Everybody loves a good mystery. Whether it’s an unsolvable case or a mind-bending puzzle, most people love the adventure of challenge and discovery. Maybe that’s why the greatest fictional detective in history has survived the times so well. He’s a symbol for the inner detective that lies in all of us.
Have you ever escaped an escape room or solved a really hard riddle? You know that feeling of “Yes! I’m smarter than I think I am.” that surrounds you immediately after? That’s the feeling I had multiple times while playing Sherlock Holmes Chapter One. Now, this is not by any means the first Sherlock Holmes video game, but it is a unique origin story for the fabled character we’ve all come to love.
Created by developer Frogwares, Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is just one of the many Sherlock Holmes adventure games they have created through the years. This one, however, is a massive leap forward for the developer and the overall experience of Sherlock Holmes. If you played The Devil’s Daughter, you might remember seeing a familiar version of Holmes in a limited map of London, in which you could select locations on the map and the game would then bring you there while you sat in your carriage reading. You would have an area to explore and everything was mostly laid out in front of you. Well, Chapter One completely throws that gameplay out of the window and puts Sherlock in an open world. Yes, you read that right, an open-world Sherlock Holmes game.
This version of Sherlock Holmes is unique from its predecessors in the fact that you are a young Sherlock visiting the fictional Mediterranean island of Cordona. The island is where Sherlock was raised for most of his youth and is a place of great mystery and personal discovery. The story is closely centered around Sherlock returning to the island to pay his respects at his mother’s grave. Upon his visit, he is quickly roped into numerous cases and pushed into an unraveling mystery regarding his mother’s death. As the story unfolds, we learn a lot about the people of Cordona as well as the origins of Sherlock’s past.
The island of Cordona is not the biggest map you will ever see in a game but it is more than enough for this story. The game wants you to travel and explore while also interacting with the many characters on the island. As you explore, you will find plenty of side missions as well as clues for ongoing cases. There is no rush to your exploration and everything you discover will only play to your benefit, but you must be very aware of what you find. The game does not hand things to you on a platter like previous installments, and much like the young Holmes, you must learn to gather clues and pinpoint exact causes yourself. You might even make the wrong judgment or completely miss an important clue, so the feeling of freedom weighs heavy while playing.
Holmes is in his early twenties in the game and looks like a character straight out of a Tim Burton film. Aside from looking like one of those Gen-Z kids you see hanging around the mall, his character is rather funny and cunning, and he slowly grows on you. Also, if you aren’t feeling his attire, you can change his outfit in the wardrobe option once new outfits are acquired. Holmes is not alone in his journey, but if you were hoping for Watson in this game then sadly he is not in Holmes’ life yet.
Instead, you are accompanied by Sherlock’s childhood friend Jon, who funny enough is imaginary. His witty commentary and the way he appears around Sherlock is super entertaining, but he is also an example of Sherlocks’ own self-criticism and humor. You might find him laying on a bed behind a murderer or playing the piano as Sherlock is looking for clues. I was creeped out by him at first, but I found it enjoyable as I continued on.
The island of Cordona is jam-packed with activities and cases to solve. You might find yourself gathering clues and solving cases later than expected. Sometimes the game might seem confusing or like too much to handle at once but it is always best to move step by step. You can view everything you need to solve cases in the menu option. There you will find Mind Palace, casebook, Jon’s Diary, map, wardrobe, and options. Sherlock’s Mind Palace is basically where he gathers his observations into sentences, and you can link related clues to formulate a theory for solving the crime.
This section could either work in your favor or against you so be very observant of what you choose. Sherlock’s casebook has a list of every clue you discover and it corresponds to the case you select. You can use these clues to help with interrogations and even select them if you think it is a relevant clue to question about. Jon’s diary is basically Sherlock’s inner commentary from the perspective of his imaginary friend. You could read his entries and gain a little more knowledge about Sherlock’s mistakes and observances.
The map and wardrobe are pretty much self-explanatory. On the map, you can view the entire island and set markers for travel points or areas of interest regarding your cases. You can even fast travel to places you’ve explored using the carriage driver. The map is divided into 5 locations all connected by little bridges, so there is a great deal to explore. The wardrobe provides you with options of changing Sherlock’s look, along with disguises that may prove useful for certain missions. Think of Hitman, but Sherlock Holmes-style if that makes sense.
The cases vary from solving murders to theft, to even new and old cases. There is so much for Sherlock to handle on this island and it is incredible that one young man is at the forefront of it all. There are even personal treasure hunts and riddles that might bring you closer to Sherlock’s youth. You must use Sherlock’s special skills to solve most of these cases which include detective vision and sonar clue scan.
If you press the right bumper on your console remote, everything turns blue and white. You can use this option to see hidden details or evaluate someone just by looking at them. Everything turns into a sketch drawing and it is Sherlock’s way of analyzing events from the past and present. If you press the left bumper, a sonar wave kind of like the ones from Assassins Creed appears and you can find hidden clues momentarily. These are the two greatest assists to Sherlock’s discovery skills so be very keen on how you use them and try your best not to miss anything.
As for combat, there are a few times where Sherlock is thrown into battles. These situations are sometimes tedious and nearly avoidable for the most part. There are some thrown into the main narrative that are unavoidable. Be sure to follow the QTE options and then everything will work out just fine. Some of these situations feel forced and it doesn’t seem to flow as well, but what is a Sherlock Holmes game without villains and some combat?
Overall, aside from some quirky dialogue and slightly confusing missions, Chapter One is a tremendous adventure that would leave even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle entertained. I believe the game to be more than 35 hours or longer, and I’m sure there could be more side missions I’ve yet to explore, but that’s the beauty of this game. It’s a continuous adventure as you grow into one of the world’s best detectives. If you haven’t already downloaded it, do yourself a favor and solve these mysteries. Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is available on PS5/4, Xbox one and X/S, and PC.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Sherlock Holmes Chapter One for PlayStation 5 provided by Frogwares.