Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened – Review
Follow Genre: Adventure game, mystery game
Developer: Frogwares
Publisher: Frogwares
Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened – Review

Site Score
Good: A tightly focused mystery game with an intriguing overarching story
Bad: Visuals take a hit on the Switch
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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

It’s difficult to discuss a game released by Frogwares and not at least mention the precarious position that the Ukrainian developer is in right now, if only because of how vocal they have been on social media about how the situation has affected them. The ongoing war with Russia has forced the studio to relocate its staff to offices outside of the country, and naturally, this has affected their development process as well. On the upside, the support of the gaming community has been heartwarming. When Frogwares took to Kickstarter for funding for their latest Sherlock Holmes title, The Awakened, the campaign outright smashed the target goals. That same title is now out in the wild, and it’s our pleasure to take a look at the latest digital outing of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation. The game is afoot!


Previous Sherlock Holmes games we’ve looked at kept things firmly grounded in reality, but The Awakened goes for a supernatural approach by having the world’s most famous detective cross paths with cultists and creatures from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Being a mystery game, it’s only natural that we don’t give away too much of the plot, as that would be spoiling half the fun. If you’ve been with the series since the beginning, you might feel a sense of deja-vu here, as The Awakened is a remake of the third game in Frogwares’ series. However, the game was reworked to act as a direct sequel to Chapter One, the ninth and previous entry, so the timeline is a bit fuzzy. As such, the younger versions of Holmes and Watson are front and center here. You might remember that Watson was portrayed as a figment of Holmes’ imagination in the previous game, but this time he has returned in the flesh. That’s a good thing, as Holmes in particular has his work cut out for him as supernatural occurrences and mysteries are affecting his sanity, and having Watson tag along to keep him in check is essential. The detective has always been the poster boy for logical explanations, but what he is facing now seemingly defies the laws of nature. Of course, our hero won’t rest before he figures out what exactly is going on, and it’s up to you to help him find the answers he seeks.


Because The Awakened was reworked to tie in neatly with Chapter One, you’ll see some very familiar visual design choices if you’re returning from the previous game. However, as we had played that on PC, this highlighted a number of issues for us. We played The Awakened on our trusty Switch, so we can’t vouch for the other platforms that the game is available on, but unfortunately, the game didn’t quite meet our visual expectations. The game struggles to keep the frame rate up, which somehow also meant that mouth animations didn’t always sync up with the dialogue, creating a jarring feeling of disconnect. Draw distances aren’t anything to write home about and there were significant issues with the game rendering things properly. Flickering and jagged edges were common, both in handheld and in docked mode. We suggest playing The Awakened on a more powerful platform if you can.


Alex Jordan makes a welcome return as the titular detective, after portraying young Holmes in both Chapter One and an older version in The Devil’s Daughter. He manages to infuse the character with a much-needed dose of humanity and he has great chemistry with Andrew Wincott, who returns here as Watson. The banter between the two men is easily a highlight, although the other voice actors do an admirable job as well to bring their characters to life. The cinematic soundtrack ties everything together, underlining the chilling atmosphere. The ambient sound effects are decent, but not particularly remarkable.


Being a direct remake of the third game in Frogwares’ Sherlock Holmes series, The Awakened feels like a much smaller game than more recent titles. The core remains the same of course, with the player taking control of the titular detective, solving a set of mysteries in a semi-open world setting. You’ll wander around different environments, looking for valuable clues and attempting to pry valuable information from between the lips of a varied bunch of NPCs. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but the point of these games isn’t to wow the player with gameplay gimmicks but draw them into the story and wrack their brain as they attempt to figure out the ins and outs of the mysteries laid out before them. The Awakened isn’t a linear experience either as the choices made during gameplay do slightly alter the way things happen, albeit not enough to warrant replaying the game once the credits have rolled, at least not immediately.

Before those credits roll though, you’re definitely in for a good time as this is perhaps the most enjoyable Sherlock Holmes title in the series, even if the game is showing its age here and there. The environments are much smaller and more closed off compared to the fully fleshed open world of Chapter One, although it does mean that there is a tighter focus on the specific cases without the risk of getting lost. The various mysteries that our sleuthing protagonist tackles are a highlight, especially because The Awakened isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of real-world logic in lieu of its supernatural themes. We wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Awakened is less ambitious than its predecessor, just that the ambition lies elsewhere for this title. In this case, it’s making the game still feel grounded in reality even when facing indescribable cosmic horrors.

The familiar case-by-case structure tied to a larger overarching story makes a welcome return here. As the titular detective, you’re confronted with the aftermath of a crime and try to detect things out of the ordinary. Sometimes, these are very obvious, like blood on a dagger, but other times the game does throw you the occasional curveball, like when you need to spot markings on the floor where heavy furniture was moved recently. After gathering enough clues, you’ll be able to enter Sherlock’s mind palace and reconstruct what happened by connecting nodes and answering questions. There’s plenty of variety here too, despite the smaller scope, with environmental puzzles and even some action segments, a particularly memorable one involving a boat. At times it’s difficult to believe that this game is nearly two decades old as the approach to specific gameplay segments still feels surprisingly modern.

Mind you, we’re looking at a full-fledged remake here rather than a remaster, so it’s a bit baffling how certain other design decisions from the original game weren’t revised to fit in with modern-day expectations. A good example is the fast travel feature, which the game never mentions exists and is surprisingly easy to overlook if you don’t know it is present. It’s incredibly handy once you figure out it’s there, but you’re left to your own devices to discover it, which is a bit ironic of course, given the detective theme of the game. The iconic mind palace, a hallmark of the series, also feels a bit too forgiving. Even if you haven’t been paying attention, you’re able to simply mix and match clues until something clicks and you’re able to progress. Contrasting this is that the game doesn’t feel like it wants to hold your hand. The Sherlock Holmes games have always been far more about the process of actually solving mysteries than the solution to those mysteries themselves, and this is especially clear in The Awakened. The game feels challenging but never unfair or unforgiving, although we do feel like a helpful hint here or there would have tightened the game’s occasionally sluggish pacing.

The first few of the game’s eight chapters are a slow burn in particular, at least in terms of how they tie into the overarching Lovecraftian story. This approach makes it all the more satisfying to see things click and unfold in the latter half of the game, with this being one of the rare cases where a replay is actually worth it because you’ll pay attention to context-specific clues in a second playthrough. There are a plethora of side missions too, and some of these add even more depth to the main story, so it’s highly worth it to explore every nook and cranny. While The Awakened is a much shorter game than Chapter One, it still feels like you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck here. Playing through the game should take you upwards of fifteen hours, especially if you’re a completionist, and that’s without acknowledging the replayability factor, as the game does shake things up slightly when making different choices.


With The Awakened, Frogwares shows that they haven’t lost their touch when it comes to the Sherlock Holmes series. The smaller scope and supernatural themes make for a game that feels distinct from the previous entry in the series. While we do feel like the visual performance on the Switch could have used some work, it’s our only real issue with The Awakened. We highly recommend you check it out, if only to show your support to the developer, given the circumstances that the game was developed under.

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Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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