Review: Sherlock Holmes Nemesis (PC)

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Sherlock Holmes Nemesis
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: Adventure/Mystery
Release Date: April 14, 2008

Hello there all. My name is Danny Cox and this will be my first review for DHGF, but you may have seen me elsewhere around Inside Pulse including the DVD Lounge, Popcorn Junkies, Tailgate Crashers, and well…you get the idea. Alex was kind enough to let me take my expertise in reviewing and use it for good in the land of video games. Actually, they were happy to get someone else who had a love for PC games, so here we go.

The first game to arrive in my hands is that of Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis which I hadn’t heard of personally, but knew there was a series of games involving the historical detective. In Nemesis, Holmes is pitted up against a rather well-known burglar Arsene Lupin who was his arch-enemy in several stories written by Maurice Leblanc.

There are many mystery games out there. Numerous ones in my collection have no historical relevance and usually start from scratch. Going in and using the world’s greatest detective is just too easy and actually makes too much sense not to do. The Adventure Company has impressed me before with favorites such as Dark Fall and The Black Mirror, so my hopes were rather high and my excitement couldn’t be contained when the plastic was taken off the case.

A little snooping and deduction soon made my excitement back into a dark alley and hide.

Story / Modes

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Sherlock Holmes is an easy excuse to make a mystery game. Take him and pit him against anyone in creation, but that would mean using too much thought. His enemies are right there in the novels as well, so it takes even less imagination then first thought. Holmes is up against Arsene Lupin who is a master thief in nineteenth century London. He has stolen small things and great treasures from all walks of life, but he has one main goal…foiling the good deeds of Holmes and all of Scotland Yard.

Lupin blatantly states that in the period of five days, he will take five treasures of great importance from such places as the National Gallery and Buckingham Palace. Lupin is looking to stand up for the French Republic against the British Empire and prove his countrymen are superior and can dupe even the greatest of British minds. Being as arrogant as he is, Lupin leaves Holmes riddles and puzzles so he can have at least some sort of chance of catching him.

You know, that isn’t really very original but it still sounds as if it would make a good mystery game or movie to me. The cool thing about it all is that it isn’t simply a battle between Lupin and Holmes, but France and England. Talk about really wanting to piss some people off there. Things get even better when the mystery doesn’t actually unfold as the story goes along, but gets more complex. The only way that it will begin to unravel is if you yourself can figure it out.

Story Rating: Enjoyable

Graphics

Maybe I’m being too picky, but I wasn’t overly impressed. Coming from a guy who is infatuated with the graphics of the Wii and not so much that of a PS3 or Xbox 360, that’s tells you something about my tastes. The characters’ faces are all sunken in and each of them looks like the drugged out whore you’ll meet on the street within the first five minutes of the game. When they are talking to you, you’re going to end up hypnotically staring at their lips because they flop up and down like a puppet without much enunciation movement at all. It just takes away from some of the better graphics in the game because you’re drawn to the inconsistencies.

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Nemesis is a total 360 degree game in every direction which makes for some nice detail to buildings and rooms. Every nook and cranny is covered here which shows London in all of its natural beauty. The coolest thing is the minute details shown to some of the nineteenth century features like old-school street lamps and cobblestone streets. These intricacies make it hard for me to complain about the graphics, but those characters just bother me and take away from the full effect you’ll get while playing.

In another bothersome note, my system has all the requirements needed to play Nemesis and then some yet I had to tone them down in the “options” menu. Tone them down too much and it looks awful. Tone them down midway and things still look decent, but there is yet a bit of stalling and stuttering between scenes that make it not only difficult to play but annoying.

Graphics Rating: Decent

Sound

The music is just fantastic and honestly made me contemplate just leaving the game on and letting it play in the background while I did other things around the house. The mix of piano along with the string instruments from an orchestra set the mood perfectly and hits home with my love of classical music. Sadly though, this is the only place where Nemesis excels in the sound department.

When they had a staff meeting for the game, the “background sounds” guys must have been absent. You only get background noise every now and then which makes absolutely no sense. Walk past a grouping of pigeons on the ground and you’ll barely hear a single coo. A horse and buggy zooms by (and I do mean zoom) and you can’t hear and clippity clop or spinning wheels. That’s what I want to hear when I’m walking around. Not just my own footsteps.

Last but not least is the voice acting which is a joke. Holmes and Watson are the first people you’ll hear and they sound like two Americans with bad British accents. Honestly. Both characters lack bass in their voices and they sound like they’ve been sucking on helium tanks. Walk around and talk to the women on the street and you’ll notice that they all have the exact same voice. Come on, even if you could only afford one female voice actress, at least tell her to change her voice from time to time.

Sound Rating: Bad

Control & Gameplay

No sense in trying to hide it here by trying to be nice about it; it sucks. The menus sometimes take forever to get through by freezing up when you click on anything. If you try pulling the scroll bar down on the menu, it will also freeze and before you know it you’re looking at a different part of the menu then where you stopped. It is aggravating and quite frustrating when you’re already annoyed by having to adjust the graphics constantly.

Controlling the characters is a royal pain too. What I mean by royal pain is that my stomach was killing me after just an hour of gameplay because I was incredibly nauseous. You can play around with the mouse sensibility, but it never seemed to stop spinning around like a globe. It just made me sick to my stomach and I’ve never really had that kind of problem before with games such as Shivers, Myst, or even Resident Evil.

