Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes 2:
The Case of the Rose Tattoo
Developer: Mythos Software
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Game language and manual: German
Age restrictions: USK 12 years and older
A review by MaryScots 3rd September 2005
Oh yes, the publisher name I mentioned above is perfectly correct. There was a time when not everything Electronic Arts released was either sports- or action-games. However, 'The Case of the Rose Tattoo' was already the second classic adventure to be released by EA, featuring Sir Arthur Conan Doyles ingenious private detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted friend Dr. Watson.
I think I can drop an introduction of the two gentlemen as everybody knows them, or maybe not?! Sherlock Holmes is in fact the most famous private detective in world literature and with that the star of numerous detective stories, movies and after all quite a number of adventure games.
A little less famous than Holmes and Watson is Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes, MP. He is the one to initiate Holmes involvement in the course of events we shall have to deal with in the 'Case of the Rose Tattoo'. The case begins with Holmes and Watson arriving in front of the Diogenes Club where they are supposed to meet Mycroft who asked for a private talk. He has some strictly confidential things to relate and wants to ask Sherlock for cooperation. Just when they are about to enter the club the building is shaken by an explosion, flames burst out of the windows and the blast throws Holmes and Watson to the ground. Sherlock doesn't rest for long but hurries into the destroyed club to rescue his brother. Mycroft is badly hurt. Without conscience and with serious injuries he is taken to St. Bart's hospital. Sherlock, on the other hand, feels like a looser and retreats to his private rooms. This might be an unusual action for the cool-minded man but, after all, this is about family connections. Meanwhile, Watson begins with the investigation in order find some clues which could lure his friend out of his lethargy.
Once he has succeeded, the two will begin an investigation, which sends them on various tracks in all directions in and around London and through all levels of society.
The 'Case of the Rose Tattoo' is played from a third person's point of view. After loading the game the story always begins anew with the intro-movie which we can skip with the ESC-key to be able to access the option's menu by right-click. Now we can adjust some settings such as volume or switching the music on and off. We can even change the font and the transparency level of the text-frames. However, the loading, saving and the exit functions are the more important aspect here. What a pity that we only have 30 save slots at our disposal. That should be enough, all right, but I am kind of spoiled. ;-)
The whole game is controlled by a user-friendly point & click interface. Only twice we need the help of our keyboard to type in some words connected to puzzles. By left-click we make - in the beginning Dr. Watson - and through the rest of the game Sherlock Holmes walk to the spot we want them to go or we receive written information about hotspots. We will discover them on mouse-over when the name of the object is added to the cursor. With a click the explanation then appears in text-form for our reading pleasure. Whether we can collect or use something or whether we can talk/show/hand something to a person we can find out by a right-click opening a context-menu containing the available options. This is where we will also find the inventory called "bag". Items stored here can be used within the locations or with other characters by drag & drop - the same dragging & dropping goes for the examination of evidence with chemicals and small tools at the laboratory desk.
The graphics of this adventure might seem familiar to those of you who already played The Riddle of Master Lu. The reason is that for the 'Case of the Rose Tattoo' as well real-life actors have been filmed who where later implemented into the drawn backgrounds. This symbiosis of styles works very well, although, apart from being wonderfully detailed some of the backgrounds lack a certain depth which accounts for the impression that at times the characters do not walk on solid ground. It is not as annoying as it might sound but now and then I noticed it.
Nothing of the actors' natural motions was lost while being transferred from reality into their new virtual home. The movements are smooth which also shows, for example, in the creasing of their clothes - I have to admit, though, that after a while watching Holmes put on/off his coat every time he left or returned home really started to wreck my nerves. Unfortunately, the low resolution of 640*480 pixels does not allow for detailed facial expressions but one can live with that. From time to time we will have to wait a short while until we can talk to an NPC, i.e. the young photo artist will first finish his momentary activity before turning around to greet us. Only the Constable being on guard in front of Scotland Yard seemed a little odd and restless - it's obvious that his movements run in a very short loop.
As mentioned before, the two-dimensional backgrounds of the locations as well as the town map are drawn beautifully and very detailed. They come to life by animations such as crackling flames in the fireplace, NPC's walking around and going about their businesses, but also by the flare of the - in the day of Holmes - still used gas-lamps the light of which also shines into the room through the window over a door. Transparent wisps of smoke slowly glide through the ruined rooms of the Diogenes Club and clouds of mist move across the map of London on which new locations appear every now and then depicted by a characteristic icon.
Exits from the scenes, which at times can be wider than the visible screen, are shown by an arrow marked 'Exit to Town' when we move the cursor along the edges of the screen. Afterwards we will see the town map which is almost four times bigger than the part we can see so we have to 'push' the visible field up and down, left and right with our mouse to find the icon of the place we want to visit next. After clicking the icons loading screens appear for a short time each of them being a nice old black and white photo of the place/area chosen showing us the looks of it in Sherlock's times.
