Review

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter Review

  • First Released May 27, 2016
    released
  • PC

Master Sleuth

Every Sherlock Holmes game is burdened with a question of “how?” How do you adapt the world’s greatest detective for the interactive medium of video games? How do you give players the power fantasy of embodying the man with all the answers, without diminishing a crucial sense of challenge? How do you test a player’s investigative skills, without it feeling like they’re just following Sherlock’s lead?

These are all questions Ukrainian developer Frogwares is accustomed to answering, having developed nine Sherlock Holmes games over the past fifteen years. Its last entry, 2014’s Crimes & Punishments, answered these queries more astutely than most by placing the onus of responsibility squarely in the player’s hands. Sure, it may have been somewhat easy to uncover all of the clues with Sherlock’s full range of near supernatural powers at your disposal, but piecing each clue together, arriving at a plausible conclusion, and being confident that you were convicting the right suspect was an altogether different beast. With no wrong answers, it was less a game about rights and wrongs, and more about your interpretation, where Sherlock’s moral compass was your obligation, and you were forced to decide if these people should walk free, spend time behind bars, or worse.

The latest entry in the series, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, takes this unusual premise and applies it to five new Sherlockian tales of intrigue, suspense, and grey moral quandaries. As with Crimes & Punishments, this partition of cases is structurally sound. Without the need to stretch out one case over the length of an entire game, these bite-sized stories are free to move along at a fairly brisk pace, maintaining suspense throughout and hitting satisfying crescendos. There’s some foreshadowing sprinkled throughout that alludes to the titular Devil’s Daughter, but otherwise these are all disparate cases, branching a range of interesting subjects, from peculiar murders, to a deceptive traffic accident, and even an attempt on Sherlock’s life.

If you’ve played Crimes & Punishments, locations like Scotland Yard and Sherlock’s flat on Baker Street will be instantly familiar, yet The Devil’s Daughter still resembles a soft reboot of sorts. This is partly due to the sprightly redesigns of both Sherlock and his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson--with Holmes transforming into a bit of a Jon Hamm-alike. Admittedly, this doesn’t change all that much: the writing and voice acting are still decent, with a few notable exceptions (such as the grating caricature of Sherlock’s daughter), and even Sherlock is a little less forthright--a little less of a decorous bore--which makes him slightly more enjoyable to be around. There’s actually a tinge of Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock about him, which seems like a conscientious decision when you consider the other ways in which The Devil’s Daughter has tweaked the formula.

Devil's Daughter strikes me as a game attempting to push the series forward in a presumptive attempt to attract a more mainstream audience. It’s all a bit triple-A, if not in practice, then at least in spirit. Unfortunately it’s an approach that never really achieves anything but middling results.

It's hard to not notice his Jon Hamm-ness
It's hard to not notice his Jon Hamm-ness

You can now venture out onto the streets of Victorian London for the first time in the series--passing merchants shilling their wares, or overhearing the downtrodden complaining about the economy--but it’s mostly inconsequential. You’ll occasionally have to find a house or two by following road signs, but you spend most of the game fast-travelling from one location to another (the long loading times will test your patience). While at first this adventure to the outside world seems novel--providing the game with a welcome sense of time and place--it soon becomes an afterthought as early as the second case, and feels like a missed opportunity.

In fact, the most meaningful usage of London’s cobblestone streets arrives early in the first case, when you play as young Wiggins (Sherlock’s eyes-on-the-street) and are tasked with tailing a potential suspect through the winding back alleys of Whitechapel. If you’re rolling your eyes at the very thought of a tailing mission, you’re right to do so: this bout of stalking is as bad here as any Assassin’s Creed game. Though, mercifully, it only shows up this one time, which is a common theme throughout The Devil’s Daughter, as mechanics are forgotten just as quickly as they’re introduced.

Solving mysteries takes place within a literal representation of Sherlock’s mind, with clues depicted as neurons that can be linked together.

It’s quite the list, too. There’s a section where you have to run through a forest, managing stamina, and ducking behind cover to escape an impassioned gunman. Some rudimentary stealth makes an appearance, too, as you stand behind things and make note of guard patterns to sneak through a cemetery unnoticed. There’s one part where you switch between Sherlock and Watson to pull levers and push boxes in order to reach a higher platform, and a comical bar fight that is overcome with a most egregious process of trial and error.

