Category Archives: impressions

Feverishly swiping away at my phone to Make It Rain

make it rain windows 8 phone game impressions gd

I am a patient man. Perhaps maybe the most patient, but that is a test that anyone claiming such a thing could easily fail. I mean, if someone sits next to me and continues to flick my nose once every three seconds for the rest of my given life, I don’t expect to last long. For the most part, when it comes to videogames, I don’t mind having to wait. Sometimes the waiting, whether it is for a certain upgrade or pivotal story-beat, can be kept to the shadows when grinding or side quests are involved, and other times, like with a lot of today’s mobile entries, such as Disney Magical Kingdoms or The Sims FreePlay, the waiting is the entire game itself.

Make It Rain: Love of Money didn’t start out being a waiter, but it eventually hit a point where progress was unobtainable except through the passing of time. I’ll tell you how I know for sure in just a bit, but I guess I’ll cover the game’s story and mechanics first. Story-wise, it’s a mix of the thoughtful, coming-of-age journey Kaitlin’s sister experiences in Gone Home and the multiple dimensions, always-a-lighthouse time-funkaroo from BioShock Infinite, with a dash of Jazzpunk‘s zany playfulness thrown in for good measure. Okay, no. Just kidding. There isn’t a lick of narrative here, just a means to get digitally rich. Perhaps you are an absent-minded app developer who accidentally created this money-making product and must now figure out the quickest way to make it big. Your adventure may vary.

The game’s theme revolves around money, greed, and corruption, and opens with a Biblical quote, every single time, to remind you of the evils of temptation and your place as a servant to a higher being:

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

That aside, once you are playing Make It Rain, the greed takes over, and all you can do is earn money and spend money to help earn more money faster in the future so that you’ll have more money to spend on earning money. Money money money. You can do this in a few ways, with the main method being swiping the screen in the same fashion that one might swipe a wad of money from their hands if they wanted to “make it rain” on a stripper. It’s an amusing means to an end, even if it’s demeaning in nature. I often made it rain on my cats, for what it’s worth. Another way to earn money is by putting your hard-earned green stuff into things like insider trading, subprime mortgages, and the bribing of political figures. Doing this raises how much money you earn by swiping, how much you earn when not swiping or the game is off, and how much your bucket can hold before you need to empty it and start again. All of this has me wondering how much cash I’ve accrued in Fable II since last turning it on.

Make It Rain is the type of experience that can be never-ending. I decided to toss a flag and march towards it, with the end goal being to unlock every Achievement. By September 2015, I had all of them, save for three. One Achievement was for purchasing two bee-related services, of which I had one already, and the other cost a whole lot of money that seemed, given the game’s pacing, decades away. The second was for swiping 100,000 times, which I’m convinced is glitched. Lastly, the developers would love to reward you with a digital picture and 5 Gamerscore if you connected the app to your Facebook account. Well, zip ahead a whole year later to today, and I’ve crossed off two of those three and decided that “Erased Fingerprints,” the Achievement for swiping way too much, is never gonna happen.

I hope to never write about Make It Rain again–really, there’s not much more to say, and a part of me is still baffled that I played this and consider it something one plays–so let me tell you how the last year went, which was all about earning $123 KBB to purchase the Electronic Apiary. I first started out trying to both increase the size of my bucket so it could hold more cash, as well as boost how much I got per hour when not playing the game. I quickly became less interested in actively making money and preferred to let the app work its magic in the background. This proved glacier-like slow, with each increase being so minor that you never really felt you were making any ground, but so major that all your funds were depleted and you had to start from square one. I then decided to give up on trying to upgrade either and simply empty my bucket whenever it filled all the way up, which was probably every day and a half or two days. Granted, I often forgot to do this, which only prolonged the experience. This took, oh, about a year, and I’ll point you back to the very first sentence of this blog post.

