A History of Holmes

Sherlock Holmes and his loyal comrade Dr. Watson have come a long way on our computer screens leading up to this week's release of The Case of the Silver Earring. Before we all get ready to dive into Sherlock's latest PC adventure, let's take some time and take a look back at the course he's charted through adventure gaming over the years.

Sherlock Holmes: Another Bow

Developer: Bantam Imagic

Publisher: Bantam Imagic

Release Date: 1985

The intrepid detective made his PC debut in this graphically enhanced interactive fiction title, which although decidedly lacking in puzzles was very well-liked for its lengthy writing and skillful storytelling. The plot takes place late in Holmes' life, as he finds mystery aboard a travelling steamship. The game is full of conversations and supporting characters, and the overall mystery is broken down into six smaller cases.

The text parser may throw off many modern adventurers, but those who love Sherlock stories will find much to love in the writing and the trademark Holmes mystery-making should they seek out a copy of this long-forgotten game.

Sherlock Holmes: The Vatican Cameos

Developer: Ellicott Creek

Publisher: Ellicott Creek

Release Date: 1986 (MobyGames entry)

The second Sherlock adventure ditched the graphical enhancements and went to a full text-based interface--the only pretty pictures will be those in your head. Still, Vatican Cameos has some cool features (besides boasting what certainly must be the coolest subtitle of a Holmes adventure), such as the well-ahead-of-its-time feature of NPC's with an agenda who move around on their own free will.

The writing and storytelling are not as critically acclaimed as those in Another Bow, and the interface drastically limits the number of understood verbs. Still, the mystery aspects will certainly appeal to Holmes enthusiasts--if for no other reason than to say they've played every Holmes game!

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Developer: ICOM Simulations, Inc.

Publisher: ICOM Simulations, Inc.

Release Date: 1991 (MobyGames entry)

The virtual adventures of Sherlock Holmes took a huge leap towards the world of graphics in the early 1990's--and what a leap it was, with what some believe to be the very first multimedia PC CD-ROM game ever released. The game featured a then-shocking full 90 minutes of video with real live actors playing all the characters--something never seen at that point in the annals of computer gaming.

The problems, of course, were indicative of the problems that would haunt FMV games for years to come: the game was completely linear and completely unplayable. These days, it's an absolute nightmare to run on a modern system, but it was the pinnacle of technology at its time, and is almost worth more as a museum piece and a work of art than as a true Sherlock Holmes mystery.

(Addendum: It should be clarified that there were three volumes of the Consulting Detective series, each with three cases. Also, a new version of the original set of cases has been released in interactive DVD format; visit the website for more information.)

So how does the world's greatest detective follow two text games and a full-motion video adventure? With one of the greatest adventures ever. Just turn the page for more!

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