I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and you may remember how much I enjoyed the most recent release, Chapter One (my review here). While this one started our detective on his merry way, the newest chapter in the series will seek to break him only years later, and it’ll do so in a revisiting of a previous tale. Sure, The Awakened originally came out in 2007 with a remaster in 2008-09, but armed with what they’ve learned from Chapter One and the cult hit Sinking City, the game will be able to climb to new heights.
In my preview, we start in chapter three, with Holmes (again perfectly voiced by Alex Jordan) and Watson heading to an institute in Switzerland to chase a lead on several kidnappings. Watson is able to go in on the pretense he is a doctor interested in their practice, but Holmes isn’t as lucky, donning a disguise before being grabbed by the staff. Of course, our favorite sleuth can make this work for him, using this incarceration as a means to jimmy open his cell door and explore the depths of his prison. That, and see what this Dr. Gygax, head of the Black Edelweiss Institute, is up to.
Arguably the most impressive thing about this section is that it’s an immaculate recrafting of what came before. I certainly didn’t compare them one for one, but upon watching a YouTube video of the opening scene, it’s very clear that Frogwares isn’t looking to throw out what it did well before but simply update it. Even the girl in the wheelchair screeching all of the sudden is there, although it looks much better with today’s tech behind it.
Beyond this, I like how even being more contained, the chapter I previewed still feels meaty. One of the things that made Sherlock Holmes Chapter One so amazing was its open world, and I was afraid The Awakened may rob it of that freedom. While you can’t just roam willy nilly, exploration is still a big part of what you’re doing, and chapter three is much more confined than I think the rest of the game will be. Even running through the cobblestone tunnels below the institute there is a lot to unearth, and moving around to find key items in your quest is a must.
Take for instance a main mission you’ll get to, helping Gerda. This insane girl has lost her friend Heidi, and once you head into an adjoining area you’ll find a doll with said name. Upon giving it to Gerda you’ll get some information on something called Hell’s Door, where they’ve taken some prisoners bearing the description you’re looking for. You can only get so far, with a secret door revealed that you need a special key for, so it’s back to Gerda to figure out what to do next. Of course, she’s too upset about her doll’s missing features, so back you go in search of materials to help her fix Heidi.
This gets you right back into the Sherlock Holmes gameplay from Chapter One, with plenty of investigation to employ. Some things will be as simple as looking at the scene to derive some information, some will give you important items to progress, and others will bring the scenes together for you to play through the events that transpired. With the latter, I like how I have to take a close look in order to find all of the possible occurrences, which then allows me to build the scene into what actually happened. I was able to get everything together on the first try, and that’s because the evidence led me there. Maybe it’s just me, or just this puzzle specifically, but I think that’s been improved on from Chapter One, with my discoveries feeling more obvious. This series doesn’t hand hold, so any telegraphing of my next move that’s available is appreciated.
After finding items to repair Heidi (rusty nails for hair, sure), things got really weird. I’m no horror fan, so when suddenly a doll starts talking as if taking over Gerda, I nearly ripped my headphones off in terror. This is not how the previous iteration played mind you, and is an all new part of The Awakened. Frogwares has been advertising this as “Sherlock meets Lovecraft”, and while I knew something like this was probably coming, I don’t know that I was prepared for it. Whether you’re a fan of this or not, it’s expertly implemented. And that’s before we get to the atmosphere itself, a desolate prison with the despair ridden screams and hushed guttural whispers leaving you unnerved at every turn. Being stuck in what seems to be an insane asylum is certainly going to have its creepiness, but I’m sure the team will find a way to execute this tone across the entire game.
The story and preview ends here, but there’s so much more I can’t wait to experience. I got a small glimpse into a playable Dr. Watson at the beginning of the demonstration, one of several moments Frogwares is adding after reaching a stretch goal on Kickstarter. The Awakened isn’t just an easy asset flip, this remake is looking to reimagine the game while retaining only the general plot points. Keeping what works well as a foundation and building on that with the phenomenal tools you’ve gained from Chapter One and Sinking City means we’re in for the ride of Sherlock’s life. We just hope his incredible mind can take the beating The Awakened is about to give it.
Sherlock Holmes The Awakened will arrive in 2023, for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch, and PC.