Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter (Review)

I couldn’t be more excited to start Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter and dive into the mystery. Because, come on, with a riveting title as such, I had my expectations soaring. But I also had to maintain my best to keep it leveled until I completed the game. Developed by Frogwares, this adventure mystery video game might seem to be a good starting point for those new to the Sherlock series, placing them into the shoes of our beloved and suave British detective, Holmes.

Premise

When a mysterious visiting woman, Alice De’Bouvier, shows up as your new neighbour, you find yourself in a dilemma to confront dark family secrets, both in your cases and personal life—particularly in regards with your adopted daughter, Katelyn. Things take a disconcerting turn with the passive threats from your dear neighbour as you slowly uncover her true intentions in doting on Kate, and discover who she really is behind her façade, in many ways you wish you hadn’t.

Gameplay and Mechanics

There aren’t many controls to make the game complicated. You get the gist of them real quick in the first case. Just like a consulting detective would, you move about and poke around a series of environments for clues. The game also experiments on your perceptions and reflexes through its mini-games present in the cases. One minute you are going on stealth mode stalking a suspect as an errand boy, and the next you are exorcising demons in the name of investigation. Aside from those fun bits, once you have gathered substantial evidence, you can leap inside Holmes’s mind and piece what you know to form a possible deduction.

// Sherlock’s Deduction Space

I want to point out that it’s highly possible to form wrong conclusions based on poor judgment of character observation and misconstrued reasonings. Wrong interpretation leads to the wrong analysis, making it harder for you to find the right conclusion to the investigation. You may find yourself pointing your finger at an innocent party if you have not found all the clues. For other instances, you will have to interrupt witnesses and suspects during interrogations in order to compare their version of the facts with the clues that you have gathered. Badly-conducted interrogations cuts off your access to some clues once and for all.

// Building the Character Portrait
// Character Portraits

I found this to be particularly interesting while playing the game difficulty at Hard mode because this creates a lot of pressure to trust my intuitions in making the right choice. The reason I had to mention the game difficulty I was playing in, we’re going to get into that now. The game gives you two modes of difficulty: Normal and Hard. I’ve learned from forums that the Normal mode was easier for new players to feel their way around in Holmes’s mind. In some ways, I wished I had started off with Normal mode to better compare the difficulty. But it still worked out well after I replayed the cases in Normal after my first walkthrough completion. There are a lot of differences between the two modes, but I’ll only mention the ones significant in the cases.

[1] True Conclusion Check Availability

  • Normal – It is available; you can check if you have made the right conclusion at the case finish.
  • Hard – Not available; you are in the dark about your conclusion.

[2] Deduction

  • Normal – Usual deduction space and you are free to deduct with what seems logical.
  • Hard – There is a distortion effect upon combining wrong clues and it becomes detrimental.

[3] Icons on Evidence in the Casebook

  • Normal – Icons on evidence such as the Dialogue, Perform analysis, Search archives, Search the Map, etc. are shown.
  • Hard – Icons on evidence aren’t shown and you are left to sort out tricks on your own.

[4] Observation of Characters in Dialogues

  • Normal – You have an unlimited time to complete a Character Portrait.
  • Hard – You only have a minute to study the character and complete the Character Portrait. However, you would have an Imprecise Character Portrait or Poor Character Portrait should one active zone wasn’t chosen or is chosen incorrectly, and you have failed the timer. It’s important to note that even after you choose the right choices, you have to press the Validation button to confirm your decision.

At first, the idea of mini-games that test your reflexes may seem like a waste of time and effort, but I found them to be rather enjoyable and helped to add dimension in an otherwise ‘just-investigate-and-find-clues’ game. 

// Yes, we’re going bowling soon
// Eavesdropping action
// In-game puzzles to solve

I suppose you can’t just rest on one thing in this game because we all know that a detective’s job is never easy or safe, so I feel that the developers were trying to experiment and push more action into proceedings. The idea of QTE too takes on a sense of urgency when you realize you have to make life-and-death decisions. And since you are brainy and have the capability of finding the truth (or perceived truth), you will have to make ethical choices to condemn or absolve the criminal. In most cases, those ethical dilemmas still confound me.

What’s relieving is knowing that while I had the power to choose my own ending and somehow unsatisfied with it, there’s a chance of me to change my mind and replay a scene before I finalize my decision in closing the case. Summons up the sheer wonder of each person’s moral compass.

Design and Visual

It’s clear massive effort has gone into its environment capturing London’s beauty (and danger in the city). The view of the realistic crime scenes and a touch of “someone’s been there” at homes gives off an immersive feeling in-game. 

// Alice’s Abode
// 221B Baker Street
// Green Dragon Tavern
// 221B Baker Street, Sherlock’s Abode

Character animation and natural movement have been made possible by using motion capture with actors, including for their dialogue and emotions—while most characters were detailed, I found Alice and Kate’s design a little insufferable for how rigid they looked during cutscenes and dialogue exchanges. Thankfully, they weren’t distractingly bad to put me off a good story. But on a whole? Gorgeous landscapes.

