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Game: Sherlock Holmes: Mystery Of The Mummy
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Year: 2003
Reviewed: 2007
Platform: PC
Genre: Adventure
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

I’m a big fan of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve read the original stories and seen more actors play the roles on TV and in films than I can remember. I also love adventure games, and the joining of the two seems the perfect combination. And it is, as can be seen in the old Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes games, which capture the feel of the stories so well. Unfortunately, Mystery of the Mummy hardly seems to have anything to do with Holmes in style, and it fails to excite as an interesting adventure game.

Sherlock Holmes Mystery of the Mummy Room
At the start of the game, you won’t be able to climb the staircase, due to that well known impenetrable barrier, the piece of rope, blocking the way.

The graphics aren’t the most important aspect of games. Some games manage to be brilliant games despite looking slightly outdated. MOTM, on the other hand, takes this to extremes. “A wonderfully appointed, atmospheric and graphically detailed mansion” is the description on the box. This is presumably a misprint for “a woefully outdated resolution and graphically blurry mansion”. The graphics are at a disappointing 640 X 480, a resolution that was already pretty much obsolete at the time of release. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were high quality at that resolution, but they’re blurry and pixellated. The sound doesn’t do much better, sounding like the makers had gone down to the shops and bought the cheapest microphone they could find to record it on. Sherlock’s voice, which you hear occasionally saying mostly useless lines of dialogue to try and remind you the character is there, is immensely irritating, sounding more like Inspector Gadget than Holmes.

Storyline is pretty much non-existent. There’s some vague mention of investigating a disappearance in a letter at the beginning, but other than a few pieces of paper scattered around the game and a bit of exposition at the end, the plot doesn’t really come into the game. The “interesting characters to interact with” mentioned on the back of the box only appear in the final cutscene. It’s the only time the game feels even remotely related to Sherlock Holmes, especially since the game is played from a first-person perspective.

Sherlock Holmes Mystery of the Mummy Nonogram
A nonogram. Just like we all use in our houses to lock secret panels.

The lack of a plot isn’t always a bad thing if the puzzles are good. Games like Myst have had plenty of success with that formula. But it’s pointless to use a character like Sherlock Holmes and not give a proper plot. Unfortunately, the puzzles don’t really save things here either. They don’t fit into the environment, and don’t have the saving grace of being particularly interesting or original. A form of the old measuring jug puzzle (get 4 units from a 3 unit and a 5 unit jug) makes its hundredth computer game appearance. There’s a couple of the seemingly obligatory slider puzzles. And there’s a ridiculously huge nonogram puzzle, with a time limit to make it even more annoying. In fact, several areas of the game are timed. There seems to be no good reason for it other than to annoy the player.

All the problems lead to an overall amateurish feel to the game. It’s not free from bugs either. Placing and removing tiles in the nonogram puzzle can get the game confused and lead to tiles that are seemingly irremovable. The aforementioned measuring jug puzzle was also more challenging trying to work out how to get the interface to do what you wanted rather than solving the puzzle.

The game does have some small good points. Not all the puzzles are failures, and some of them are actually quite fun to solve. And the main engine allows you to not only look around 360 degrees, but also to look up and down, from wherever you are standing. It isn’t a major breakthrough compared to other games, but compared to many first-person adventure games with static screens, it’s a nice change. None of this is enough to save a game that just fails in so many ways though. The whole thing feels like a freeware game that’s somehow got onto the shelves. It was the first game by developers Frogwares, and thankfully, their subsequent releases were much better. But this wasn’t a good start.

Save System Review: Can save anywhere.

Arbitrary Final Score: 1 star

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