It’s strange. In just the last few weeks or so, I’ve polished off a number of games that have been lingering in my backlog for a good, long while: Final Fantasy IX, Crimson Shroud, Spyro the Dragon, and now this. Also, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, a game I’ve been tapping away at its puzzles since 2014, is creeping close to the finish line. It’s like these things happen in large, social waves, and I have to wonder if some of the games I’m playing now won’t see their special haiku rewards for still some time. Again, I really don’t mind the wait. Occasionally, it’s not ideal, but sometimes it’s all you can do. In terms of Make It Rain, money doesn’t grow on trees overnight.

Doom’s demo proves one glorious, gory point

gd-impressions-doom-demo-first-level

This might come as a shock, but I first experienced Doom via its Super Nintendo Entertainment System port back in late 1995, at a neighbor’s house. I remember its red casing well, as well as my friend’s father being the sort of lawn fanatic that concerned me even at the virtuous age of twelve. This game and my copy of The Offspring’s “Smash” on cassette were items we hid whenever this man walked by his kid’s bedroom, but perhaps the topic of keeping things with parental warnings on them secret is best saved for another post.

Regardless, I am one hundred percent certain that this is not the version the developers over at id Software intended for people to play first. The SNES edition was published by Williams Entertainment and featured a custom engine programmed by Randy Linden. Naturally, this meant there were some stark differences between the PC and console versions, though I didn’t know about them back then, only years later upon reading about it via the Interwebz. One element that stands out is that, due to animation issues, there could be no enemies fighting other enemies, something that I found deeply amusing in the original first-person shooter where you fight demons from Hell.

Anyways, that’s not the Doom I am talking about for the rest of this post. That Doom is the new Doom–still just called plain ol’ Doom–from Bethesda and id Software and released back in May. I watched the Internet go all bug-eyed crazy over it and moved on with my life as, when it comes to shooters from Bethesda, I prefer the ones that let you slow down time and stuff your inventory full of coffee mugs. Well, to probably everyone’s surprise, the company kicked off E3 2016 by releasing a free demo of Doom‘s first level for all to taste, and here I am, some number of months later, ready to talk about it. Such is how my summers now go.

Let me give you some deep narrative setup so you understand why the ultra violent, ultra faceless character you are playing as is so invested in shooting demons from Hell into bloody bits with a supply of deadly firearms. As the lone DOOM Marine, it’s up to you to obliterate the relentless demon hordes invading the UAC facility on Mars. Mmm. Okay, there, now that’s done, and the guitar-ripping action can begin, and it does, oh so fast. I’m sure it is blindingly speedy on PC, but I was still charmed to see how quick and smooth everything moved on the Xbox One. There’s running, there’s gunning, there’s clambering, and there’s glory killing, all of which is happening simultaneously as a hard rock soundtrack plucked from some forgotten album collection in Satan’s attic pumps you onward.

Doom‘s demo is the entire first level of its single-player campaign, and it wastes no time getting into the thick of things. The DOOM Marine wakes up on a slab in some room of worship, grabs some armor and a gun, and begins blasting Possessed and Cacodemons in their faces. From there, it’s all forward momentum. You’ll push ahead and kill everything in your way, eventually ending up in arena-esque areas where you will have to keep moving to keep breathing. Performing a glory kill–a cinematic take-down you can activate after damaging an enemy enough–will provide you with some health pickups, so there’s more to do here than simply destroy all evil things. I also liked combo-ing one glory kill to another, feeling like a true powerhouse. You can also find collectibles in the environment, as well as take key cards off dead dudes that turned out to not be true powerhouses.

If anything, this demo worked as intended. It gave me a taste of how new Doom plays and feels without restricting the player or holding their hand through the entire experience. That first level is the first level. There’s also no strange Nintendo-like restrictions that say you can only play the demo X number of times or within a specific amount of time. I liked what I played, but I’m not ready to commit just yet, with too much still in my backlog to get through, but at least I know that when I get to this, I’ll have a bloody good time. I promise not to play this Doom‘s SNES port either…unless the rumors of cartridges making a return to the NX prove true.