// Watson looking debonair and Holmes a little more rugged, I have no complaints

Occasionally, I found myself not wanting to progress in the game because I just wanted to admire the visuals. And I’m not complaining how much of an eye candy Holmes is and how Watson resembled so much of Jude Law in The Devil’s Daughter.

Soundtrack

A fantastic work by Sergey Sedliar and Vitalii Stepchenko. From the sound of light electric guitars, bass guitar, keyboard for synths and other sampled instruments, it rekindled a poignant memory and forebode of playing This War Of Mine and Silent Hill.

  1. Cinematic Trailer Theme
  2. Main Soundtrack

It’s certainly not the classical music one would expect from Sherlock Holmes games, but composed hauntingly beautiful nonetheless.

Final Thoughts

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter promises to be its own kind of mystery and adventure. Most of the standalone cases were enjoyable, if not all. While it’s not going to blow your mind with anything revolutionary, I would say take the game and play it for its story and get some good laugh (at a certain exorcism scene). Despite minor flaws in some of the writing where the truth felt abrupt and a couple of red herrings thrown about, it’s still a well crafted game that keeps you on your toes as you make decisions in moments of life and death. I think this would be a good start for a broad audience to try their hands on a Sherlock series for logic and action.

// Chase Sequence in Case 1: Prey Tell

That being said, the game isn’t meant to be rushed and it’s best enjoyed slow like a glass of good wine. It’s akin to a slow burn horror film where you wouldn’t expect jump-scares but be unsettled either way.  I truly believed I was Sherlock through most of the game, and appreciated the developers’ effort in giving the gameplay some variety. It’s a lot of mixed reviews for that one but alright, not everyone likes a chase sequence or stealth mission. Personally, I found them fun—play to your strengths, I guess. I was the Sherlock Holmes so it was second nature of me to keep my eyes and ears open for every possibility.

// Evidence Search in Case 4: Chain Reaction

The end deal? The gameplay is not for everyone. I’d say if you like shooting and explosions in your games, then this might not be your cup of tea. If you’re a Sherlock Holmes traditionalist that just wants to click and solve riddles and puzzles, the action sequences might come as a shock to you. But if you find yourself drawn to being challenged intellectually and wanting some action at the same time, this one’s for you. With such a varied gameplay experience in one setting, good characters, and astounding visuals, it’s one of those few games that manages to accomplish them decently—and that is no small feat.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Review)

The deepest of despair will fashion the strongest of believers, for when there is no other way out but to seek for hope within one’s self and others, a ray of hope shines upon a way to the unknown future. You reach out towards it and there comes an answer. Let’s see if that holds true in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is visual novel developed by Spike Chunsoft that combines shooting, murder mystery, and adventure all in one. The game casts you the role of high school student Makoto Naegi, where you will attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a government-funded private high school where its reputation precedes itself. Recognized as the cradle of hope and prosperity, providing a comprehensive education for “ultimate” students of all sorts, it makes perfect sense of what appears as a once-in-a-lifetime lottery to Hope’s Peak Academy seems unreal for a plain student like you. To top it off, having the “Ultimate Lucky Student” title becomes ironic soon enough.

Premise

Your life is turned upside down when you fall unconscious on your first day of class and then wake up to a shocking revelation later, that you and fifteen other high school students are trapped in a game of mutual killing among each other. This is made known when a sinister anthropomorphic bear calling itself Monokuma introduces itself as the school’s headmaster. Monokuma makes a deal with the students: If one can murder another without being identified as the “Blackened” (culprit), they get to “graduate” (leave the school). If they are found out, the murderer will be violently executed; if the class identifies the wrong student as the murderer, they will all be killed. Their only choice of freedom comes with a dire consequence. Suddenly, everyone is faced with an impossible decision – can everyone actually live together without the possible thought of attempting murder? And so the battle against the looming, invisible enemy known only as despair… begins.

// The look of suspicion on each Ultimate’s face

“That was how it all began and how life as I knew it came to an end. At that point, I should have realized… The reason I was brought to Hope’s Peak Academy wasn’t because I had ultimate good luck. It was so I could experience ultimate despair.” —Makoto Naegi.

Gameplay and Mechanics

With that premise established, I’ll dive into a compendium of its gameplay and mechanics. Before you begin, you get to select your Logic difficulty; which affects the no. of potential solutions to logic puzzles given, and Action difficulty; which affects the difficulty of the non-logic portions that tests your reflexes. The lower Logic difficulties are better suited for players who do not want to think about the answer too much and get on with the story while lower Action difficulties means things are less hectic, and the player has fewer mechanics or in-game obstructions to worry about. It’s subjective, but I personally recommend opting for the highest difficulty in both aspects for a more fulfilled playthrough. There are statements where you can infer with more probing so upping the difficulty isn’t as insane as it might sound.

// Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc difficulty setting

Each chapter of game presents two variations of gameplay; School Life, where you survey the academy and progress through the story, and the Class Trials, where you must deduce the murder culprit. 

