, unfortunately.)

My theories and questions:
  • We’re spending a lot of time searching the victim’s boyfriend. Is he a suspect? Or another victim? Was he the one searching the dressing room? Why did he bump his head on the doorframe? (And who wrote the feminine love note? Or is he a very sensitive rugby player that draws hearts over his i’s?)
  • The small key hidden in the umbrella is a huge clue, and one Ms. Carroway didn’t want anyone to find. What could it open?
  • Who else was searching for her flat and did they find what they were looking for?
  • Why exactly was there arsenic on the murder weapon? My guess is that the scalpel is used for taxidermy since presumably that needs precision and maybe hides are cleaned with arsenic soap, but I admit I have really no idea.
Still a lot of fun, but I hope whatever this key opens sends me off into another part of the adventure

Time played: 2 hr 20 min
Total time: 3 hr 25 min

Inventory: message requesting help, business cards, iron bar, perfume bottle, pink carnation, card, sample of powder, cigarette butts, analysis results, a brass key, and a large key.

6 comments:

  1. And Happy Thanksgiving to those of you in the US! Nothing like playing a game about 19th century London to get you into the holiday spirit...

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  2. hehe, at least one of your lines of inquiry is 100% correct, or maybe not !

    Also, I think you broke the sequence of the game, in your previous post you ended inside the theater back office room, but now you had to open it with a key. In all my playthroughs, I always did both, but since you started from scratch, you now missed a little escape the room sequence in the theater. I have no idea what happens next, AFAIK the game cannot be lost in any way.

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    Replies
    1. Hmm. I don't think so.

      In the beginning of the game, you can get into the theater just fine while Scotland Yard is outside to interview the witness. But once they leave, the theater door is locked. I needed the key to get back in and explore when they weren't around. Either way, this is not the "back office" but rather a dressing room. If there's a way into any other room in the theater, I haven't found it yet.

      (And I have played a bit farther than this, but not much. I can confirm that the key in the evidence unlocks the theater door and I can get inside to explore again... but I'll leave what I found to my next post.)

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    2. ok, so you miss that unlock the door puzzle from inside plus talking with Sheila, since she's gone next time you go.

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    3. Is there an alternate solution that I missed? Can you tell me about it without spoiling anything? Or maybe at the end?

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    4. No alternate solution, you had to enter the theater, like you did in your first post. Maybe you could start again just to see that part, and then continue with your main save

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