Sadly, Crimson Shroud’s too difficult to grok and master

crimson shroud gd finished with the game

At long last, after years of grinding, following along with a spoiler-heavy walkthrough, then switching to a spoiler-free walkthrough, and grinding some more to defeat the final boss, I rolled a critical hit on Crimson Shroud. It is a complicated victory, one that I basically had to force myself to see because I am my father’s son and do not like to waste things, especially things I’ve bought with hard-earned digital cash, without experiencing them fully–or, to this point, mostly fully–but I am glad to have the large, 1,965 blocks-big application removed from my Nintendo 3DS. For many reasons, which I’ll get into later.

Allow me, one more time, to tell the tale of Crimson Shroud, as best as I can remember it because, for me, the last third of my progress on this game has been nothing but turn-based battle against goblins, one after the other. There was a short scene before the finally boss fight that was probably supposed to be revealing and satisfactory, but I had lost the narrative thread long before then for it to matter. Anyways, you control a party of three people as they make their way through the palace of Rahab. Giauque is a money-driven mercenary hired to retrieve the Crimson Shroud, the game’s titular McGuffin. He is joined by Frea, a Qish-descended mage, and Lippi, a stellar archer despite only having one eye. You might as well forget their names and know them by their classes: Tank, Healer, and Range.

It’s perhaps telling that I’ve actually never played any of Crimson Shroud‘s writer and director Yasumi Matsuno’s work, namely Ogre Battle 64, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Vagrant Story. After Crimson Shroud, I’m not sure if I would or will like them. The systems in this one really do sound great, on paper, such as creating combos through similar spells or rolling to clear away some accuracy-reducing fog, but I found their implementation confusing and clunky. For instance, you want to find gear you like and then grind out for more of those same items, feeding them into the one you have equipped so it can grow stronger. Fine, fine. I’m all about feeding. However, finding those same items is–excuse me for the saying–a roll of the dice, because the loot is random, and the fights take a very long time to get through, even when you seemingly have the upper hand. The way stats are shown is also difficult to decipher, and I eventually gave up trying to compare weapons and armor and stuck with what seemed okay, leveling it up as much as possible.

Crimson Shroud has been described as a bite-sized RPG. Perhaps it is too small. Not in scale, but in screen. All the combat action takes place on the top screen of the Nintendo 3DS, with menu selection and dice rolling on the bottom, where touching matters. Still, cramming all the fight details and characters in just the one screen above with a lot of text on top made it extremely difficult to follow who was doing what and the turn order. I often simply waited until the enemy finished attacking to see who was next in line for commands and went from there. I also never really understood why, if you killed all the enemies before they got a turn, the fight would be over, but if you didn’t then replacement goons would show up, making the whole ordeal last even longer.

Yes, the combat is strategic, but it is also immensely slow, as well as occasionally random. There’s also an unseen element of luck–obviously not just when rolling dice to use spells–that gives off the feeling that you are never truly in control of things. By the end of it all, I still did not have a strong grasp on what weapons and skills and spells worked against what type of enemy, or how new spells and skills were getting added to each character despite there being no XP won after each fight. Instead, you pick through a list of loot to take back to your inventory, but are limited in what you can take by some number cap.

After taking down the final boss and watching the credits do their thing, I was prompted to start everything all over again in New Game+. Curious, I tried to look up if anything greatly changed on a second playthrough, and enemies seemed tougher. No thanks. Anyways, I really do hope this is the last time I have to search for a usable screenshot of Crimson Shroud that can be manipulated to meet Grinding Down‘s strict standards because it is slim pickings out there, if you ask me.

With Crimson Shroud removed, I was finally able to download updates for Pokémon Shuffle, Nintendo Badge Arcade, and Mii Plaza, as well as the freemium Pokémon Picross puzzler, so there’s a plus in all of this. I even have room to spare for more stuff. See you never again, big, blocky game that, I guess, in the end, I really didn’t like all that much. I’ll think of you the next time I roll some dice.

