So, last time I told you how great the Crimes and Punishments is, how Frogwares have created not just the best game they ever made, not just the best Sherlock Holmes game, but one of the best examples of adventure games in recent history, if not of all time. For some reason, 2 years later they followed up with The Devil’s Daughter, which isn’t the worst game in their Sherlock Holmes series, but is very close to being one.
Using the same overall structure ideas and a lot of mechanics, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter could be an improvement, an evolution, or a really interesting experiment of change. The team clearly aimed at the latter, but failed spectacularly. They changed the looks and personalities of Holmes and Watson, this time basing them on the Guy Ritchie movies – Watson looks almost exactly like Jude Law, while Holmes doesn’t resemble Robert Downey Jr. visually as much, but is animated to look like he’s being played by the named actor. The story attempts to be more “personal” and continues from the horribly stupid plot point of the ending of The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, which I was hoping, would be forgotten, but no – Holmes has a daughter now (who’s actually Moriarty’s daughter), and is emotionally highly unstable when it comes to the topic. And the overall tone and speed of cases is meant to be much more action heavy. And none of that works. Well, okay, 1 thing works – Watson feels less stupid than he sometimes appears to be in books and previous games, but even there – you don’t really spend a lot of time with him in this game.
In fact, it’s hard to say with whom and with what you spend most of the time. Very first case, for example, spends couple dozen minutes on a stealth section as Wiggins (one of the homeless helpers for Holmes). Then case ends on an escape scene which more or less resolves itself, without you doing much deducting. Next case opens with an extremely boring sports minigame and then spends half an hour in an imaginary Mayan temple, bad puzzles and Indiana Jones references. And those goddamn minigames… Even though I got a bit bored of lock-picking in Crimes and Punishments by the end, it never felt like it was pushing it, never felt like it was out of place. On the contrary, most of the content of The Devil’s Daughter is based around these mostly pointless mostly skippable minigames and QTE-like sequences that just do not work. There’s a sequence that tries to use the Holmes’ intelligence in a fight scene, again emulating Ritchie’s movies, but it’s all bad guesswork and poorly conveyed controls that work at random in the very same scene. And don’t even get me started on the “push the heavy object” puzzles, where even if you figured out what to do, you still have to wait through the agonizing minutes of pushing stuff.
There are attempts of expanding and improving on Crimes and Punishments, but those do not work either. You have more choice in analyzing people, but it’s either an obvious choice, or a pure guess on player’s part, which improves nothing. Visuals have been refined, but actually make some of the same locations between both games look less memorable and more blurry. Moral choices, which didn’t really play a big story part in the previous game and were there to fit Holmes’ character and give players more agency, are tied to the ending somewhat. But given that this whole thing is based around the horribly written and executed “Holmes has a daughter he cares about a lot for some reason”, it’s a moot addition. There are a few good puzzles that expand on the ideas of the previous games, but they are so few and sometimes poorly implemented as well, that it doesn’t save the game.
I fully support the idea of experimenting with Sherlock Holmes, especially after reaching such a high point as Crimes and Punishments was. In fact, as I’ve said many years ago, I’d love to see a modern take on Sherlock from Frogwares (Though the example I used last time, BBC’s Sherlock, has since went to crap). But Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter is a poor execution of a bad idea and a failed experiment. It lost almost everything that made the series Sherlock Holmes and is extremely not fun to play. Whenever the studio returns to the character, I hope they do something else with it.