When this game was given to me, despite this being only the second game I have had the pleasure of reviewing, a prevailing sense of relief swept me at the prospect of playing a game the type of game that in my mind, we don't see enough of - the murder mystery. As most games purveyors shelves are littered with the ever increasing number of regurgitated WWII RTS or FPS, racing or kill as many people as you can by the most brutal method possible games, Sherlock Holmes - The Case of the Silver Earring promised a welcome deviation.
The game presented itself as very well, the graphics were neat and tidy, the opening scenes promised a Victorian style setting and the sound offered an interesting mixture of background noises and music that made the game almost feel like you were involved in the mystique of a Sherlock Holmes puzzle. All was going well and I was entertained by the opening sequences which lay the foundation of the puzzle you are required to solve. In fact, I was positively relishing the idea to flex the old grey matter.
The first thing I will say is that it quickly becomes obvious how much time and thought has gone into the production of this game. Its theme is indicative of the stories portrayed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle even though this particular story is one designed by Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts. This is something they have achieved very well. It also becomes quickly obvious that the designers of the game have not come up with anything new and you are still required to move a character round a quirky semi 3d map, look for clues with your mouse pointer and either be lucky enough, or patient enough to find them. This is a style largely similar to the oldest of mystery games such as Loom or Simon the Sorcerer, even though the object and theme are different - the game plays in the same fashion. If you are unlucky enough to miss the tiny clue, that you wouldn't know you were looking for in the first place, cunningly hidden in the most obscure places then it will only drive you to utter frustration.
Moving on to the interface, to say it leaves something to be desired is understating. The maps do not pan, you cant rotate them and if you click on the wrong area of the screen, it can leave you moving your character to the wrong place or even end your turn (as I found out on one level). These are just basic things that the game designers could have considered and seriously improved.
The fundamental disappointment, which has already been touched on, is that the game introduces nothing new to what could have been a wonderful game type. You are not required to use your brain to solve the puzzles, you are left with the same old fashion technique of interviewing characters by selecting from a preset dialogue box which may contain, say four or five questions questions. The game handily keeps a record of this for you, though the rest is down to sheer luck, or patience, in finding the clues. One clue in the opening scene, I found, consisted of a tiny shred of cloth, caught on a chair. If it hadn't been for a walkthrough, there would have been very little chance of finding it.
The game does include several features designed to make your crime fighting activities easier. It will keep a record of any dialogues you have, it includes maps of the buildings you are in (though they could be labelled better) and your inventory is very easy to use. There are some handy tools in your inventory including a tape measure and a magnifying glass which do exactly what they say on the tin and at least enable you to explore the possibilities of the mysteries in a little more depth. For instance, in the opening scenes, you stand next to where a gun shot was fired and are able to judge the height of the shooter by measuring the imprinted dust cloud from the gun on a door frame. You also get to play as Dr Watson. Little touches like this did make the game a little more enjoyable.
For enthusiasts of Sherlock Holmes or for the kind of gamer that likes this type of game, then The Case of the Silver Earring is ideal. Its not a fast moving game, you can take as much time as you like and the mysteries are well thought out, typical of the Sherlock Holmes Theme and quite entertaining.
The game does not require a high system spec and will run on the majority of modern PCs. The graphics were impressive and more than expected considering the fact that this isn't, at the end of the day, a game which is targeted at the fast moving graphical games sector.