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In the year of our Lord, 1888.
A young actress has been brutally murdered in the alley behind the Regency Theatre.

Jack the Ripper appears to have struck again.

Inspector Lestrade turns to London's most famous detective to provide the proof.
He turns to you.
Sherlock Holmes.
~ from the back of the box

You gotta love Sherlock Holmes. His pipe-smoking, violin-playing shenanigans still resonates in all of media, including video games where Frogware's surprisingly good and long-running series is still going strong. Detective work makes for a great adventure game. A decade before these fine folks took their first stab at it, Electronic Arts had the publishing rights to Mythos Software's adventure; an original tale dubbed The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel.

An actress has been brutally murdered when leaving the theatre where she works. All signs lead to this being another victim of Jack the Ripper, but Sherlock Holmes is not so sure. Despite the real-life murders taking place around the time the first Sherlock story was published in 1887, Conan Doyle never canonically mentioned the infamous serial killer. By location and time period alone, the two are linked in my mind. It wouldn't be until 1966 when the two were linked with Ellery Queen's A Study in Terror, but most would first think of the Bob Clark directed feature film Murder by Decree. There have been countless since.

As you progress, many more locations will become available to you on the London map (left).
Dr. Watson will also write in his diary. It not only offers clues and hints, but is entertaining in its own right (right).

The Case of the Serrated Scalpel isn't quite as good a mystery as Murder by Decree, but it is still a well written yarn. The flowery dialogue captures personalities of both Holmes and Dr. Watson with a narrative that does not over complicate what could easily be a mess of convolution in worse hands. It is also graphically beautiful to look at, especially for 1992. The pixel art on display oozes the foggy atmosphere of late 19th Century London. Shadows crawl up walls in a dank side alley while the ramshackle stank of a local pub is palpable. The character sprites are finely animated too, even if their portraits when talking occasionally look a little rushed and amateurish.

So, it's a fine looking game. What of its gameplay? Well, in all honesty it is a bit of a let-down. I was expecting an involving point-and-click adventure that would test my detective work and deduction skills. Instead, it was more of an interactive novel. You do have a multitude of verbs and an inventory, but mostly progression is made by talking. These conversations can drag, but if you can stand the long periods of non-interactivity, they are well written. When a dialogue tree does pop up, there are usually a limited number of routes to take the conversation. Sometimes, you'll have to describe a person to someone - a puzzle that would test your memory - but throughout the conversation you can methodically select them all in turn removing any difficulty.

While your time will mostly be spent in conversation, when an inventory puzzle does show up you can feel the warm nostalgia of a classic adventure. They don't last long, though, as they are insanely easy and consist of "give thing to person". Give a spring to a man to fix a door. Give opera tickets to a doorman to enter the theatre. Give a newspaper to a footballer to prove his girlfriend died a horrific death. Sometimes, you may get a mini game. Darts play a role in convincing some drunkards in a pub to spill the beans as well as their beer. You even have access to a whole laboratory table at 221b Baker Street, though don't get too excited. These are lacking as much interaction as the rest of the game.

You will get to use all of the sciency stuff in Sherlock's lab desk in his living room.
Unfortunately, these aren't exactly puzzles but a means to gather smidges of information.

In 1994, an upgraded port to the ill-fated 3DO took advantage of CD-ROM media with full voice acting and video sequences. Alas, ScummVM does not yet support this version and any attempts to emulate it ended in crashing after 10 minutes of play. I will surely keep hoping and trying for better solutions as from what little I've played, the live actors bring quite a lot to the table. Otherwise, it appears to be pretty much the same game.

Sherlock Holmes' first lost file is a bit of a mixed bag. It has been on my "to play list" for some time and while I can't say I didn't enjoy it, I was slightly disappointed in its rather passive nature. The original DOS game came on a whopping 9 floppies and every byte is there on the monitor screen, but it doesn't take the world's greatest detective to uncover its flaws. Hopefully its sequel will be the classic I thought this one would be.

To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses ScummVM to allow the game to run on modern PCs. Manuals, Reference Card and Cluebook included. Read the ChamberNotes.txt for more detailed information. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 84.6 Mb.  Install Size: 149 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ


The Lost Files of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpelis © