221B Baker St.

Reviewed by John Sweeney


Issue 29

Sep/Oct 87

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1/4 players


221B Baker St. is, of course, the legendary home of Sherlock Holmes so, not surprisingly, you play the part of Sherlock (or one of his colleagues) in attempting to solve numerous intriguing cases, mostly involving murder most foul!

It is an accurate copy of the board game of the same name which has been around for about 10 years and which bears many similarities to Cluedo: you move your character around the board on the throw of a dice, enter numerous buildings to obtain clues and, when you think you know the Who, How, and Why of the case, you check to see if you have won. Unlike Cluedo, each time you play 221B Baker St. you use a different scenario. There are 30 cases provided with the game, and supplemental libraries are planned. Each case consists of a couple of hundred words describing the circumstances of a crime, the various suspects involved in it, and what you have to discover about it in order to win. There are two types of clues: General Statement Clues (e.g. Alice Gloth was seen outside the Pub the night of the murder) which may or may not be red herrings and Puzzle Clues (e.g. KILLER CLUE (Four Parts) 1: Capone's first name), very much like crossword clues and always sufficient to completely solve the crime if you can find them all.

Extras include the ability to lock locations, secret tunnels (not present in the board game), and the Carriage Depot which allows speedy transport around the town.

The board is angled on the screen, only showing a small part of the 20 by 19 board (making a map is recommended.), the buildings are all shown in nice 3-D graphics. The characters (up to four of them) shuffle around the board in response to the joystick and entering a location causes a picture to be displayed, with various sound effects such as owls hooting and fog-horns sounding, and of course a clue is shown (you should make some checklists of the locations for recording your clues). Once the novelty of the graphics and the animation has worn off however, it all becomes rather laborious. The characters move slowly, the board is repainted rather than scrolled, and the pictures take ages to load from disk. As a one player game it has little to recommend it (the board game is unplayable by a single person), and once you have multiple players you have the problem of preventing the others seeing your clues on the screen. There are two solutions. One is to just make everyone else turn away which is extremely boring for those who have to turn away (of course in the board game you just get on with your turn while the previous player is looking in the clue book) and the second solution is provided by an option to have Coded Clues this involves each player being allocated a code (there are 20 provided) and the clues being displayed with certain key words in code. This adds the extra dimension of allowing the players to try and break the codes and read each other's clues but I personally found that it slowed the game down even more, and that, since everyone has a full set of codes, it was relatively easy to work out which one each person was currently using.

The board game costs about 10 and has 40 rather than 30 cases. As such it is about half the price per case and it is much more playable given the plodding speed of the computer version. If you already have the board game note that 11 of the 30 are duplicates of the board game cases. It's a great game and I recommend you rush out and buy it now but preferably the board version!

John Sweeney