Rescuing a village of emotional fruit people is just what you do in Karambola

karambola-final-impressions-capture

Here’s a funny coincidence: I played Karambola, and then, the next day, ate some carambola, for the first time, as part of a fruit salad when visiting family for babies and a BBQ. I found the starfruit to be quite sweet, but maybe my taste-buds are off as I was the only one to think this. Others claimed it as bitter. To me, it tasted like a sweeter grape–no, not the cotton candy kind–and I am officially a fan. I’m also a fan of the point-and-click adventure-in-your-browser game Karambola, strange as it is, an artsy mix of bitter and sweet, a satisfying snack in the end.

First, if anything, Holy Pangolin Studio’s Karambola has reminded me of a great sin–that I’ve not yet played Samorost 3 this year despite totally saying I wanted to. These games swim in the same bizarre and silly point-and-click adventure pool where everything is all at once familiar and slightly unsettling. I mean, in this one, a flock of evil bird-thoughts–which I assume are standard endothermic vertebrates that happen to bring about unwanted thinking to those they encounter, like gray clouds hanging overhead–attack a village of peaceful and, might I add, emotional fruit people. Unfortunately for our titular protagonist Karambola, all of his friends scatter, lost to their own inner demons, and it’s up to you to bring them back via some smart if unconventional puzzle-solving clicking.

Each distraught villager is its own scene and puzzle, and some are easier to figure out than others, but all clues are directly in front of you, distorted or purposefully blurred, hidden in the environment for you to find. Still, everything is eventually doable with enough thinking and clicking, and you are then treated to a little animation of the emotional fruit-headed villager coming back to reality and happiness, color washing the screen clean. Then it is back to the Mega Man-esque level select screen to save the next downer, until all hope is returned.

Music and sound effects are vital to Karambola‘s storytelling, especially since you only get a screen of text at the start to explain the setup and then nothing more. Audio helps sell these villagers as villagers and sets the tone for each scene, whether it is the rhythmic lighting up of windows or muted guitar chords as a pinecone-headed figure cries into a wooden tube in the woods. A lot of the music is low, soft, clearly atmospheric, and it mixes strongly with the colorless, almost sketch-like artwork of the fruit people against the water-colored backdrops. There’s also a really fantastic little musical loop that plays when you click on the evil bird-thoughts to get a glimpse of unspoken story in their silhouetted bodies. Some of the bands on the soundtrack include Bird of Either and Avell, which are both new to me.

Lastly, some linkage. I know, I know…I just linked to some bands’ Facebook pages, but these are the more game-relevant ones. First, check out this interview with Karambola‘s creator Agata Nawrot. Second, give this oddball of a game a shot by clicking here and enjoying it in whatever browser you like to use. I played mine in Mozilla Firefox, for what it’s worth. Lastly, fruit flies are the worst, but evidently evil bird-thoughts are much worse, so don’t let your guard down. After all, there’s never been a better time to be playing videogames than right now.

Some of your dreams can come true in Disney Magic Kingdoms

GD Disney Magic Kingdoms f2p mobile game impressions

At some point, I do promise to write about Theme Park, which was not the greatest simulation game ever to be simulated, but it stands out in my mind as something special because my sister Julie and I played it together, creating less-than-stellar amusement parks and laughing at how many people we could get to hurl after going on our sick–and I do mean sick–rollercoaster designs. I also remember being extremely impressed, at the time, over the visuals, especially the 3D parts where you could go through the rides view a first-person POV. I guarantee the game doesn’t hold up one lick today, but it’s a sentimental entry in my gaming history nonetheless.

Disney Magic Kingdoms doesn’t let you do that or even really run an amusement park in a simulation fashion. You can’t adjust how much the hot dogs cost or what admission tickets go for on a weekend versus a weekday. It’s instead more about leveling up, both the rides and attractions you place on the ground, as well as the familiar characters inhabiting the park from open to close. Yes, you level up Mickey Mouse, and it is both satisfying and unnerving at the same time. Also, every time you complete a mission with a character, you collect your reward by tapping their upraised hand, giving them a digital high-five. I’m pretty okay with that, especially when it is Buzz Lightyear.

