News Article

News Article

A Study in Scares: The Horror Games of Sherlock Holmes

PBS has just aired "Hound of Baskervilles," the latest episode of the hit BBC series Sherlock, which transplants the literary detective to modern times, brought to life by rising star Benedict Cumberbatch.  Like previous episodes,"Hound" is a modern take on a classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle work, and it represents one of the more overtly supernatural tales of the canon. 

Holmes and horror are not mutually exclusive, with plenty of volumes of newer tales that match the sleuth against things that go bump in the night, and Guy Ritchie's first Sherlock Holmes dabbled in the occult.  Gaming has been no different, with several titles released over the past few years that show the spookier side of Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened

Sherlock Holmes facing off against the almighty Cthulhu is the sort of crossover that even the most feverish of minds would have trouble conceiving: the master of logic and deduction facing off against the mad cult of the slumbering cephalopod.  While Holmes and Cthulhu never met face-to-tentacles in Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened (like many tales of the Cthulhu mythos, the sleeping god was kept behind the proverbial curtain), his madness was spread from the streets of New Orleans to an asylum in Switzerland, which saw Holmes and Watson moving well outside their comfort zone of 221B Baker Street.  The cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft played surprisingly well with the more rational world of Conan Doyle's detective, even going so far as to open in media res to poor Watson going mad from the experience in proper Lovecraftian style.

Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper

This was not the first time that this fight card's been explored, with the most infamous take being Bob Clark's classic movie Murder by Decree, but Frogwares managed to make reality and fiction blur together remarkably well.  While the most gruesome aspects of the Ripper killings were kept to text descriptions (this is a T-Rated game, after all), the seediness of 19th-century Whitechapel was explored rather boldly, from its abject poverty to its harem of hideous hookers, and Holmes and Watson dovetailed into the place and events perfectly.  Several real-world theories were explored in Holmes' hunt for the Ripper, and they added additional credibility and weight to the game's proceedings. 

Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles

Finally, we come to the game based off of the legendary story, and it's…interesting.  While the original tale saw Holmes revealing the hellish hound to be little more than a ruse (almost like a Victorian-era episode of Scooby Doo), this shockingly revisionist take saw Holmes and Watson helping out the terrified Henry Baskerville break the family curse by travelling through time, using powers gained through supernatural gems, and arcane rituals.  There's certain hilarity to Holmes trying to make all of the supernatural events a non-issue by suggesting that there are "rational explanations" as he travels through time like Doc Brown in a deerstalker, but the ludicrous liberties taken with the source material are sure to raise the ire of fans of the canon.  Do you hear that whirring sound?  It's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spinning in his grave.

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