A Short Bite of Mystery
Many developers have long put aside the use of live motion actors for cutscenes (though a few iconic games should never be without them -like the original Tiberium storyline Command and Conquer games) since these elements tend to have such cheesy and hammy acting when done in front of the camera, and yes, even Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is no exception to that rule. But the thing is that this game actually manages to be fun and entertaining. If you like a good murder mystery and have a little bit of time to kill, this game is the perfect entree to sate your hungry palette.
Live Action Meets Menus
As with pre-rendered cutscenes, the live action in this game is preset, and as such, you cannot alter the events that are going on in the current video. There are no quick time events or even real-time exploring in the game. Instead, players issue commands using a menu. From here, players are able to manages items, clues, destinations, NPC profiles, and more. In order to win the game, players must piece together all the clues that will help solve the mystery. Once the player has enough clues to figure everything out, they must go to a judge and present all the finding -which is the final act of the game.
As with most interactive stories, the narrative of The Mummy's Curse pushes itself forward with little prodding. But players cannot just wait idly by and let the game pass by. It is important to listen to the dialogue, and figure out the next best destination. The end part with the judge is not that hard to accomplish, but you can still fail if you do not acquire enough clues.
Living Up to the Reputation
When you reach the end part of the game and present all the clues to the judge, you will do so by answering questions about the case. And simply knowing the answer is not enough; players must have the pertinent clues that provide that information in order to make the case. While you may not need all the clues at the end of the game, having plenty does help. Of course, if it was all just about solving stuff, this would not feel very Sherlock-ish. Indeed, players are also scored by the game depending on efficient they are on solving the case -with the game presenting a potential 'high score' to beat. This score is what the game determines to be the amount of points that Sherlock Holmes would have by solving the case, and it is the player's challenge to keep playing the game until they are able to reach the same score.
Embracing the Point
What makes this game work is that it stays on focus. There is a case for players to solve and everything conversation you listen to, every event you witness, and every clue you find will be pushing the narrative forward. The whole game can be finished in less than a couple of hours (and even faster in subsequent playthroughs), but it delivers what it promises: a nice mystery to solve while playing in the shoes of the Baker Street detective. It is easy to tell that the videos are a motley mix of low budget scenes but even that adds to the overall feel of the game. In fact, it would have ben more jarring to the play experience had the cutscenes been done with a better production value. So yes, even the low end cable-TV quality manages to save the day for this game.
And yes, this is still a murder mystery game. While it may not feel too satisfying to solve a mystery that almost solves itself through pre-planned cutscenes, the process of investigating for clues and leads is on a completely different level. It also pays off to have a scoring system in the end that will provide players with a definite on goal on what is possibly the best and most efficient way to solve the case.