There’s even some Uncharted-style tomb raiding as you contend with spike pits and booby-trapped rooms during an illusionary jaunt through an ancient temple. The Devil’s Daughter is certainly varied, and I appreciated that I wasn’t doing the same exact things in every single case. The problem with this scattershot of action-oriented asides is that they’re mechanically unrefined and terribly overdrawn. Player movement is clunky at best, and the things you’re doing are rather dull and derivative, which is only exacerbated when they drag on for too long. The game is spread too thin, with a variety of activities that rarely coalesce into something enjoyable.

Fortunately, solving cases is often a joy, and is done in a plethora of ways that delve into Sherlock’s idiosyncratic methods of investigation. The basic mechanics work as they have done previously--with a few minor tweaks here and there--and revolve around surveying crime scenes to gather evidence, interrogating suspects and witnesses alike, and using Sherlock’s divine powers of deduction to piece everything together.

The bar fight, while seeming like a good idea on paper, is particularly frustrating.
The bar fight, while seeming like a good idea on paper, is particularly frustrating.

Collecting evidence is relatively straightforward for the most part, and the locations you visit are beautifully detailed. They’re varied, too--taking you from an opulent bowls club to an illegal gambling den perched on one of London’s ramshackle docks--and sleuthing your way through them is a real treat. Occasionally you need to utilize Sherlock’s Victorian Detective Vision to uncover clues ordinary folk wouldn't notice. And things can also get a little tricky when, say, there’s a lock that needs to be picked, or an ancient Mayan text that has to be translated. These more traditional puzzles are dotted throughout, and put the conundrum-solving part of your brain to good use. A few had bamboozled me on more than one occasion. And if they’re too intricate, or if you only really care about the story, they can always be skipped without penalty.

I’ve always enjoyed the interrogation component of crime solving games, and The Devil’s Daughter puts a wonderfully felicitous spin on proceedings. At any time during conversations you can slow down time and zoom in on specific aspects of the person you’re talking to. This allows Sherlock to parse details that you or I may never notice. A sewn patch on a child’s clothing, for example, might look insignificant, but to Sherlock it’s an indication that his parents take good care of him; and that his skinny arms (a sign of malnourishment) aren’t born from negligence, but from a severe lack of income. This is important because, in a very Sherlockian way, you can often catch someone lying by contradicting their statement with a detail you picked up just by observing them. If you’re missing a particular piece of information, you’ll lose out on these opportunities, which injects a welcome dose of meaningful interactivity into what was previously a passive affair.

There’s an inkling of the supernatural scattered throughout.
There’s an inkling of the supernatural scattered throughout.

Once you’ve spoken to enough people and gathered the requisite evidence, it’s time to piece everything together and come to a conclusion. This takes place within a literal representation of Sherlock’s mind, with clues depicted as neurons that can be linked together so long as they’re relevant to one another. Link enough clues and this invariably uncovers more clues, until you’re able to reach an outcome that’s consistent with your interpretation of events. And that’s key, remember. There will often be two or more suspects, each with evidence suggesting both their possible guilt and innocence. It’s up to you to paint a picture of the case and come to a decision that you’re happy with. It’s a peculiar way of ensuring Sherlock is always right--and maintains his air of superiority--but it works. If there’s any failing, it’s that this concept robs each case of the satisfaction of knowing you did a good job. Yet, more than any other game of its ilk, it made me think and contemplate my decisions in a way that had me scouring back through all the evidence, just to make sure I was absolutely confident in my answer.

Less fantastic, however, are The Devil’s Daughter’s technical shortcomings. Visually, this is a handsome game, but the framerate has trouble keeping up, and screen tearing is a near-constant nuisance. Mechanically, it’s not particularly intensive, so these issues aren’t as heinous as they maybe could have been. But they are noticeable, and, combined with the excruciating loading times, amount to a game that’s not as optimized as one might hope.

Ultimately, Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter succeeds where its predecessor did, by presenting a generous spate of intriguing cases, and giving you the freedom to come to your own conclusions. It’s a fantastic detective game; it’s just a shame that it's bogged down by myriad technical issues, and a mediocre attempt to inject some action into proceedings.

