221B Baker Street (Datasoft) Review | Atari User - Everygamegoing

Atari User

221B Baker Street
By Datasoft
Atari 400

Published in Atari User #28

221B Baker Street

The game is definitely afoot in Baker Street, though whether Dr. Watson would consider it elementary is another matter.

Datasoft's interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes stories plunges you straight into smog-bound London, revisting the scenes of the crimes.

The name of the game is detection: Hunt the clues, find the murderer, name the weapon, identify the motive. But there's a little more to it than that...

With joystick (or keyboard if you must) at the ready, select the number of players (1-4) - and note that it's a case of the more the merrier as you can get in each other's way.

To make life complicated, you can then opt to receive your clues in code. Codes are not sacrosanct, and the other players can crack them - but you can always change your code later to throw them off the scent.

Your next task is to select a character - Holmes, Watson, Inspector Lestrade or Irene Adler.

Now all you have to do is select a case to crack from the 30 available (more if you've got the additional library discs) and read the casebook carefully for clues.

At this stage it's as well to have pen and paper to hand otherwise you'll rapidly lose track of what's going on.

Groundwork done, move onto the playing screen, a scrolling map of London with the interesting buildings picked out. This togglers with a "helium-balloon" view of the whole city which reveals your opponents' locations and lets you plan tactics.

Each building contains a clue or a playing aid: Your job is to do the rounds, collecting as few clues as you need to solve the crime.

You'll also need to acquire a badge from Scotland Yard en route, otherwise you'll not be able to get back into 221B.

Mission accomplished you head back to Baker Street as quickly as possible - on foot, by cab or even by underground passage - and announce your solution.

Take care in going underground though. The secret passages are fast but unpredictable, dumping you out at random locations.

And if any part of your solution is wrong you'll be back on the streets again - and you won't know where you went wrong either.

The concept is sound enough, but plodding around the streets to get the clues does get tedious. There are distractions and you can "lock" buildings behind you to make life difficult for the other players.

Bear in mind though that you might need keys on occasions too, when your opponents have beaten you to a location. Still, you can always replenish your supply at the Locksmith's shop.

Speed of movement is determined by an on-screen dice, which is perhaps too faithful a rendition of the original board game - surely something a little more sophisticated could have been contrived.

The sound effects and graphics are competent and colourful but hardly exciting, and the novelty of entering strange buildings soon wears off.

It does help to plan ahead and to choose economical routes between objectives. And strategy of a sort is called for in throwing your opponents off the scent.

But it's a game for Holmes addicts really, for the clues, casebook and quotes all lovingly recreate the atmosphere of the original stories.

As a computer game it doesn't quite stand on its own two feet.

As a mental exercise, or as a board game, with the family clustered round getting in each other's way (intentionally) it works.

Full marks for effort and full marks for translation, but most players will find it does for them what Conan Doyle's dog was remarkable for doing in the night. Nothing.

W. F. Wilberforce