Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House Game Poster Image
Slow-paced mystery revolves around puzzle solving.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

While not overt, the general tone of the game is positive. Holmes is constantly having his ego stroked (sometimes by himself), and characters can surprise, leading to the message that one should not base presumptions about characters based on what they have heard, but rather upon what they personally see and discover.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The character of Holmes is a bit of a stuffed shirt and full of himself, while Watson plays a bit pretentious at times to provide the foil for Holmes' character, but they are working to solve crimes. That said, though, the game generally provides positive feedback for puzzles solved and gives players a small sense of accomplishment.

Ease of Play

The control scheme is simply to use, with the stylus allowing navigation from screen to screen and a touch on the screen revealing either objects to collect or pieces to puzzles. Each of the puzzles has a maximum point value for solving them. Some of the puzzles are not explained before the player attempts them and to get "hints" about how to solve them, the total value of what a player can score is reduced.

Violence

The game contains references to violence, such as seeing the body of a dead man as well as verbal references to suicide.

Sex

At the beginning of the game, Dr. Watson reads a list of perspective cases to Sherlock Holmes and one involves the disappearance of a man's wife. Holmes declines the case, stating that the woman ran off with her lover. Obviously, this is a reference that includes adultery, but much like the violence, the references are in the dialogue and nothing is depicted or acted out within the game.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are in the course of the investigation when they see a bottle of wine and glasses filled with wine. It is identified as a clue, though no one imbibes during the game.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House is a puzzle-based adventure game with a few references to violence and sexual themes. Players solve puzzles -- often presented without instructions as to what the player is to do to solve it -- to earn clues to solve the overall mystery. The puzzles are very linear, and they seemingly have only one solution. The game moves slowly and several of the more than 30 puzzles are very similar in nature.

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What's it about?

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE MYSTERY OF OSBORNE HOUSE, the genealogical records of Queen Victoria have been stolen and the Royal Family asks the famous detective Sherlock Holmes to unravel the mystery. Players will have to find out who is behind the plot to overthrow the ruling house of Great Britain while guiding Holmes and Dr. Watson to various locations throughout London, solving puzzles, and unraveling clues. The title has more than 30 puzzles available, and they play intricate parts in gaining clues to the mystery.

Is it any good?

Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Osborne House suffers from a lack of instructions for many of the puzzles used by the game. For example, one of the first puzzles encountered is the Horizontal Lady. It has a maximum possible score of 150, but the game does a very poor job of stating the objective of the puzzle. Clicking on the icon for a hint states the objective but then only allows the player to get a maximum of 100 out of the possible 150.

While the hand-drawn artwork is very good, the game seems to move at a snail's pace at times, with dialogue that attempts to add flavor to the game, but generally fails. The puzzles are the core of the game and they can be challenging. There are moments that will elicit a smile in the way a phrase is turned as the characters banter. The game may not sit well with younger players who are looking for a game that moves briskly along, while older players may find the puzzles entertaining but frustrating due to the lack of guidance in what is supposed to be achieved.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how to use logic and creative methods to solve puzzles.

  • They can discuss how to set responsible time limits on gaming.

  • They can also talk about how to deal with frustration when games don't give all the instructions or players struggle with game elements in order to resolve them in a peaceful, non-aggravating way.

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi
  • Price: $29.99
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: THQ
  • Release date: January 5, 2011
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violent References

For kids who love puzzling mysteries

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