Thursday, June 05, 2008

He Got Game

Lord knows, I'm not a game guy.

Oh, sure, when I got my first Mac and first fell in love, I was as enthralled as the next geek by Tetris, Eight Ball Deluxe and the then-cutting edge charm of Marathon, one of the very first point and shot games. In fact, some of my best memories of time spent with my son, Dylan, were crouched over that old Power PC, working our way through the intricate levels of Marathon and Rebel Assault and later, Golden Eye and Pod Racer.

But for me, the charm more or less wore off. I'll admit to an occasional on-line round of Text Twist or FreeRice, but for me, the hours spent diddling around on some game are pretty much a thing of the past.

Until now. The folks at Legacy Games asked me if I'd be interested in blogging about their new-on-CD-ROM game, The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes, and of course, scrounger and moocher that I am, I said sure.

But, I warned them, I'm not really a game guy and besides I'ma Mac guy. and haven't all the games gone over to the dark side now? Not a prob, they assured me. The demo on their site is for PC, but the actual game is available as a Mac/PC hybrid on CD. Which they said they would send me if I wanted.

"Free stuff!" I figured.

Well, I played the online demo on The Girl Detective's PC one night after she'd gone to bed (poor chile -- she's on that blasted thing all day long) and I liked it.

And then the game itself arrived, and I got to play a few more levels than the demo allowed. And I'm liking it. A LOT.

Legacy's touting it as the first computer game officially licensed by the Conan Doyle estate, and I've got to amit it's pretty cool -- particularly for those familiar with the canon. There are plenty of tips of the deerstalker here and Mycroft, Inspector Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson and a few other familiar faces make cameos.

Sure, the animation's a little stiff, but otherwise, the artwork's pretty well-done -- the richly detailed settings for the actual games are a feast for the eyes.

There are sixteen cases in it, with a bonus game for the triumphant detective who cracks the first sixteen, and I'm about halfway through. The "cases" all feature a crime of some sort -- sometimes murder, sometimes not. Each one is introduced by Holmes, who confers with a client while Watson plays straight man. The scenario is laid out and the boys journey through Victorian London to the invariably cluttered scene of the crime (a circus tent, a drawing room, the British Museum, a library, Big Ben, The Royal Theatre, etc.), where they must examine the evidence. From here, it's pretty much a glorified version of I Spy -- you have to spot the discrepancies between two photos, or find a list of carefully hidden objects. The discovery of each bit of evidence (a glove, an egg, a dagger, a candlestick, a pistol, etc.) provides additional clues on suspects and possible motives, and some evidence triggers further challenges (a word scramble, a code to break, a jigsaw puzzle, a memory game, Sudoku, etc.) that must also be solved (games within games, if you will). A second (and occasionally third) mini-game generally presents you with another room to toss, and then the 6-12 suspects are gathered together, sorted out (Who has blue eyes, sideburns and is not a woman?), and their motives and evidence summarized.

I guess if you sat down with a pen and paper and really thought it through, the cases do make a certain sense, but with a time limit on each game (generally 25-30 minutes) you don't really have the luxury. And anyway, who cares about pens and paper when they are more clues to find and the clock is ticking?

The actual mystery in each case is more a frame work to hang the games on than an actual mystery. Like I said, it's more like a glorified game of I Spy (the proper term, I've been told, is a "Hidden Object" game) with a healthy dose of Clue tossed in. But that doesn't negate the unexpected charm of this game.

According to their blurb, Legacy is evidently the "leading developer and publisher of casual games for people of all ages," and I think that the word "casual" is part of what makes me enjoy this game so much. It's a pleasant diversion, a half-hour at most, and at the end you either have solved it or you haven't (and you'll have to go back and take another crack). Solving one case lets you proceed to the next.

Sure, hard-core gamers like Dylan may shrug. "It's not really my type," he pointed out, "but for what it is, it's not bad. There are some funny touches, like when you click 'quit' in the menu there's a voice that says 'cheerio!'" And some may dismiss it as "pretty easy... really a kid's game" but for the casual gamer, looking for a break, this is ideal.

And the game only looks easy. Once you get past the first few cases, the cases and mini-games get decidedly trickier and the suspect pool increases. And once you get drawn into its world, well, suffice it to say you DO get drawn into its world. I found myself staying up until two last night playing the damn thing. It was always "Just one more game...."

There's part of me, of course, that wishes that something a little more hard-boiled than Holmes and 221B Baker were available (I haven't come across a gin-soaked floozy or a set of brass knuckles yet!), but for now, this will do just fine.

The Mac version of the game is available for download at and the PC version is available right from Legacy'. . You can also buy the CD-ROM version all over the place.

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Blogger bluesky said...

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Check it out at

5:21 AM, June 06, 2008  
Blogger djomg said...

Wow, I'll seriously have to get this game.
Nice review!

1:24 PM, June 06, 2008  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Well, it's a fun game. Simple and straightforward, and doesn't suck your life away. A diversion more than a holy cause. Just what I'm looking for these days.

I'm so not a game freak that I didn't even know they're called "casual games."

11:07 AM, June 08, 2008  
Blogger djomg said...

I would say I'm less casual. Probably due to not having kids and therefore a bit more time and $. I wasn't much of a gamer as a kid. I never owned a nintendo... I did have an atari 2600, but who the hell didn't?
Spent most of my time playing music and studying film, and now want to do something a little less "culturally epic".

Although to hear some of these game guys talk, revolution is afoot.

12:37 PM, June 08, 2008  

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