The blurb on the back of the box tells us, "What they said about Sherlock I, you'll say about Sherlock II." I am fairly certain that there have never been truer words in advertising because that is exactly how I feel opening up Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective Vol. II. It’s cliche to say that everything old is new again, but it seems especially true in this case as we are introduced to three new cases for Mr. Holmes and his trusty companions to solve, all taken from the original tabletop game.
In the history of video games, this seems fairly rare. Most sequels-- but certainly not all-- adjust something in the follow ups. The Ultima games were famous for never re-using an engine in their main numbered games. In the adventure space, Sierra and LucasArts reused their engines, but rarely had sequels that used exactly the same engine. Even when they did, they made significant changes in the gameplay. (I’m tempted to say that King’s Quest II may be an exception.) The early Wizardry sequels were more like expansion packs than new games and maybe that is the right way to think about this one. It is “Volume II” rather than “II”, after all. Is that such a bad thing? We’ll just have to see.
|My guess is the butler. Or rather, three separate butlers.|
It’s been a couple of years since I reviewed the previous game, but I do not have much to add to the history of ICOM and Sherlock Holmes that I already covered there. 1991 saw ICOM, long a pioneer in computer adventures, branch out into the console space with two action games for TurboGrafx systems. In 1992, they continued to mine this new (for them) industry with one of my favorite games for the SNES: Road Runner’s Death Valley Rally. I admit that I haven’t played this game since I was a teen and I could have rose-colored glasses, but at a time when I was anti-Sonic because of my Nintendo bias, this game was a welcome expansion of that formula using characters that I was familiar with. Who wants to play a game about a strange hedgehog and his ring-collecting habit? Sherlock Holmes Vol. II would be ICOM’s only adventure in 1992, although, I’m still not convinced this is an “adventure” game. At this point, they may have already been working on Dracula Unleashed, a somewhat more traditional adventure using the same video-clip engine. We’ll take a look at that game next year. Of course, this game comes on the heels of another Sherlock Holmes game that blew the lid off of what we could expect from the character in an adventure format. I’m going to try to judge this on its merits, but after Lost Files, I may be disappointed.
Not surprisingly, this game was developed by the same crew as the previous one. Ken Torolla was the director, with Laurie RoseBauman as the scriptwriter and Kathy Tootelian as the lead designer. All three of them will return for the next and final sequel before going their separate ways. We’ll look at their future activities next time.
Since this is not a typical adventure game, I should remind you about how this game plays. In short, we will have three cases. Each case will have a brief introductory movie and then drop us off at the main investigation interface. Holmes and Watson can then visit anyone they like in the London Directory (the “D” icon, above), presumably clued in from things said in the video. We need to take good notes because we’ll have to use the evidence that we find in each following video to clue us into others until we assemble the facts of the case for the judge. The game itself is not stateful (except that you cannot talk to the judge until the game knows you have enough info to solve the case), but the directory includes hundreds of names and we have to weave together a web from the clues that we have to discover the clues that we need.
In addition to the case-specific characters, Holmes has other resources at his disposal including the Baker Street Irregulars as well as a team of (occasionally unwilling) “assistants” ranging from Lestrade and other experts at Scotland Yard, newspaper reporters, a lawyer, the Chief Medical Examiner, plus a library and a Hall of Records. Although the game does not have a time limit, you are given a score based on the number of false leads or unnecessary paths you go down; the higher your score the worse you did. You can send the Irregulars to interview people instead of Holmes and Watson to save time, but then you miss out on the videos and often important clues. I mostly ignored the time limit because I like to explore and find all of the content. You can play as you like!
The final and most indispensable piece of evidence (as well as a nice “feelie”) is a set of newspapers that are included with the package. These are required to solve the cases, plus add plenty of period-appropriate color. They are not quite copy protection because there are browsable electronic copies in the game itself, but reading them that way is an exercise in frustration. In this case, the game came with 17-pages of articles with dates ranging from February 6, 1888 to June 10, 1890. I counted last time and there are nearly 300 mini-articles across the entire feature so reading them all is difficult, and yet they were absolutely required for the cases that we had to solve. Often clues weren’t just in the current day’s paper, but also in previous issues. One surprise is that the paper this time is identical to the previous in every obvious way, although I didn’t do an article-by-article comparison. This is likely because the papers were taken from the tabletop version of the game, but it does add to the sense of deja vu that you feel while setting down to play for the first time. It really is the same game over again.
With all that out of the way, it is time to guess the score. The previous game scored 59 and I have a feeling that this one could end up in the same range. Since you will probably want to guess that, I’ll add a twist and hope that Ilmari doesn’t kill me: no one can guess 59, but if the score happens to come out as that (and I promise not to cheat), then everyone wins! We’ll give out CAPs to everyone that guesses a score, any score, if the final turns out to be 59. To help you make a more informed guess, I can also tell you ICOM’s previous scores: Deja Vu (45), Uninvited (30), Shadowgate (35), Deja Vu II (33), and Consulting Detective (59). This works out to an average of 40 points. Good luck and good guessing!
One personal note: Due to an exceptional non-blogging workload, my time is limited for the next several months. I call this “Trickster’s Curse” because no sooner did I catch up to him than I’ll pulled away. I am going to try to power through it and cover this game, although there may be some delays and we may end up starting some of the 1993 games before I’m done. With luck, I will be back to blogging full strength before Christmas. I already have two Missed Classics played in various states of being drafted so I desperately want to get back into writing, but real life will be interfering for a little while. I apologize.
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 20 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.