Every story has to start somewhere, and for a mastermind of in the art of detective work, that origin story begins in the upcoming Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One. The latest game in the long-running Frogwares series, the developer is taking its favourite sleuth back to his formative days as a dabbler in deduction, long before he set up shop in Baker Street.
The big difference this time though? Sherlock’s not going to be exploring the seedy streets of London, but will instead discover his true calling in life as he becomes involved in a gigantic mystery on a Mediterranean-inspired island that hides a few secrets of its. own. Sherlock’s mum is dead, the young lad is bored, and there’s a mystery to be unraveled as Holmes works his way through five primary cases and several other smaller crimes through numerous side-quests.
Sherlock may not yet be the seasoned crime-solver in Chapter One, but his brain is still as well-lubricated as you’d expect it to be in this prequel. In a hands-on demo that I played, Sherlock and his trust companion Jonathan, who I have theories on regarding his ability to warp space and teleport anywhere, quickly find themselves thrust into the game’s opening crime.
This is where Chapter One shows its hand, as a case of supernatural thievery, British colonialist attitude, murder, and Ockham’s Razor all combine to get the ball rolling. Sherlock: Chapter One wastes no time in throwing clues at you, but in classic whodunnit fashion you’re going to have to figure out how each of those elements line up and create a picture from them.
Sherlock has access to his mind palace (lol yes really) in which to organise every scrap of information that he uncovers through his keen eye or brazen attitude, and eventually you’ll need to make a decision as to who the culprit of any particular crime actually is. The only catch here? You’ll need to be 110% certain who you’re accusing, as there is an element of cocking up if you get your facts wring that can lead to the wrong party being made to look guilty. Intellect, yo.
What’s immediately appealing about this new take on Sherlock Holmes is its location, as the Mediterranean change of scenery makes for a more energising and vibrant sandbox within which to ply the trade of Holmes. Don’t get me wrong, a well-designed Victorian London is still great, but that’s one holiday destination I could do without for a year or two!
Frogwares has also added more tricks up Sherlock’s proverbial sleeves, as players will be able to don a disguise, use haute couture fashion to gain the trust of various social groups, and even deck Sherlock’s mansion out to suit their various tastes. Heck even how you handle Sherlock’s abrasive personality will have an impact on your relationship with Jonathan, who’s not afraid to give you some lip.
All of these various elements are gelling together to create a game that has definitely learned a few lessons from Frogwares’ previous and wonderfully weird detective game The Sinking City (like never trusting NACON ever again I’d imagine), resulting in a sandbox that so far feels more intimate and focused on the core story of the game.
It’s fun to feel like the smartest character in a room, and Chapter One very much nails that theme with Sherlock’s unrelenting genius and the manner in which he explores the world around him. Chapter One is building on a foundation that looks set to offer a ton of content to amateur sleuths: Around 15 hours of gameplay for the main campaign, dozens more for the optional mysteries, multiple endings, and a guiding hand that gently eases you into each case.
Frogwares has proven itself to be damn good at piecing together an intriguing story over the years with each new Sherlock Holmes game, and by going back to the start of it all it has a brilliant foundation to work from and build a new mind palace for a new generation of would-be gumshoes. The game is indeed afoot, when Sherlock: Chapter One launches on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S later this year.
Last Updated: June 2, 2021