Nemesis, indeed. Back in the beginning of the 20th Century, author Maurice Leblanc introduced a new kind of literary protagonist, Mr. Arsene Lupin. A well-behaved thief, a "gentleman thief" in so many words, Lupin starred in over twenty volumes, and came to be very popular in France. And who better to face off against such a well-known Frenchman than Sherlock Holmes, one of the most popular English characters of all time and the brainchild of none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis, Frogwares Studios and The Adventure Company team up to show the world how these two characters might meet, and the setup is fairly convincing. Arsene Lupin has contacted Holmes with a letter warning that he plans to steal five artifacts kept within Britain's most famous locations, including the London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, and even the National Gallery. Although this is a serious matter, the real threat is against Sherlock Holmes' reputation - Lupin has already managed to turn law enforcement on its end with his thievery. Thus, Holmes and his partner Doctor Watson have no choice but to set off and attempt to stop the audacious bandit before he can turn their partnership into a mockery.
One key difference between Nemesis and most other point-and-click adventure games is its inclusion of first-person view. While this is a very interesting and refreshing approach to the adventure game genre, it can also be unnecessarily tedious. As Nemesis conforms to the standard formula of collecting and redistributing objects, and the staple adventure title two-dimensional backdrops have been replaced with fully viewable environments, it is easy to reckon that there is a lot more scanning of the environment than in other titles. For the adventurer that desires to feel as though they are Detective Holmes searching with a fine-toothed comb, this sense of nitpicking through everything in sight will do wonders. Fortunately, those players that do not enjoy that sort of exploration will not feel too provoked into acting in such a manner, as the object icons generally pop up within a yard or so, thus quelling most of the need to examine each and every polygon.
Playing Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis has the nostalgic feel of a brain-twisting adventure title, and on par with that sense is the inclusion of Holmes-worthy puzzles. The game pretty much forces the player to explore every possible clue on the map when playing as Holmes, and the only derivation from this formula is a few short stints where Watson becomes playable. Unfortunately, Watson does very little investigating and a lot more fetching, something the poor guy is probably all too used to. While searching for clues and taking notes to solve later puzzles is exhilarating (and well done), the game forces you to see and note everything. As the old saying goes, there will be no stone left unturned, and to ensure that point, the developers do not allow further progress until everything of note has been investigated. Some might write this off as an attempt to make the player adjust to Sherlock Holmes' style of analyzing, but the reality is that it is a game mechanic that falls short of being enjoyable.
The environments within Nemesis are another story entirely. Everything within the game is crafted beautifully, and the only downfall here is some of the character design. Every once in a while, especially when a conversation requires multiple characters standing around, it is hard to distinguish whether they are cardboard cutouts or living, breathing people. Their mouths move, but it's easy to imagine that those flapping jowls are run by pneumatic pumps and tubes. Adding to this delusion are the voice-acting blurbs, some of which are too stale and humdrum to be taken seriously. Fortunately, this sense of inanimate objects speaking in human voices occurs very rarely, and the artistic feel of Nemesis more than makes up for it. Even in the first main area of the game, the National Gallery, the hard work of the game's developers shows. Everything from the seemingly handcrafted columns to the polished wooden floors looks right at home in the Gallery, and something of note is the effort mustered to reproduce the famous works of art that hang on the walls. If you enjoy visiting museums to view such art, expect to spend some serious time here examining all the paintings and information displayed beneath them. Perhaps you'll recognize some favorites. Also, the musical score is very comfortable to listen to—soft strings and other orchestral instruments provide a soothing backdrop. When considering the process of thinking out challenging puzzles and collecting detailed information, the music fits the mood perfectly.
At the end of the day, Sherlock Holmes: Nemesis is impressive in its own right, but doesn't set any groundbreaking standards. The inclusion of a first-person viewpoint is done fairly well, but unless something is done to change the nature of item collection in future games, this mechanic is bound to always fall short. Despite a few hiccups with the gameplay and character design, Nemesis is extremely fun to play and rewarding all the same. Set yourself behind the eyes of Sherlock Holmes and his partner Doctor Watson, get ready to put that all-important magnifying glass to use, and set off on a cat-and-mouse adventure that promises to put your wits to the test.