Camen Design Forum

Game Reviews

Kroc

:: Lost Cases of 221B Baker Street

* Hidden object puzzle, PC/iOS

You've probably heard of these types of games before; a Where's Wally / Waldo type of game where you're given a detailed scene and a list of stuff to find. Hidden object games are very much the bread-and-butter of the casual gaming market (aside Bejewelled clones) aimed at the older generation. I picked this one up for cheap from a charity shop because I'll play/read anything with Sherlock Holmes to sort out the gems from the dross.

Perhaps I'm getting old but I was pleasantly surprised by the game -- it's good for a quick 15 minutes blast now and again. It milks its Sherlockia / Victoriana theme for all its worth; this is not period-correct but more the usual American's idea of Victorian London (including the highly questionable geography: Stone Henge a stone's throw from London!?). The game consists of 16 "cases" each consisting of an introductory animatic / voice-over, 3-5 screens of pixel hunting and various IQ-style thematic puzzles interspersed with a final 'who-dunnit' puzzle that wraps the case up with a closing cut-scene.

These games are churned out by the dozen so don't expect the most outstanding production values. There's high points and good-enough points, but little outright wrong with the package. The voice acting is varying in quality (Holmes and Watson are actually the worst of it) but it is good to see a variety of British accents and characters used. The stories / scenarios can sometimes be a great fit for a Sherlock Holmes story and come off well in this highly-condensed form.

There's a couple of modes in the main pixel-hunting portion of the game. The first you'll come across is a given list of objects to find (the easiest). The second is a 'find the differences' scene where you have to find the items different in two copies of the scene, though the items may not be exclusively in one or other side! (and no list is provided)

Finding specific items out of the required lot brings up a puzzle. These will be thematically integrated in some way, such as 'piece together the torn up letter'. None are difficult but there's a wide variety of them and most are satisfying to solve, my favourite for example was a child's diary that was wrapped in lots of different coloured twine. You have to click on the top-most string that isn't covered by any other piece of string. A very simple premise but a pleasant challenge when there's a whole mess of them criss-crossing over.

The random assortment of bits and bobs you find reveal related characters to the story (the butler's watch &c.) which builds up your list of suspects. Once you've gone through the scenes and picked up a veritable junk-shop inventory you return to Baker Street to deduce the criminal. Being the casual game that this is, it's a matter of simple puzzle solving and not actually any work on your part -- you can safely ignore the details of the suspects as you play. You start with a grid of the suspects that you must rearrange according to the criteria given by each row / column combined, i.e. a column might be "Female", but a row might be "Glasses". This part plays pretty well and works thematically as some kind of 'method of deduction' whilst keeping the puzzle logical only.

Once you've arrange the suspects the next puzzle strikes me as just plain strange and unfulfilling. An item associated with each suspect is shown next to their portrait and you have to remember these and pick out which one has changed in each round, eliminating suspects until left with only one. It feels very random and highly detached from everything you've done so far. Mr B the Baker will start out with a chef's hat and then the next thing it'll be a rubber ducky and that's him eliminated from suspicion! Very bizarre.

The art is very so-so. The base scenes are usually quite pretty but you'll get a huge variance in the quality of the photo-shopping of objects into the scenes. This part is definitely the work of one guy armed with a crap-tonne of images of all-kinds and little consistency between them all. The game's resolution is only 1024x768 and this is probably the biggest limitation as this makes finding some objects quite difficult with such low resolution and some bad photoshop quality sprinkled throughout.

:: Highlights

* Perfect for a 15-minute break. Engaging without being taxing.

:: Areas of Improvement

* Low resolution and obvious photoshop quality throughout
* The bizarre let-down of a puzzle at the end of each case
* Cheesy in the way only a tourist could love
* Just 16 cases, you could blast through this in a couple of hours so pace yourself

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