Magically, Disney Magic Kingdoms does come with a plot, as well as many small, off-to-the-side subplots. Here’s the big one: Maleficent casts an evil spell on the Kingdom, ridding it of all of its powerful magic, and it’s up to Mickey and his friends to bring everything back. A bit perfunctory, but it gets the job done, and this thing is clearly aimed at a younger generation, with its bright, colorful graphics and bouncy tunes, so it’ll never get darker than that. Basically, you’ll be trying to build specific attractions and bring in famous characters from all the popular franchises, ranging from Sleeping Beauty to Toy Story to The Incredibles. To do that, you need the right amount of currency and special items, which you collect from rides/attractions on timers and completing missions. Alas, some missions take sixty seconds to do, and others go for anywhere between six to twelve hours. Yikes.

I find that, obviously, Disney Magic Kingdoms, is best played in short bursts, with the goal of returning to it many, many hours later to see what got done and start the process all over again. I usually finish everything I need to do in under 10 minutes, and once you have checked all your rides for currency/items and given every character a quest there isn’t much else you can do except stare at your screen and wait. Might as well wait doing something else. However, let me confirm that it is a big bummer when, after waiting six hours for a quest to complete, you sometimes don’t get the item you want and have to try again. I’m sure there is a way to buy the item or complete the quest using real-life U.S. dollars, but I’m not interested in that. I’m saving my hard-earned cash-money for next month for Disney Magical World 2, which should come as no surprise to those that read my thoughts on the first game.

Oh, and I never really mentioned the whole Happiness aspect. See, a bunch of the park’s visitors are looking for things to make them happy, and that could be going on a specific ride or listening to Jessie yodel. Everyone has their kinks. Anyways, if you fill the Happiness meter up all the way, you can start a themed parade, which, for a limited time, allows rides and attractions to give off bonus magic and XP, and quests will also end with better rewards. Unfortunately, the Happiness meter drains when you aren’t playing, so I haven’t focused too hard on this area as it never feels worth the effort.

Being a free-to-play mobile game, Disney Magic Kingdoms is constantly changing. The game has gone through several updates already. One update brought in a timed event themed around The Incredibles and tapping on a bunch of evil robots invading the park. Looks like this week there’s an update that’s all about Pirates of the Caribbean. When will we get one focused on The Rescuers, hmm? There are also now chests akin to the chests from Clash Royale that you can find and open, but they are naturally on timers, and you can only open so many and open them so fast unless you are willing to spend the rarer currency of gems. No thanks. I mean, I’ll continue to open one chest at a time and hope for the best, but otherwise want nothing to do with this system.

Disney Magic Kingdoms is a more enjoyable time-killer, tap-taker than other games in this genre, but I wonder if that is mostly due to my love and appreciation of all things Disney. It really does help that the quests revolve around familiar, likeable characters, and that the carrot on the stick is unlocking more familiar, likeable characters. Plus, the game both looks and sounds amazing. They have Mickey’s “Oh boy!” and Goofy’s “Guffaw!” down perfectly, and the soundtrack features a number of memorable tunes. The characters are well animated, the environments are authentic, and you’ll find yourself whistling while you work as classic Disney themes play overhead.

Look, I’ll keep going with it, but I wonder if, just as with The Sims FreePlay, I’ll hit a point with Disney Magic Kingdoms where the grinding takes too long and becomes more of a nuisance than fun and close this park for good, only to ever see it appear again in one of those posts about creepy, neglected amusement parks overgrown with rust and decay.

Dive deeper, swim faster in Beneath the Waves

gd-post-impression-beneath-the-waves-capture

Beneath the Waves begins with, naturally, as all platforming-based videogames with a retro aesthetic should, the destruction of a romantic relationship. See, the Sun and the Ocean used to live in harmony, united, all smoochy smoochy, but have now fallen out. Well, the Sun wants its CDs back, and by CDs I of course mean precious gifts. You’ve been requested to gather these idols hidden beneath the waves–hey, that’s the name of the game wink wink–and return them to a series of pedestals high in the mountains. The trouble is, the Ocean and its denizens do not like this plan. Not one bit.

As mentioned above, Beneath the Waves is a platformer. Well, two types of platformer actually. There’s the part where you are on land, jumping from ledge to ledge, escalating higher into the sky to find the pedestals upon which you will place the returned idols. Then there’s the other part, in the water, where you are swimming and diving deep and avoiding dangerous schools of fish or heat-seeking sharks. The platforming underwater is actually more challenging than above the surface, as the little dude is able to cling to walls to reach higher ledges, but swimming past obstacles while the pressure is on requires a little more finesse and patience. I guess the best comparison I can make is that the swimming has a similar feel to arcade racing games–a little loose, with momentum an issue.

Controls in Beneath the Waves are fairly simple: use the arrow keys to move around, and [X] or up jumps. I stuck with [X], in case you wanted to know. Your main goal, to progress forward, is to find the idols deep down in the water, and thankfully you don’t need to worry about an oxygen bar as the main character can evidently breathe underwater indefinitely. Y’know, like Aquaman. As you search the underwater caverns for these idols, you’ll notice an abundance of friendly aquatic life that you can swim into without taking damage. However, once you pick up the idol, everything in the ocean changes and becomes your enemy. If you take too much damage, you drop the idol and need to swim back down and pick it up once more. Once you safely make it to the surface, you can bring the idol to a pedestal and open the gate to the next area, getting a sliver of interesting, if not entirely clear story-stuff the moment skin touches water again.

Rinse and repeat this a few times, with the underwater caverns becoming more twisted and maze-like as the game goes on. The above-ground platforming sections never really become too challenging, but the final boss fight against the Ocean’s biggest defender did force me to remain on my webbed toes, as this boss chases after you harder than any shark ever did, as well as steals back the final idol to its original location. The game does a good job of building up to this moment, so that you have all the necessary skills and knowledge readily available for you to succeed, though it took me a few tries.

It can be easy to dismiss Beneath the Waves as another one of those indie platformers with retro pixel graphics clearly made quickly for a game jam. Though Gregory Avery-Weir did make this initially for Ludum Dare under the title of simply Waves, before expanding on the idea. Still, the story is somewhat mystical, as well as something I’ve continued to think about in the days since playing it, and the swimming–when the sea creatures are not attacking you–is dreamy and fun and reminds me of the only reason I ever played Ecco the Dolphin, which was to dive deep and rocket-ship up out of the water in an epic, Sea World-worthy reveal. I’d say give this one a play if you’re looking for a different way to platform, under the sea.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is a crime, my punishment

sherlock holmes crimes and punishments black peter case gd post

I’ve seen one episode of the much lauded and Cumberbatch-starring Sherlock crime drama series, and even then I think I fell asleep towards the end of it. It wasn’t from total boredom, I swear. See, going into it, I wasn’t aware that every episode is basically a mini movie, clocking in at around 90 minutes. I was not prepared for this, thinking it would be much shorter, like a typical serialized drama (see Criminal Minds or Stranger Things), and starting the episode just before bed proved to be my undoing. One day, I’d like to watch more, but I haven’t reached that right one day yet.

In terms of videogames, I’ve never played one based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories, and there have been quite a few of them, especially from Frogwares. Well, I’m here to muse about Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the tenth entry in their series, which I and everyone else subscribing to a Gold membership on Xbox One got for free back in March 2016. Strange enough, a year earlier, I also got a free copy on my PlayStation 3 for PlayStation Plus, along with CounterSpy and Papo & Yo. Here’s an early spoiler: I’ve uninstalled both versions of the game.

