Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (Switch) – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure game, mystery game
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Frogwares
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Tested on: Switch

Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (Switch) – Review

Site Score
Good: Deduction mechanics feel suitable for the character of Holmes
Bad: In-game instructions aren't as clear as they should be
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)

If you’ve been keeping up with Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes games, then you have undoubtedly already deduced that Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments isn’t a new game. In fact, it’s already eight years old, but is only now arriving on the Switch. The argument can of course be made that the adventures of the legendary detective are timeless, but can the same be said about video game adaptations of these same stories? Let’s take a look at the evidence and find out.


Crimes & Punishments wastes no time with setting up its main cast, and assumes that you’re already familiar with most of the characters that make an appearance in the game. It’s the right choice, as you’d be hard-pressed to find someone that doesn’t know who Sherlock Holmes and dr. Watson are. These characters are of course the driving force behind the game, but Crimes & Punishments‘ meat lies in the mysteries that you’re being served up, which we’re not going to delve into all that much as this is one of those games where you’re better off knowing as little as possible. Solving mysteries is the whole point after all! Unlike in most mystery games, there are branching endings for each case, although we didn’t feel like the game had a lot of replay value.

Unlike the latest entry in Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes series, Chapter One, you’re not getting a true overarching story in Crimes & Punishments. Instead, the game presents you with six isolated cases, some of which are direct adaptations of stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The cases are loosely connected to one another but we really missed a satisfying narrative arc that tied everything together nicely. That said, while we’re not familiar with every story that Conan Doyle wrote, we felt like all six stories were equally well-written and intriguing, and there wasn’t a clear distinction between the original cases and the ones adapted from the canon. Of course, if you’ve read every story, then the canonical cases, such as The Fate of Black Peter and The Abbey Grange Affair will be easier to figure out than the ones that are new.


Given the age of the game and that this is a straight-up port, Crimes & Punishments’ visuals hold up surprisingly well. The character models and animations are above average and the environments are varied and filled with details that bring the world alive, even if the game doesn’t quite reach the photorealism it wants to go for. There are some visual performance snags but we don’t know whether this is inherent to the game or simply because the Switch isn’t a visual powerhouse. The frame rate can occasionally drop and the game suffers from jagged edges and occasional flickering, and there is noticeable pop-in but none of the issues mentioned were prominent enough to decrease our enjoyment of the game.


The highlight in Crimes & Punishments’ soundscape is the excellent voice acting. Every cast member brings their respective character to life in a convincing manner. The game narrowly avoids the common pitfall of making characters sound like they stepped right out of Monty Python, and instead the deliveries here feel realistic and natural. The music feels appropriately cinematic and is used to subtly underline the on-screen events rather than taking front stage.


We’d start by saying that Crimes & Punishments doesn’t bring anything new to the table gameplay-wise, but that has more to do with the fact that it’s an eight-year-old game than that it sticks to a well-established formula. What you’re getting here is a classic adventure mystery game that sees you walk around a crime scene, gathering evidence, making observations, and talking to NPCs to receive clues. The information you collect in this way then allows you to reconstruct the crime and eventually figure out what happened. It’s a tried and true formula that doesn’t exclusively belong to the Frogwares Holmes titles -just look at Microids’ Poirot games, for example- but it’s something that just works, even if Crimes & Punishments feels a little dated compared to more recent outings.

The game can feel quite clunky at times and we preferred wandering the streets of Cordona in Chapter One over moving between separate locations on a map. Likewise, the game’s puzzles, which are plentiful, feel like they could’ve used a new coat of polish before the game was ported to the Switch. Picking locks is easy enough, but some of the more elaborate puzzles receive an additional layer of difficulty by not having detailed gameplay instructions. This can be quite frustrating at times, especially when you look them up online only to find out that you were on the right train of thought all along.

That said, we did like the way the game accurately captured Sherlock Holmes’ methods of deduction. Holmes’ signature style is implemented rather nicely, such as when you meet an NPC for the first time, and you are able to profile them without even talking to them, simply by observing things like what kind of clothes they are wearing, their body language, etcetera. The information gathered in this way can then be used to verify the validity of statements made by these individuals when you’re questioning them, in a manner that isn’t too dissimilar to questioning a witness in the Ace Attorney series. The aim here is to find contradictions in witness statements and press the witness on these when you pick them out.

Another mechanic that feels very authentic comes in the form of Holmes’ detective sense, which allows him to discover hidden clues that aren’t visible to other characters -similar to detective mode in the Arkham series. While this mechanic feels a bit unrealistic at times, it does mean that you won’t get stuck in the game. Additionally, a feature that aids your progression comes in the form of Holmes’ notebook, which indicates which pieces of evidence haven’t been examined to the fullest yet. Crimes & Punishments does a good job of making sure you are constantly incentivized to solve the case rather than making you feel frustrated because you don’t know what to do next.

Once you’ve gathered enough clues, you can then connect everything together to reach the right conclusion -or the wrong one, as it’s possible to make mistakes here, which can alter the ending of a given case. There is, of course, only one “true” solution here, and you might find that you need to alter your assumptions as new evidence comes to light. It’s nice to see how there isn’t a single right way to solve a case -something mystery games usually tend to get wrong when they punish you for reaching the solution in a different way than what the developer scripted. You can even pre-check your conclusions before you commit to them, although the game does warn you that you risk seeing spoilers about the ending if you do this.

The case-by-case nature of Crimes & Punishments provides a nice pace. Given that each case will take you roughly two hours to solve -the length of an average Holmes movie- and it’s easy to spread out your time with Crimes & Punishments without having to binge through the game. You can play through a case and return to the next one three weeks later without having to worry about having to remember where you were. In this way, Crimes & Punishments’ pick-up-and-play nature feels like a more natural fit on the Switch than Chapter One would be.


Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments aged surprisingly well, although it isn’t without its blemishes. The game can feel quite clunky at times and the visuals weren’t particularly impressive despite holding up fairly well, but the case-by-case nature feels right at home on the Switch. Here’s hoping that Frogwares will be porting more of their Sherlock Holmes back catalogue to Nintendo’s hybrid console.

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Rating: 9.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (Switch) - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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