First of three planned chapters now playable on PC for two-player co-op adventure
Most Sherlock Holmes stories are most about Holmes being a great detective, while Watson plays the sidekick and foil. Not so in Escape Pod’s two-player co-op adventure Sherlock and Watson: A Study in Scarlet, in which the two stars share equal billing for very good reason.
The mystery takes place in 19th century London – Whitechapel in particular, but no, it’s not about those murders. Here the victim is a middle-aged man whose true identity remains unknown after the killer painstakingly removed any evidence that might have revealed it. What the killer did leave behind was a letter lying on the corpse, personally addressed to Sherlock and Watson, accusing them of being frauds and challenging them to “find out who the victim was by following subtle clues she (or he?) left them inside the house and around the neighborhood.” Rather than stick together, Sherlock and Watson decide to cover more ground by splitting up and investigating separately. It will take both of them communicating what they discover in order to “outsmart and imprison the overconfident killer, slowly revealing the true motive behind this murder.”
Presented as a first-person slideshow adventure with stylish hand-painted artwork, the aesthetic is meant to convey an “old books” vibe in keeping with its literary inspiration, though A Study in Scarlet is not based on any existing stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The controls are simple and intuitive as players “explore the beautiful scenes, examine areas of interest, collect and manage inventory items” in traditional point-and-click fashion. Far less traditional is that the gameplay has been designed from the ground up as a two-player cooperative experience in which both partners communicate via an external chat program. Clues are dispersed relatively evenly among both players’ paths, and as you begin to uncover new insights, you’ll come to understand that the full mystery is “much larger than it seems at a first glance.”
While the full version of Sherlock and Watson: A Study in Scarlet isn’t due to be finished for up to a year, the game is now available on Steam through Early Access, though only the first of three planned chapters is currently playable.
Note: Since time of writing, the game has been renamed Detective Tales: A Study in Scarlet.