Danganronpa consists of three primary phases: Daily Life, Deadly Life, and Class Trial. During Daily Life, I explored the school grounds in a first-person perspective whilst in some other rooms, I got to converse with other characters or examine parts of the environment. This became more fun with more areas becoming available as the game progressed. The game also gave designated ‘Free Time’ segments where I could skip entirely or choose to hang out with specific characters and give them presents, which in turn reveals more information about them and unlocks various Skills that can be used during Class Trials.

// Press Tab to view all interactive hotspots in a setting

Naturally, everything is all relaxing when you hang out with someone until reality sinks in – when a crime scene is discovered, the game shifts to the Deadly Life section. Upon discovering a dead body and having a Monokuma file handed over to me, I have to search for clues throughout the premises. Every evidence and testimony gathered are  then stored in a personal e-Handbook. When all possible evidence is identified, the game moves on to the awaited Class Trial.

// The awaited Class Trial

Unsurprisingly, the Class Trials are where the real gameplay turns on. The tone shifts away from a mysterious one to an intense one with the nonstop debate concept. I want to state beforehand that I played the Mean difficulty mode for both Logic and Action aspect on my first run so the nonstop debate provided a worthy challenge to have me constantly thinking on my feet. With that evidence loaded as Truth Bullets, I had to pull the trigger at contradicting statements and convince everyone around me about who the killer really is. If I can’t convince everyone, the killer may find himself scot-free leaving me to be “blackened” and everyone else to face the horrible fate of being executed.

// Nonstop Debate: Finding a weak point to counter with evidence

The higher difficulty modes do bring a nice element of distraction known as White Noise. It appears in a form of purple chatter where I could silence it to earn extra time but more often than not, they usually serve it a way that obstructs a player to shoot a statement. These Class Trial sections became increasingly tough as the game progressed and more possible weak points were added, with later trials occasionally requiring me to use one remark as ammunition against another.

// Class Trial White Noises appearing on screen to obstruct statement

Aside from the main nonstop debate, there were other mini-games to keep the trial from going one-note. Along the way, the game features Hangman’s Gambit; a shooting puzzle section in which specific alphabets must be shot down to spell out a clue, Bullet Time Battle; where a one-on-one debate against another student is conducted in rhythm style gameplay – as the opponent makes remarks, you must press buttons in time to the beat to lock onto the remarks and shoot them down. Finally, the Closing Argument which you piece together a comic strip depicting the events before, during, and after the crime. Instead of having health points, Danganronpa utilizes Influence points instead. Your Influence amongst the other students is represented by hearts, which is reduced whenever errors in shooting contradictions or presenting evidence is made. The game ends when you lose all your Influence or you run out of time during a segment. At the end of a trial, players are ranked on their performance, with additional Monokuma Medals awarded for high ranks.

// Bullet Time Battle

I haven’t found much fault in the gameplay except I found the explanation for Bullet Time Battle was executed rather poorly (Cuphead was better). I could not figure out how to get past the first five minutes from its instructions and realized others from specific community boards had issues with that too. Since I am playing on PC, I am unsure if PS players faced this awkward situation. However, I got a hang of it and aced it real quick, but it still doesn’t change the fact it was vague. It wasn’t a mechanics issue, it was just an explanation that lacked clarity. Almost regretting my decision to play in Mean mode, imagine the sigh of relief I let out after I got past the first Bullet Time Battle.

Design and Visual

Visually, the game shines bright with its memorable pop art style. With 2.5D Motion Graphics, I got to interact with 2D characters within a 3D explorable setting. I enjoyed each character’s quirks and distinctive looks which matched their eccentricities (though in some cases, in true archetype fashion). My particular favorites were Celeste, Junko, and Kiyotaka (and a special shoutout to Byakuya because I am simply a simp for him). To add on, I found the cutscenes rather dynamic and it is not limited to that; the Climax Reasoning visuals along with the Execution scenes were depicted in a funky and dark manner. Disturbing, but I wouldn’t go as far to call it gory – like using bright pink-colored blood suggesting contrast against the dark subject matter of murder. The aesthetics were oddly pleasing to me.

// Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc characters
// Mondo Oowada, Ultimate Biker Gang Leader

Soundtrack

A surge of energy ran through me. It was time to end the trial, it was my chance to strike the opponent down and I knew that regardless of whether the culprit denied, I would end it with a closing argument. “You,” I said, “you are the murderer.” – that’s what an immersive soundtrack does. Each piece was produced in a manner that fitted in each scene. There’s not much else to say beyond that, and “New World Order” is arguably one of the best soundtrack in the game. Masafumi Takada knocked himself out on this one. Listening and repeating it has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me as I imagine reaching epiphany. No objection.

Final Thoughts

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is certainly one of the better detective-style games with fleshed out characters and its sadistic nature of plot twists. The story and motives get so extensive, even in the prologue and first chapter alone, I questioned what was going on in the developers’ brain. It’s tough enough to bond with another individual, and it’s even tougher when it turns out that they are the murderer or the victim. It is a mental torture in that respect. When I think about it more, the idea of high schoolers out for blood in a demented fashion truly puts you in the seat of despair. It is due to such displayed strength in the writing – one that balances drama, horror, and humour which makes Danganronpa irresistible. The question is, will you be able to keep moving forward, with hope in your heart?