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The Good

  • Cases are interesting subjects, mostly well written
  • Varied locations are beautifully realised
  • Piecing together clues is a joy

The Bad

  • Action sequences are dull and overdrawn
  • Technical issues mar the experience
  • Wandering London’s streets is insignificant
  • Some voice acting is particularly hammy

About the Author

It took Richard around eight hours to sleuth his way through Sherlock’s five cases. He especially dislikes the monotonous bar fight in the third case, but admits that having to play dress-up was quite fun.
41 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Kersh2347

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This might be a dumb question but do I have to have played the other games in the series first? I'm assuming if there is some sort of overall storyline to them that it won't be taking centre stage and the game will have its own stand alone story

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Sacrilegious1

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Edited By Sacrilegious1

@kersh2347: Not really, sometimes there are references that are basically easter eggs. You can play any game without having played the others. Having said that, I suggest playing vs jack the ripper, the testament of sherlock holmes and crimes and punishments.

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juliaanderson

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great review! no doubt that Holmes is a great detective and crime solving games are best for me. I've also tried to play Holmes and the Stolen Stones at imoneyslots.com

Its awesome guys)

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4mnesiac

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Edited By 4mnesiac

What people don't understand about sherlock holmes is that old-england asperger humorless antisocial personality is all his charm. By making him a brilliant action hero you're destroying the character.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@4mnesiac: Asperger's syndrome and humorless? I don't think so - but in the fiction, he does acknowledge that he has sociopathic tendencies.

However, I do agree that the games should tone down on the violence. Sherlock Holmes in the written stories and novels is not above fisticuffs though.

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focuspuller

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@Gelugon_baat: Sociopathic tendencies? I don't think so. You're thinking of the BBC show Sherlock. The Conan Doyle character, as written, is eccentric, but not a sociopath. He doesn't have Asperger syndrome either.

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Gelugon_baat

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@focuspuller: He did imply himself as not a sociable person when he spoke to Watson about his brother's exclusive Diogenes club for erudite loners and also said that he does go there sometimes because it is an excellently quiet place. Also, Watson says that he coops himself up in the Baker Street residence for many days in a stretch - doing something productive in Holmes' eyes of course, but that certainly does not involve meeting people.

I did cite the written stories and novels, didn't I?

But yes, he certainly does not have Asperger's. I did not say that he did, by the way. (Not to mention that Asperger's Syndrome was defined long after the Victorian era.)

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captainwonton

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When I finished reading the review I was sure it was a 7, remember the excessive technical issues of AC Unity? It got a 7...

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jj2112

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Edited By jj2112

I've only played The Awakened. I'm a huge Lovecraft fan but just couldn't be botehered to finish the game, not a bad game but not really good either.

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Cillerboy

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Not a bad score, just seems like technical issues are bringing it down a bit.

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Gelugon_baat

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I am not sure if many people know this, but Frogwares has switched from Focus Home Interactive to BigBen Interactive (which, despite its name, is a French company - just like Focus Home).

The portfolio of BigBen makes me cringe: rhythm games, fishing games, and mobile phone accessories.

I am not saying that Focus Home Interactive is super-duper awesome here, but this seems like a step-down to me. I don't know what Frogwares thinks it can get from BigBen that it cannot get from Focus Home.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: Like I said already, your advice is only useful for adventure game enthusiasts.

Yet, there would be people who don't just play mainly adventure games. That bias of genre enthusiasts won't be "irrelevant" to them. If these people don't know that recommendations are coming from genre enthusiasts, they are going to listen to suggestions without knowing that these suggestions are already tainted with bias.

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RogerioFM

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@Gelugon_baat: I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and don't expect them to be all idiots at first glance, it is a web site called adventuregamers after all.

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Gelugon_baat

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@RogerioFM: That would require the assumption that people even understand the term "adventure game" in the first place.

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RogerioFM

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@Gelugon_baat: I do, if they don't, google is there for it.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@focuspuller:

I am not defending the reviewer here, but I will tell you this first: I have read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In those stories, Holmes does walk around London, so you can argue that this part of the game is sort of in-line with the canon. However, Holmes walks around to scout out things - not for going to one place or another. If he wants to do that, he hops into one of the carriages because he would want to get there faster. He doesn't do sight-seeing, because he has already done that already.

If there is indeed no gameplay at all in this part, the only reason that I could think of for Frogware's inclusion of this part is eye-candy. Frogware has made assets for some places in London, and is loathe not to include these in the game.

With that said, only a Londoner could appreciate (or despise) this part. Richard Wakeling resides in the UK, but it's not clear whether he's a Londoner.

