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ELSPA: 12 years and up
A review by slydos 27th December 2002
The Ukrainian developers, whom we know today under the name Frogwares, stood behind the development of the Cryo adventure "The Mystery of the Nautilus" and operated under the name of T-bot Interactive. A Jules Verne series should be created before Cryo declared insolvency. But the Ukrainians continued and after the current game "Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Mummy" a further Jules Verne adventure will be created: "Journey for the Center of Earth". The English and French versions are published in each case by Wanadoo. German distributor is Modern Games/ Flashpoint.
We write the year 1899. Sherlock Holmes is called for help by his cousin to-be, Elizabeth Montcalfe, daughter of a famous egyptologist and collector. Her father disappeared 6 months ago, she tells Holmes in her letter. Lord Montcalfe seems to have committed suicide according to the police. The gamer slips into the role of Sherlock Holmes and begins with the investigations in Montcalfe Manor, a house, which reminds with its innumerable artifacts of a museum. A servant opens Sherlock, but Elizabeth cannot welcome him and the butler also disappears immediately. Thus Holmes must look around all by himself. But he doesn't seem to be that alone, at least one of the numerous mummies seems to have escaped and outside the mansion someone is creeping around in the darkness too. During his investigations Sherlock gets more than once into deadly dangers, while he draws conclusions from the evidence, that maybe a bit confusing for normal people however not for the famous master detective.
"Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Mummy" is sold on one CD with manual in a DVD box. For the installation it needs minimum 130 MB, maximal 655 MB on hard disk. We get directly into the main menu and can save, load, quit the game here or select options. The intro shows Holmes on his journey to his new place of work. He reads again Elizabeth's letter. After he enters the castle, we can take over control and start the game.
The totally mouse-controlled game (only with the left mouse button) begins, and we can smoothly scroll in all directions in 1st-person-perspective. From the mouse cursor we can read whether we can move in a certain direction or interact with an object.
Just ahead: The controls this time succeeded much better than with The Secret of the Nautilus. A mouse movement into the lower left corner, to the inventory bag or the main menu in shape of a book, does not always move the entire screen area. Only if you drive your mouse completely to the edge, the screen window scrolls.
The standard cursor is a well visible hand, which holds a pipe. With the open hand we can take an object, the pointing hand indicates a change of place or scene, a hand with wrench refers to on the fact that one can manipulate something and we get a zoom by the magnifying glass. Everything is described in the scarce manual, but we hardly need it, since control is intuitive and simple. Who should have despaired of the complicated control with Nautilus can calm down, this time handling is o.k..
The inventory opens on mouse-click in full screen mode. It is closed by a click on a button (would be simpler perhaps with a right-click). In addition all objects can be recognized clearly and are described by a text line as soon as they were selected. You carry a once selected inventory object as long until you put it back again. Objects can be used both, combined in the inventory and on a hotspot. There are items, which are not used. But the inventory is at any time clear and holds never more than 15 objects. Used and no more necessary items disappear.
Maybe you remember those hard to find hotspots in Nautilus. This is rare in Sherlock Holmes, but it can occur here and there hat you must position the cursor very precisely.
In the main menu two new menu options were added after the start. One can read all collected documents here. A second menu option shows all thoughts, that Sherlock expresses loud during his stay in a kind of protocol file, with newest on top. This is a very helpful tool, since sometimes the texts are not faded in at all or only shown briefly and so one can reread passages not understood. These comments can be switched off, but this is really not advisable.
The game has 6 save slots. A small picture of the screen, the chapter, day and time are stored automatically. All overwriting procedures must be again confirmed. Since one should store for good reason very frequently, these 6 savegames are insufficient. As there are several time-dependent game sequences, you'll save a lot and it can be, that you overwrite a later needed savegame.
The times, which one needs to start the game again, to save, to load or quit are absolutely short - another plus of the solid handling.
The entire plot of "Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Mummy" takes place within Montcalfe Castle. During the process of the game ever more rooms become accessible, one opens doors to showrooms, corridors, libraries, stockrooms and secret rooms - over 35 areas altogether - where really each detail counts and must be examined.
It's possible to adjust the filtering in the options menu and one can actually recognize an improvement of the always a bit blurred environment, if one selects the maximum setting. The more than 100 objects, one can use or gather, sometimes cannot be found in the opulent scenarios at first sight. So the mouse must move in all directions, also upward or down, and always also to the rear. We hardly find animations in the mansion, like fires or smoke. Only if we set a mechanism in motion, something is moving, and of course in the video sequences, in which we may see Sherlock and others in person. You can also watch a video sequence each time, when Sherlock must bite the dust. Honestly said, from time to time I had fun watching him break down and die, since he looks very similar to my old math teacher! The video sequences are of quite good quality, despite lip movements and facial expression.
The few music themes fit the antique or colonial-English ambience and become excited, the more our hero is under time pressure are or has other problems. Usually we hear oriental music, harp or xylophone tones. Few sound effects support the uncanny atmosphere in the lonely castle.
The dubbing improved in relation to the demo substantially. One now believes the speaker the English gentleman and also the other voices are suitably selected - unfortunately all characters (except one) act less expressionful than their voices.
The puzzles' degree of difficulty increases during the game (5 chapters) from a middle level up to very hard. Sherlock Holmes is not a game, that one would recommend to beginners. One knows by documents and Sherlock's comments usually, which task is up, but the execution already needs a precise proceeding, and advanced adventure gamers are already trained not to panic when a clock is running off.
Objects, documents and hotspots must be found. Sometimes this requires positioning accuracy of the cursor. Often a certain sequence must be observed. In other places the game is not linear and one can realize at the end of a time-dependent sequence that one has forgotten something in the other part of the house. I did not find any dead ends, however Holmes can die in many places.
Sherlock must bring machines to work, solve sliding and decipher coding puzzles. Hints can always be found, the gamer only has to find out the logical connection.
Time-dependent puzzles are frequent and here you must assume to need more than 5 or 6 approaches. The times are not at all limited scarcely, but the sequences provided with time limit are often very, very long! It is required that you crack several complicated anagrams in a certain time and then correctly note them on a board. A faded in chronometer increases the tension still more. However this puzzle gets still topped by a kind of japanese puzzle: on a playing field of 31 x 29 tiny squares, white and grey stones must be placed according to an algorithm which must be found out under time pressure!
Even if one does not recognize here and there the connection with the story, the puzzles are nevertheless very varied and as said partly very difficult. Thus the text on the box with approx. 20 hours play time promises nothing wrong (always presupposed one plays without walkthrough).
We get to know the background story, if at all, in bits and pieces by documents, Sherlock's comments and meetings with other characters. Only at the really surprising end we receive a detailed clarification of the facts.
No game, which I would recommend to beginners or players, who do not want to remain persistent also after many deaths in the same place. Likewise nothing for players, who love the talk and interact with many characters. For experienced adventure gamers however, who may bear the isolation of the ego perspective and hard puzzles with time limit, a recommendable challenge. "Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Mummy" will be published 2003 in a German version. An exact release date is not known yet.
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)
Minimal system requirements:
- Pentium or AMD 350 Mhz
- 64 MB RAM
- 8 MB graphic card
- 130 MB hard disk (minimal)
- Sound card
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Holmes on his way
Sherlock's comments are on screen if you wish
Beware - A Mummy!
You can read documents any time
Holmes finds an interesting book
Not much left
Who is creeping around outside?
Egyptian slider puzzle
Time is running out ...
Holmes has to watch out in the lab