Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silver Earring
Review by Old Rooster
Yesterday, I finished a ten-day visit with an old friendSherlock
Holmes. Together with his associate, Dr. Watson, Holmes asked for
my assistance in solving the Case of the Silver Earring.
Unfortunately, although I've always enjoyed visits to the gracious
and visually elegant times of Queen Victoria, I also found this
particular journey with the brilliant detective to be quite tedious,
even rather boring.
"He Is of Low Birth, Has Few Friends and Poor Taste in
It is always entertaining when our sleuth can make deductions such
as the above without even having met the person in questionin
this case, Lord Bromsby. Our evening began with what was going to
be a pleasurable outing. We were to visit Cavendish Hall, largely
to hear one of our favorite opera singers, Gallia. Also, the hugely
successful Lord Melvyn Bromsby was to give a short address highlighting
some changes in his lucrative business. Tragically, Lord Bromsby
didn't get too far into his speech before he was most rudely shot!
Of course, Holmes and Watson immediately react to seal off the mansion
and grounds, enlisting you and me, the players, to help them solve
what develops into a most confounding conundrum of crime.
"The Game Is Afoot"
Let's be initially a bit pedantic and discuss the presentation
of and mechanisms for playing this case. After three installations
from the two included CDs, we couldn't get Silver Earring to
run without immediately crashing to the desktop. Finally, I discovered
two critical factorsturn off your virus checker while playing
and, most important, set the desktop resolution to the resolution
of the game, in this case 1024×768.
Once up and running, one can't help but be very impressed and properly
motivated by the initial cutscene (and subsequent ones), as well
as the stunning and detailed depiction of Cavendish Hall and other
prerendered backgrounds. Indeed, your mystery tour will take you
through 40 London-area locations over five levels, with the visuals
being a major part of the appeal.
Voice acting seems professionally done and is generally "spot
on," at least according to my English wife. Holmes sounds upper-class
and pompous, while the "downstairs" Cavendish Hall staff
display the London city accents one might expect.
In close-ups, the expressions of the multitude of characters are
impressive, although lip-synching is not at all accurate. From a
distance, though, you'll find that Holmes and Watson are controlled
by the traditional point-and-click-on-the-floor method, with this
movement being accomplished on a static screen. Tragically, pathfinding
and precision of control are poor, and you may spend undue time
literally going in circles!
"Hmm ... There Is Dust. Excellent!" Holmes
As with most adventures, and particularly with ones of a scientific
nature, you'll spend an inordinate amount of time pixel-hunting.
This presents a problem to happy progress! Not only is there a dreadful
lack of precision with movement, but also some of the items to be
discovered are impossible to see unless your cursor "lights
up" with a hand to alert you. A strand of greasy red hair comes
There are cursors for movement, dialogue, and action (open a door,
pick up an object). These are accompanied by a very efficient inventory
bar, accessed with a simple mouse right-click. Your notebook records
the essence of conversations, reports, documents. Also included
is a map of London, with the various locations opened as you progress
in the game.
Holmes is equipped with a magnifying glass, tape measure, and test
tube for taking samples. Occasionally, you and he return to his
"lab" at Baker Street where detailed analyses must be
performed. One thinks here of some of the tasks in the CSI and
Law & Order games, although with 19th-century science.
Saving the game can be done anywhere (except during the fairly
frequent cutscenes), and there seem to be an unlimited number of
"I Have Not Yet Examined Everything" Holmes
And we may add to that comment: "I have not yet spoken with
everyoneagain and again!" The complex and interesting
story, which moves well beyond the initial murder, is laid out in
a very linear fashion. Within particular scenes or screens, you
must retrieve all items relevant to the case and move through all
conversational trees. You are not allowed to proceed (meeting with
Watson, for example) until and unless these tasks are completed.
As earlier mentioned, the pixel-hunting can be most difficult, and
I was hung up for a long time on that strand of hair, moving fruitlessly
from room to room, wondering what I had missed. Further, you may
think you have completed your conversation with a particular character,
but something else may open up without your realizing it. So you
sometimes have to go back and check with the multitude of persons
to see if any additional queries have become available.
There are some interesting gameplay twists, including a timed maze,
a stealth exercise getting past a guard dog and, most novel of all,
a quiz at the end of each of the five sections! All questions must
be answered correctly in order to move on, with the quizzes offering
a few ringers that can be confounding. Still, it's an interesting
and logical approachthe kind of thing Holmes might expect
of you (and Watson) as you offer your assistance.
"I Need Something" Holmes
The Case of the Silver Earring also needs something. Initially,
the game impresses with attractive settings, decent voice acting
and the promise of a thoughtful mystery to be solved. Unfortunately,
this becomes bogged down by static scenes, poor character movement
control, obscure pixel-hunting and the wearying need to redo conversations.
As regards gameplay and mechanisms, Silver Earring is dated,
not in the same league as the Law & Order series, for
example. What I had hoped would be a relaxing, intellectual, drawing-room
kind of experience became, instead, a tedious, boring, sometimes
very frustrating exercise I was glad to finish. In my final exam
for the game, I found Holmes to be barely acceptable.
What I Liked Most About The Case of the Silver Earring
- The Victorian times visuals are detailed and outstanding;
- Voice acting is professional and generally well-done;
- Story and narrative show the promise of being interesting.
What I Liked Least About the Game
- Each scene or screen is static;
- Character movement is imprecise;
- Required items can be almost impossible to locate;
- Redoing conversations is tedious;
- Rigidly enforced linearity can be painful.
Jesters (Europeversion reviewed); Ubisoft
(North Americapublished as The Secret of the Silver Earring)
Release Date: August 27, 2004 (Europe); September 28, 2004 (North
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 500 GHz (PIII 700 recommended)
192 MB RAM (256 MB recommended)
32 MB DirectX compatible video card
1.5 GB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
(Digital Jesters version) 47.90
(Ubisoft version) $19.99
Prices/links current as of 09/27/04
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