Then there is the whole getting used to the controls aspect of it all. I’d try to walk over to a table and pick up a teacup, but the next thing I knew I was looking at the ceiling. When my line of sight actually focused on the teacup and the hand icon was right on it, it wouldn’t pick it up. I had to keep waving my mouse back and forth over the cup and randomly hitting the button hoping it would snag somehow.

The puzzles aren’t that bad when you get to them, but it’s just “getting to them” that sucks. Oh, and if you can figure out how to get out of looking in your briefcase in less then ten minutes then I bow down to you.

Control & Gameplay Rating: Very Bad

Replayability

You would think that a game with puzzles wouldn’t be played over and over again once you figured out the puzzles, right? Well, call me different because it’s the puzzles that I find enjoyable here. I don’t mind doing them repeatedly, even if the solutions are common knowledge to me. It isn’t the solving it that makes it fun, but the doing it. That part of Nemesis was very entertaining because some of the riddles were very challenging and made for some real thinking to come into play.

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Making things even cooler is that the puzzles don’t often lead to a solution or next stage, but another puzzle. You’re not going to get away with solving some number scheme and then making your way down a hidden flight of stairs. Oh no, you’re going to have to work if you want to advance. Throw on top of that the “seek and find” puzzles and now aspects of my current favorite game series (Mystery Case Files) are included. There are even fill in the blank quizzes.

Other then those things though, you’re not going to want to play any of the portions of the game leading up to each puzzle. Besides dealing with the little annoying tidbits; sea sickness is not something I enjoy on a regular basis.

Replayability Rating: Poor

Balance

Nemesis really wouldn’t be a bad game at all considering how awesome some of the riddles and puzzles are while portraying nineteenth century England in all its beautiful glory. Some things require immense amounts of thought and even some note taking just so you can remember them later on and plug them into places you’ll come across later on in the game. If you’re looking for a time-consuming puzzle solver then you really can’t ask for a better game then this one in my opinion. And at twenty bucks, the price can’t be beat.

The thing about Nemesis is that it honestly could be a very good game if not for all the problems. Puzzles range anywhere from simple to time consuming which makes for a good counterbalance when getting a sense of elation after completing an easy puzzle only to have a real head-pounding one right around the corner and bring you crashing back down. That is what makes an adventure game enjoyable, and it is the one bright spot in this mess of a game. You’ll notice exactly what I mean later on in the game when you can’t even have Sherlock make logical choices in common sense allowing the criminal to get away free as a bird for a while.

The question remains though: can you get past dizziness, half-bad graphics, awful voice acting, virtually no sound effects, and just overall frustration?

Me either.

Balance Rating: Poor

Originality

Let’s face it; there is barely any originality here. We’ve had countless mystery games with tons of puzzles thrown our way. Yes, just about every puzzle in Nemesis is unique in its own way, but when it comes down it, it’s still just a puzzle. I will give credit here though for the fill in the blank puzzles because I almost felt like my life had been whisked back to high school instead of the nineteenth century. Talk about confusing yet exhilarating all at the same time.

There isn’t much originality either in the way of making Sherlock Holmes the central character. He’s perfect for the part but he’s also been there before. And from what I’ve read during my research on the internet; many of those who have played his other games weren’t as thrilled with this one as they were with the others. You can only use a character so much before it loses all credibility. Mario is the exception of course.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

Addictiveness

God, could I be any more torn here? Never before have my wishes wanted a “Puzzle Only Mode” more. I’d play them night in and night out if I didn’t have to get to them in order to enjoy them. But no, in order to play them I have to stick on eight Dramamine patches and put my puke bucket next to me.

On more then one occasion my girlfriend would in and ask me if my hand was up to my forehead because I was stuck on a puzzle. Imagine her surprise when I merely told her I couldn’t open a random door placed at the bottom of the stairs and wasn’t sure why.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

Appeal Factor

No question about it, this game WILL sell in stores. Fans of the Sherlock Holmes series or even just those looking for a decent puzzle-solving mystery game will surely check out the back of the case and tell themselves, “Hmm this could be fun.” And you know what? They’re right. It could be a fun game if there weren’t so many flaws holding it down. Hell, this could be an absolute great game if it weren’t hadn’t been designed on a fishing boat by blind monkeys.

People really need to check out the puzzles included in Nemesis though. These are the types of challenges I’d love to see thrown into the next Resident Evil game, making the thought-process needed to play just as important as the reflexes for shooting up millions of zombies. I can’t tell you how often a mere “press the buttons in order” puzzle has pissed me off for being so easy. The puzzles in Nemesis are what made me love the first Shivers game so much. But the controls and other little awful things of Nemesis are what set it apart from Shivers and make me loathe it as well.

Appeal Factor: Mediocre

Miscellaneous

Not much else can be said that I haven’t already covered. The puzzles and music rock while the rest blows. Can’t get much simpler then that.

Miscellaneous Rating: Bad

The Scores

Story: Enjoyable
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Bad
Control & Gameplay: Very Bad
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Bad
Final Score: Below Average

Short Attention Span Summary

For bring my first time reviewing a game; I got the short end of the stick didn’t I? Not that I’m blaming anyone because my expectations were pretty high when it was announced Sherlock Holmes Nemesis would be on the way to my mailbox. Mysteries are awesome. Puzzle games are some of my favorites. 3-D graphics of old turn of the century London just screams coolness. But there are just some things you can’t get past when the biggest reason for playing video games is to have fun. Being nauseated and hoping Jack The Ripper appears to take out people in the street is not what I would consider fun.

Ok, Jack The Ripper appearing and taking out people would be cool to see, but not while nauseous.

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