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leikeylosh

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@Gelugon_baat: "I am not defending the reviewer here." Yeah Gelugon, sure. You never did that, ever.

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Gelugon_baat

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@leikeylosh: Also, at least I am not being a fan of this-and-that reviewer. You are though - you praised vanOrd more than a few times.

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Gelugon_baat

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@leikeylosh: Sarcasm is cheap humor.

With that said, you can make that kind of jab if I had actually agreed with the reviewer's remarks.

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timthegem

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Does it have the same classical violin soundtrack that was in like four of the previous games?

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REVIEWLIES

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6? more one poor game.

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youre_a_sheep

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Crimes and Punishments was a great game, and this looks just as good. I hope the low rating doesn't scare off newcomers.

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4mnesiac

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@youre_a_sheep: really. read the review? fantastic detective game, incredible adventure game, unique gameplay: 6. wtf?

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HuSSaR83

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@youre_a_sheep: I wish they could just add more missions to Crimes and Punishments and stick with whats good instead of trying to make new games.

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focuspuller

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Edited By focuspuller

@HuSSaR83: Dispite the meager complaints of this review, it seems as if this game follows the same format of that game. Episodic in nature and so on.

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Lajt

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I hoped it was better, really liked Crimes and Punishments. Well will wait for Metacrititc score before deciding if buy or not.

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RogerioFM

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Edited By RogerioFM

Waiting for the Adventuregamers review, they know their shit.

You guys should take a look too, I mean a web site focused on adventure games that managed to remain to this day an age? This take some serious passion.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@RogerioFM: A couple of years ago, I would have trusted in specialist sites.

Then I realized that they might have some degree of bias in favour of whatever genre which they are particularly interested in. To be specific, their opinions of such games tend to be made in a vacuum, without regard for other kinds of titles outside of their genres.

With that said, your advice is only useful for adventure game enthusiasts - whom I would say are already a particularly biased lot, just like other genre enthusiasts.

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RogerioFM

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@Gelugon_baat: Yes, it is genre biased, but that is irrelevant in this case since they only review adventure games, so adventure enthusiasts will review their games following their set of rules, taking into consideration only the genre.

They don't care if Metal Gear had a 9 or if Uncharted got a 10, for them those games are non existent.

For them what matters is, how good is it compared to say Gemini Rue or The Longest Journey. So yes, it disregards other titles outside the genre, but that's the point, so the bias as said is irrelevant. They won't give a game a higher score only because it's an adventure game.

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SoNin360

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I enjoyed Crimes and Punishments... not sure on this game's new look, but I'll give it a chance anyway. That is, whenever it's actually available on consoles. There's some sort of issue with distributing the physical version of the game apparently. And it's not on the PS Store, though it's available on Steam so eh...

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SkyHighGam3r

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lol this game sucks? *gasp* "OMG I never would have guessed..."


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ps3gamer1234

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Looks like a Constantine knock off.

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off3nc3

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This review is pure BOGUS .

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berserker66666

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@off3nc3: Welcome to Gamespot

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RogerioFM

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Not sure why the new edgy look.

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focuspuller

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Edited By focuspuller

I don't put much stock in this review. And I don't see how wandering around the streets of London is a negative thing, even if it doesn't directly advance the story.

Also, you gave some descriptions in the review that are a bit spoilery. You could have been more vague with some of the details. Bar fight in the third episode?? Chase in the woods?? description of a puzzle?? Come on! I don't want to know these things! I want to experience them!

In any event, I'm really looking forward to playing this game. Even if it's less than perfect. And Frogwares has been improving their Sherlock Holmes games with each release. Outside of any story choices, I can't imagine this is a step backwards.

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RogerioFM

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@focuspuller: Never trust GS for adventure game review, they all suck incredibly.

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"Some voice acting is particularly hammy" To me that's a plus, especially when Sherlock himself is so Jon Hammy :P.

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Pelezinho777

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I don't get the new look of Sherlock, why they destroyed the character?

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naryanrobinson

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Ah that's a real shame.

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Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter

First Released May 27, 2016
released
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter, the eighth game in the series, is an incredible adventure game with unique gameplay blending investigation, action and exploration for an extraordinary experience that will test the limits of players' nerves and intelligence.

6
Fair

Average Rating

39 Rating(s)

6.5

Developed by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
Teen
Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Mild Language, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco, Violence