Nemesis Brings the Master of Deduction to PC
Developed by Frogware, this faithful incarnation of Holmes pits him against a literary villain from a different universe, the master thief Arsene Lupin. It’s point-and-click in 3D with a heavy focus on dialogue and reading.
Sherlock Holmes and Mystery – a Match Made in Baker Street
When you think of all the characters that could be chosen for this particular genre, Sherlock Holmes is an obvious choice. Sadly, being such an obvious pick has meant that the character has appeared in a lot of games over the years – most of them have not been worthy.
The main villain in this story is Arsene Lupin. Big in French culture, this famous character is coming to Blighty to carry out five headline-grabbing thefts – and he’s letting Holmes know that personally, too. The game opens with a bit of banter between Holmes and Watson (who, increasingly as the game goes on, becomes little more than a foil for jokes and mockery) and a letter from Lupin himself.
The version of the game that I played is the remastered version from 2010, which was released by Frogware a full two years after the original version. Among the changes they implemented was the addition of a third person view which will be a welcome relief to a lot of people, considering the rather narrow field of view present in first person mode. They also apparently made a change to Watson’s behaviour, allowing him to actually walk around behind Holmes rather than standing still and creepily moving closer every time you turned around.
For a game from 2008, the graphics stand up surprisingly well. The lighting effects are competent and the level of detail within character models and textures are solid. There are also a surprising number of NPCs walking around for a game of this age.
The cutscenes haven’t stood the test of time quite so well, with lip syncing that resembles two goldfish joltingly trying to navigate a conversation whilst interacting clumsily with various stiffly animated objects. The voice acting is OK. There’s a ton of dialogue and you can tell that the actors used weren’t top tier – but they get the job done capably enough. Sometimes you’ll come across the odd bad accent or a line that seems pasted in from somewhere else, which is jarring and not ideal in a game like this.
A Comfortable Nemesis
There’s a tendency in modern film and TV to make everything a bit dark and gritty. This applies to the BBC’s most recent version of Holmes, which has its rather grim moments. People who have gotten into the character because of that show will be in for a rude awakening. Lupin and Holmes have what plays out as more of a friendly rivalry than anything else. All of the communication between the two is pretty light-hearted and never comes across as being anything close to a matter of the utmost seriousness.
The entire story takes place in London around various famous locations, including Buckingham Palace which contains a memorable encounter with Queen Victoria. One of the biggest failings of Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis is that the locales are used too often. You’ll find yourself coming back to the same places over and over again. While that’s not unexpected for a mystery adventure game, it does feel a little overdone nonetheless.
Lupin’s clues and pointers are often fantastical in their flamboyance and theatrics, although a lot of them are delivered through some truly awful poetry. The character may be a genius, but whoever wrote the poetry sure isn’t.
For the weakness of the delivery and the repeated visits to the same areas, one of the game’s great strength is the feeling of rivalry and competition that develops between the two intellects as the story progresses. It’s executed astonishingly well and you’ll find it hard not to get wrapped up in it.
Release Date: 14/04/2008
Available on: Windows, PC Download
Play the Game
Not just one, there are hundreds of them. At its most basic, Sherlock Holmes Nemesis is about following the trails of clues until you can piece together the bigger picture. Many times this takes the form of treasure hunts, moving from one object to the next and solving riddles along the way.
Most of the puzzles in the game are challenging. You will be required to think – and if you’re not a fan of obscure puzzles then you’re going to find yourself getting frustrated with this game fairly early in the story.
Aside from the riddles, there are plenty of other types of puzzles to solve. There are a few inventory puzzles – some better than others – and some really well done plot-based ones that utilise the process of elimination superbly.
You’ll also find yourself reaching for the famous magnifying glass to closely examine surfaces and objects, as well as occasionally repairing something. Some of the challenges in this vein are really obscure – however, they do the right thing by making you go back to the rotten poetry and examine each line for a clue that you’ve missed. By the same token, some of the puzzles require massive leaps of logic that I’m not sure make sense even after I’ve solved them.
That last complaint is a bit of an issue with the game in general. There are some puzzles that have clearly been made hard in the ‘wrong’ way – through obscurity and abstract reasoning rather than a clever use of plot and the game’s mechanics. I’m fairly confident that you could give some of them to a hundred people and not one will come to the answer that the developer is looking for.
Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis is one of the better Sherlock Holmes games available even to this day. The remastered version, which is the version available on Steam, holds up well. The idea behind the characters involved is faithful and there’s a certain charm to it that is only aided by the rough edges. That being said, some of the puzzles are annoyingly obtuse and that hurts my overall verdict of the game.
It’s available for $9.99 converted into your local currency, or $2.99 for first time BigFish customers. For fans of the genre, it’s pretty much a must buy. For fans of the character? Watch gameplay first to see what you’re getting into.
Play the Game
Sherlock Holmes Nemesis is developed by Frog Wares.