Frogwares has been making Sherlock Holmes games for years. Third-person adventure mysteries, players take on the role of the famous detective at various points in his life. Their previous title, Chapter One, was set in his early years before even meeting his partner, Dr John Watson. Before that, The Devil’s Daughter was set years after his battle with his nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. Having played many of their titles, you were never certain where Frogwares would send you or which of the many famous crimes he’d be focused on.

Their latest Sherlock title, Awakened, a remake of their previous 2007 title, sees Sherlock tackle Cthulhu cults around the world. It’s an interesting match: Lovecraft’s mythos is inherently mysterious and unknowable, beyond the realm of logic, yet Sherlock is the embodiment of logic and reason. What happens when Sherlock’s mind is forced to engage a universe that makes people lose their grip on reality?

Frogwares has shown their love of the Cthulhu mythos in the fantastic The Sinking City (2019), an open-world mystery adventure drawing from Lovecraft’s writing. That title, too, stars a detective. It’s a perfect mixture then for the team itself.

Awakened is an early case for Holmes and Watson, beginning as nothing more than simple kidnapping. But soon, the duo find themselves travelling around the world, tracing a mysterious, powerful cult with a strange, apocalyptic goal. Sherlock uses his powers of deductions to analyse crime scenes and individuals and come to conclusions to advance his case. This is done by on-screen hints and visualisation modes, that let’s Sherlock see the world in ways “ordinary” people cannot. For example, when you hover over a bootprint, Sherlock can piece together whether the person was large or small, carrying something and so on.

Clues are then stored in a Mind Palace. From here, you must make deductions though the game is more forgiving than previous titles, since I did not ever feel like I was making deductions that could be wrong. Being wrong, however, and seeing the outcome of your mistake, was always an aspect I loved of Frogware’s previous titles. Clues read differently can lead to different conclusions. While that does exist to a small degree here, I never felt the moral ramifications of getting it right or wrong.  

Unlike Chapter One and The Sinking City, we also no longer have a large open world map to explore. Most stages are small and, unfortunately, not that deep. The biggest map is perhaps one set in a Louisiana town. But this was nothing compared to the map of Chapter One and The Sinking City. Also unlike, say, The Devil’s Daughter, each stage requires using the same mechanics to solve. There is little variety in terms of gameplay. Frogwares’ used other games’ stages to play with Sherlock’s abilities in different ways, whether it was working out a timeline of a massive carriage crash or using disguises and make-up. There is little of that variety here. The only time I felt a significant and fun change was the very last stage of the game, but I will not spoil what you have to do. It was a fun puzzle and uses mechanics that appear nowhere else.

The story’s slow build toward a terrifying conclusion is well-handled. It’s helped that much of the game is well-written with great performances from all, especially Alex Jordan as Sherlock and Wil Coban’s John. The various settings are visually unique, but you will be using the same mechanics throughout. Some parts were also fairly abrupt: After breaking into an asylum and avoiding guards, once the two have obtained the clues they need they magically just appear safely in a train. A sheriff who murders a citizen of his town is never brought to justice, despite giving chase to the two and promptly seems to vanish.

But these are minor. The bigger story of the cult, the horrors they perform, and lives they destroy, is quite a haunting tale. And Sherlock’s mind takes a large hit as he begins gazing into the abyss and beyond.

I always enjoy my time with Frogware’s games. While their games are not perhaps AAA standards, they are always articulations of genuine love of these franchises, these stories and the characters. With excellent writing and performances, Awakened is another success story – even if it is not Frogware’s best.