Plot is actually a difficult thing to describe for this game. Mostly because there isn’t a main through-line. There’s an overarching story about group of terrorists called the Merry Men, who are attempting to overthrow the government and free the people of the United Kingdom from debt. It’s extremely minor in the grand scheme of things, showing up once early in the game and then at the very end where you are tasked to make a moral choice, one that probably seemed epic in the developers’ minds, but didn’t actually matter. Other than that, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is split into six separate cases, with some being direct adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, such as “The Fate of Black Peter.” Each case is self-contained, and they range from a train that mysteriously vanishes to a murdered archeologist in a bath house to the theft of exotic, poisonous plants from a botanical garden. I came away enjoying a few of these cases, but ultimately not caring too deeply about the characters involved or the actual outcome, so long as it netted me an Achievement in the end.

Gameplay is, more or less, a traditional point-and-click adventure game. Except you aren’t using a mouse to hover over items and click on them. Instead, you control Sherlock Holmes–and sometimes Watson or a dog!–and you can play in third person or first. I went with the latter, as I found it easier for examining areas and moving around with a solid camera angle. You look at items in the world, speak to witnesses and suspects, solve a mixed bag of puzzle types, and finally make enough deductions to pin the crime on someone. My favorite part was connecting clues to make deductions and see ways the crime could have happened, as well as analyzing witnesses to learn more about them and open up dialogue options. Sure, L.A. Noire did it better, but that’s okay.

My biggest problem with Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments has to do with its loading screens. I’m not against loading screens and will never be against them, as I understand their purpose, even in this day and age of modern gaming, but you have to travel to and fro a whole bunch in this game, often returning to your apartment on Baker Street multiple times during a case, and these loading screens are drab and long, probably worse than the ones in Secret Agent Clank. Backtracking is the name of great detective work. Unfortunately, each time you travel to a different place, you are treated to a loading screen in the form of Sherlock riding inside a horse-drawn carriage to the actual place you are going. Sometimes he is alone, sometimes Watson is there with their knees awkwardly close, but regardless you are just watching Sherlock read a book or look out the window the entire time. You can open your notebook during the ride to review clues and such, but I began to use this downtime as great moments to play on my phone. Honestly, I would have rather watched a generic bar fill up. I’d estimate you see this screen roughly 15 to 20 times during any given case.

One of the more troubling parts of Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments appears in every single case chapter. Well, I guess one could not see it, but when I’m roleplaying the titular Sherlock Holmes I’m being as observant and scrutinizing as possible, which means checking every corner and shelf and thing for clues. That includes the telescope his keeps in the main room on Baker Street. If you look through it, you’re treated to the fixed sight of this busty woman:

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments_20140928125417

Now, nothing happens. Sherlock makes no comment, the woman simply stands there and stares back, and about five seconds of silence passes before you are booted out of the telescope’s point-of-view. I examined the telescope at the start of every case, just as I did with Toby, to see if anything would happen or change. Nope, same sight, same seediness. I figured she would come into play at some point in the game, for some case or another, but that never happened, and I think all we got in terms of reference was a quickly dismissed line from Watson at the end of the game, implying that Holmes should stop doing that creepy thing with the telescope. Evidently, after doing some research outside the game, it turns out this character is from a previous entry in the series. Hmm.

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments was a game I didn’t expect to frustrate and bore me as much as it did, but I’m the kind of person that not only likes to finish what I start, but sometimes needs to. So I persevered and finished, only to realize I missed two Achievements and had to go back and replay a couple cases. Thankfully, you can mash your way through most of the dialogue and cutscenes, as well as skip every puzzle if you wait a minute or two. Still couldn’t do anything about those cutscenes. If there’s one deduction I reached, it’s that this was not iceberg-like pacing and lackluster detective work equals enjoyable, and I don’t expect to try any more future–or previous–mystery adventures starring the eclectic Sherlock Holmes in 19th century London.