Voice-overs/Dialogues and Sound
All in all, the German voices are chosen very well, with the exception of the Constable who once again slightly interferes with the rest. His voice sounds a little like a parody - well, perhaps this was intentional in order to make him a bit of a caricature. A comparison with the English original version would be very interesting as we will deal with a lot of people of varying origin (i.e. Germany) and descent (aristocracy and working class), an aspect which has not or maybe could not have been handled with much care in the German localisation.
I am almost ashamed to admit that - apart from a novel supporting my English studies at school - I have never read a Holmes story at all and therefore cannot judge whether the dialogues match the style of the books. While listening to Holmes' explanations I sometimes felt quite uneducated but I can live with that. And obviously, so does Watson. One of his comments which often made me smile is the following: 'It sounds so simple the way you put it. I would probably be irritated if I wasn't that busy being impressed.' :-) Anyway, when right-clicking an NPC you chose the option talk and a frame pops up containing a choice of topics. The ones you have exhausted will get paler but new topics might be available every time you did something elsewhere.
Some of the locations could have used a lot more sound effects. Often it seemed as if they had simply been forgotten as some other places showed real carefulness in that regard. However, you cannot ignore the walrus-like snoring of the street urchin Wiggins who takes his nap behind the news stand in front of 221b, Baker Street unless he is out on an errand for Holmes.
The midi-music which almost constantly plays in the background might take a little getting used to. It definitely fits the time in which the story is set and the locations as well - especially the march 'Preußens Gloria' (Glory of Prussia) is implemented very nicely. You'll find out for yourselves, I don't want to spoil anything.
Now, the rating will become a little difficult. Let me put it like this, for those of you who value solving their puzzles in an adventure game by combining inventory-items as often as possible, this won't be your cup of tea. We do have to combine, though, - as is characteristic for Sherlock Holmes - the information we gather from conversations some of which we should repeat to make sure we did not miss out on anything. Sometimes we will only trigger new topics or even access to new locations if we show a person one of our findings.
Often we have to complete tasks which are not always obvious at first but usually do emerge from the current whereabouts. There are some puzzles involving the acquisition of items, however, the objects mainly serve as a basis for Sherlock to draw his conclusions which in return we have to keep track of. An abundance of hotspots can be found and we should examine all of them - Warning! Pixelhunt! -, although we will mostly only receive a text frame to be read (seems the localisation-budget wasn't large enough for a spoken explanation) there is generally something we can also take with us. After all, I liked the fact that we have some more opportunities to work at Sherlock's laboratory desk than in 'The Case of the Silver Earring'.
If you like mini-games you might rejoice in a little challenge of Darts. I, for one, have learned the rules of the traditional English pub-sport through this puzzle. ;-) Other than that, only one real brain-teaser will cross our path. In case we get stuck and don't know where to go or what to do next help can be found in the hints-booklet which comes with the game or just ask Watson for a look into his journal.
The German Version is presented on one CD-ROM and comes packed in a cardboard-box with an extra sleeve along with the manual and a hints booklet.
If you own a PC with Windows95/98/98SE including the appropriate VESA drivers for your video card - Happy Adventuring! - you are a winner. If not, getting to play this game could prove to be a difficult task. Even on XP with the help of DOS-Box this adventure does not run really well (graphics are acceptable but the sound is very choppy) and not at all in compatibility mode because it is DOS-based. Sorry folks, but that's how it is. If anybody knows a solution to this, please let me know.
The 'Case of the Rose Tattoo' is in itself quite an entertaining adventure game that above all requires listening, keeping your thoughts on track, close observation and drawing logical conclusions, all of which helps the player to better identify with the mastermind because s/he shares his modus operandi. The game recommends itself to all kinds of players - pro and non-pro alike - by its not too difficult puzzles - except for the darts game which could strain some people's patience. Getting into the story, on the other hand, was not that easy for me. Despite its 'explosive' intro, the first third felt rather dull to me and regarding the overall level of suspense and highlights even the further development of the story left a lot to be desired. Although the graphics are not all the rage they are still beautiful to look at and about 30 hours of playing time are not bad either. However, as the biggest problem is the game's incompatibility with current systems and the fact that the manufacturers have spared themselves the trouble of recording voice-overs for the numerous lengthy comments on objects, I can merely bring myself to award a B-.
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimum system requirements:
- MS-DOS 5.0+ / Windows95
- Intel 486 / 66 MHz or 100% compatible
- 8 MB RAM (DOS) / 16 MB RAM (Windows)
- 2x-CD-ROM drive+
- SVGA-local bus or PCI-video card with 256 colours, VESA 1.2 compatible
- Sound Blaster or 100% compatible
- 30 MB free space on hard drive
- Keyboard and Microsoft-compatible mouse
- Pentium II 400 MHz
- 256 MB RAM
- 40x CD-ROM drive
- ATI Rage Pro 8 MB video card
- Sound on board
The game starts