Sherlockian Games


Board and print games

The obvious way to match wits with Sherlock Holmes is through a game. As early as 1904, enthusiasts could do that with a “Sherlock Holmes” card game marketed by Parker Brothers. Writing in the Baker Street Journal in 1964, Helen G. Halbach tried to reconstruct it, and reported on the suits in its deck: Robber, Thief, Police, Burglar, Run, Help, Clue, Stop, and Sherlock Holmes. “Clue,” introduced by Parker Brothers forty years later, was originally dubbed “the great new Sherlock Holmes game,” but in fact there is nothing Sherlockian about it. However, several board games from other sources do allow players to follow supposed Holmesian adventures. Among them are “221B Baker Street,” produced by Hansen, 1975; “Sherlock Holmes,” from Whitman, 1980; “Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective,” from Ben Sanders Company, 1981 (there is a web page about the 1981 game from Ystari Games); and "Baker Street" by Fearlight Games, 2013.

The competitive enthusiast can also tackle Holmes’s cases through game books, in which each page offers clues and invites the amateur sleuth to make decisions. A series of these has been published in paperback by Berkley as “Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries.” Murder at the Diogenes Club (1987) is among them. For the less venturesome, there are “murder dossiers” of A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of [the] Four — portfolios of reproduced telegrams, letters, newspaper clippings, and photographs, even a sample of bloodstained rope and a gold ring, through which the imaginative follower can join Holmes in examining the minutiae of one of his original cases.

Early computer games

The earliest Sherlockian games for the desktop computer were on the market by the early 1990s; for example, Icom Simulations Inc. advertised “Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective,” consisting of three colour video mysteries on a CD-ROM: “Open the private casebook of Holmes to pick the case you intend to solve. . . . Over 90 minutes of interactive video really puts you into the game. . . . When you think you’ve got a case solved, take it to court.” In the same category is “PC-Sherlock,” described as “a game of logic and deduction” and now available for download on a “free old software” web site. “The Case of the Serrated Scalpel” (1992) and “The Case of the Rose Tattoo” (1996), both from Electronic Arts, were very popular in their day.

Contemporary electronic games

As technology advances, games have become more elaborate in plot and more sophisticated in graphics, and are typically available both on CD-ROM and for download. Legacy Interactive, which takes pride in combining “casual gaming” with social networking, offers “The Lost Cases of Sherlock Holmes” (2008). That's not to be confused, of course, with The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes.

Another company, Frogwares, has produced a number of Sherlockian games, most recently (2014) Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments. Earlier games include The Testament of Sherlock Holmes (2011), “The Mystery of the Mummy” (2002), “The Silver Earring” [walkthrough], “The Awakened”, “Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsène Lupin,” “The Persian Carpet,” and “Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper.”

“The Awakened” received an award in 2007 for “best use of a license,” referring to the permission that Frogwares needed at that time from the owners of the Sherlock Holmes character. One website that specializes in game reviews wrote that “The Silver Earring” provides “interesting characters, an engaging plot, and beautiful graphics, yet it's an adventure with few puzzles and a mystery where you don't actually solve the mystery.” It is not quite clear whether the last point was a criticism or a compliment.

A gameplay video from “Arsène Lupin” got some attention on the internet a while ago, enthusiast Margot Northcott reports: “Basically, Watson wasn't programmed to have a walking animation. However, since he's supposed to follow Holmes around, any time you move he magically appears right behind you like in a horror movie.”

“221B” is a spinoff of the first (2009) Sherlock Holmes film starring Robert Downey Jr. According to the BBC, game developer Rollo Carpenter has introduced new artificial intelligence techniques into this experience: “When a player interrogates a game character in 221b, Carpenter's technology is used to analyse the question and to provide a relevant response.”

The “Sherlock Holmes Mysteries” game for the iPhone and iPod Touch is available (for 99 cents) as a download on iTunes and elsewhere.

The firm AppEndix LLC has a Sherlock Holmes interactive gamebook app — an adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes Solo Mysteries series by Gerald Lientz published in book form in the early 1990s. At left, that's the icon for the first of the series, "Murder at the Diogenes Club."

"Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Frozen City" is available for Nintendo 3DS.

"The Game Is Afoot" is available for Android phones.

"Sherlock Holmes Escape" is a free game from Nickelodeon's Addicting Games site.

The site offers a couple of online "riddles": The Mystery of the Wyckham Mermaid and The Moriarty Mystery.

The Crew of the Barque Lone Star has a site with a number of Sherlockian Word Search, Kriss-Kross, and traditional Crossword puzzles that cover the Canon.

The online site Win Trillions Casino offers a based on the BBC "Sherlock" series is called “The Network.” Northcott reports: “It's a puzzle game. You're rewarded for solving puzzles with video snippets of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.”

And finally, she writes: “Sherlock Holmes is going to appear in the next Ace Attorney game for the Nintendo 3DS. This will be the sixth game in the popular Ace Attorney series. The Japanese release is set for Spring 2015.”