SHCD: Garden Path

I said previously that the structure of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, and the static nature of the text, means that the basic resources available in all the cases can never answer questions you didn’t have at the very beginning of the case. I should have said “shouldn’t” instead of “can’t”. It took until case 4 for me to encounter out-of-sequence information, but it happened.

The first four cases have something of a progression in Holmes’ involvement. In case 1, he’s active for the entire introduction, handling the initial questioning before sending you out on your own. Case 2 is similar, but Holmes talks less — admittedly, mostly because Inspector Lestrade spends most of the scene delivering monologues. In case 3, he actually rushes out the door before the intro is over, trusting you to handle things while he pursues a completely different case. (I wish his trust were more warranted!) And in case 4, he doesn’t show up at all, just leaving you a note indicating that there’s something of interest in the day’s newspaper.

This leaves some ambiguity. There are two articles in the paper that present apparently separate mysteries: one involving a pair of dead lions that appeared in Hyde Park, the other of a sailor who fell dead in the street for no obvious reason. Now, the case is titled “The Lionized Lions”, so it’s obvious to the player which is item is the important one. But the player characters sometimes express confusion about it, and will ask the people they question about either or even both mysteries, as appropriate. And if you pursue both investigations far enough, you can find a suggestion that they’re connected. So I felt somewhat cheated when Holmes’ analysis didn’t involve the sailor at all, and none of the end-of-case questions had anything to do with that side of things.

I feel like this entire extended red herring is the game turning up the difficulty, on the assumption that you’ve got the basics down now and need more of a challenge to keep things interesting. But of course I haven’t got the basics down. This is something that a game on a computer can deal with a lot more easily than a game made entirely of paper. A truly interactive mystery can test you and make sure you don’t progress faster than your ability. Heck, even Pandemic Legacy slows things down when you fail.

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