Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Review: Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1992
Developer: ICOM Simulations
Publisher: Sega (Sega/Mega-CD)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $5.99 (used) $11.99 (new) ( – Price for Sega CD version only
Price: $5.00-$10.00 (used) N/A on US Version (new) on eBay
Other Releases: FM Towns (original release, Japan only), DOS/MAC, Commodore CDTV, Turbografx-16 CD
Digital Release? Yes – an updated version with better video quality released on PC, Mac OS X, and iPad in late Sept. 2012

Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a bit of an anomaly in the realm of video games.  Much like Myst, the game premiered on CD-based consoles and computers to show off the benefits of the new technology, but was much less of a game than it was an interactive form of media.  A basic interface allowed the player to navigate various options and view content (mostly video) in order to solve one of the popular cases that originally appeared in the novel by the same name.  To show off all of the fancy marvels of a multimedia CD-ROM title there was complete focus on showing off content rather than optimizing any aspect of the game for quick playing, resulting in a few simple actions taking ridiculous amounts of time to accomplish.  I was recording gameplay videos for this article last night and it took more than 30 mins just to capture the “tutorial” that includes many icons, each with its own slow loading audio (no subtitles) background, and a video from Sherlock Holmes himself.  It was so slow-paced and boring to capture, I made the executive decision that it would be even more boring to watch and scrapped the video.  Don’t let this discourage you, especially with the re-releases likely having no load times, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is a thought-provoking hybrid between the adventure genre and the full motion video (FMV) game.

You are given three mysteries in Volume 1, which was a pack-in for the first release of the Sega CD along with a 5-in-1 Collection that contained some of Sega’s biggest releases of the early 90s (and no Sonic game).  Each mystery will take you at least 90 minutes to solve and that’s if you catch on to the well hidden clues and know your way around the basic features and functions of the game.  If it’s your first time playing Sherlock Holmes, you’ll probably need to work your way through a case a few times with a confused look on your face before the intricacies of the game begin to reveal themselves.  I know it sounds like I’m making excuses for this game, but back in 1992 this was the only thing we had other than Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia so watching some British guys discuss a missing mummy was amazing to me.  Having played it for about two hours yesterday, I found myself appreciating it for the dissection of Holmes’ classic cases and definitely enjoyed it more than I ever had as a child.  Perhaps this game was an “adults” game long before video games could ever be considered as such – it should be pointed out that outside of America both Japan and Europe embraced games as a hobby for both adults and children and Sherlock Holmes had a stronger reception with the microcomputers that the US all but ignored.  If you can get into the minds of the developer and be as thorough as possible there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to solve each case, how long that takes you is the true variable (you can save your game and quit at any time).

Obviously the title must have been popular, at least in some region, because it was released on almost everything that could run a CD at the time and spawned two sequels Volume II and Volume III, each containing three more cases from the famous novel (although Sega/Mega CD did not get the third game).  If you can listen to heavy British accents and grew up enjoying Encyclopedia Brown, Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective can be an inexpensive and intriguing addition to your Sega CD library.

There were few places to appropriately take screen shots so like the video, I decided to scrap them.  This is a game that looks referencial and boring but interacts like you would expect.

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