Lost and Found Files of Sherlock Holmes

I have been accumulating comic books for nigh on a quarter-century, at this point. Strangely, though, it occurs to me today that while I generally think of “my comic book collection,” it may be that I’ve never really approached its assembly as collecting, per se. I’ve rarely emphasized completion for its own sake, and I’ve also felt very little instinct to show off my holdings… It was this latter point that really got me thinking about what makes a collection vs not, because I’ve realized that by contrast I do like the idea of showing off my nascent Sherlock Holmes collection a bit.

Sherlock Holmes book and two video games

Items 39-41

I think this could well be a semi-regular topic for this blog, in fact. We’ll see. For now, my three most recent acquisitions.

Encounters of Sherlock Holmes I really can’t say much about, at the moment. I’ve not read it, yet, and I mostly just chose it as a birthday-list suggestion because it was a recent publication relatively well recommended by a site (which I can’t recall at this moment) that keeps an eye on such things. I presume I will enjoy at least some of the stories. Right now, its most interesting feature is probably the title treatment, echoing that of the item above it.

Both of these are recent releases, and I can’t at the moment recall seeing this tasteful magnifying glass quasi-logotype in use before… though it seems incredible that Holmes was around for 120+ years before someone thought of this. I would love to know when someone did first develop the idea; it may well have been in the 19th century, even, but I don’t really know. Perhaps it will catch on as a semi-official logo in the years ahead; I doubt it, but I could see it happening.

Otherwise, I enjoyed The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, my first video game featuring the great man. The story was decent; I don’t think the various acts and scenes joined up as a single narrative very persuasively, but each worked well enough individually, and it was great fun simply exploring London as Holmes, Watson and even (briefly) faithful Toby the sleuth-hound. While playing, I pondered occasionally how well this type of game worked on the Playstation3—apparently this is the latest in a series that began as PC-only titles before more recent console releases—and to my surprise I concluded that there was no clear answer. In some activities, the Playstation controller felt compromised relative to a pointing device. But the PS3 gamepad and its two joysticks seemed to work better than a mouse would have in at least as many situations. I think it was definitely more effective for immersing oneself in the gorgeous game environments, which were really the highlight of the game for me. Of course, to some extent modern games still have a wow factor for me, in general, as I get to know them after only the most limited exposure to the video game mainstream for most of 20 years…

Which brings us to The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes, a 22-year-old adventure game on floppy disks. Ah, yes, this feels rather more familiar…

Floppy disks and a printed manual…

Floppy disks and a printed manual…

This game (also, apparently, published on 5.25″ disks) apparently sprawled across nine floppies… which seems delightfully absurd, now, though I’m certain that I installed games with an even higher disk count.

I don’t recall this particular title from those bygone days of adventure gaming. I believe about 80% of my own gaming attention in that heroic era was devoted to Sierra’s titles, and the exceptions were all science fiction. Which invites the question of just when and why I decided to make an active, extended study of Sherlock Holmes… despite how recent this project is, I’m really not sure. Holmes was always around, as far back as I can recall. I read various of the original stories throughout my youth, and enjoyed them well enough, but didn’t really think of myself as a fan. I’m not sure when that changed. Thinking about it, I suspect that Chabon’s The Final Solution, demonstrating as it did the wonderful possibilities of extracanonical Holmes stories, might have been the most direct prompt to beginning a collection of them… though I can think of at least two or three other ways that my interests have probably been pointing in that general direction for years. Why do we do anything, I guess… Anyway.

This looks to be a hoot, and indeed already is even though I’ve not begun the game yet. Realistically, I bought this boxed copy from eBay for the objects themselves, anyway, and they don’t disappoint. Just the design, my god…

holmes-july-2

This feels like it’s just about one of the most bizarre artifacts of graphic design I’ve ever encountered. There’s maybe a vague hint of pseudo-Victorian fussiness lurking about, if you squint, but it’s awash in this garish madness of neon and airbrushing… And I can’t decide whether it’s made more or less fantastic to me by the fact that I recognize this and (kind of) understand its context. This is the look of the late 1980s and early 1990s, almost in distilled form. The game was released in 1992, and this package could almost be the very weld between the visual aesthetic of those two decades. The bizarre airbrushed image on the cover, oh yes, I remember… and the  back of the box hints at the visual exuberance set loose by desktop publishing, still in the process of being restrained in ’92. And… I didn’t even see this before, but just now I notice what appears to be a frieze of Holmes-related dingbats in the border? Good heavens… Yes, I believe this was a capital acquisition.

The game manual is fun as well, as was often the case in those days. There’s a fine little essay on the enduring appeal of Holmes; who would put that in a game manual today? The prize may go to the inside cover, though. Here’s a closer look…

Don't pirate video games, kids! (It says here)

You could almost make this a Holmes-insider-reference drinking game

This might be the most (if not the only) fun anti-piracy entreaty I’ve ever read. It’s fascinating to recall these as a phenomenon, also, and the fact that they’re products of a world when the “sneakernet” was far more likely to circulate pirated content than the proto-internet… but I’ve probably waxed nostalgic enough for one post.

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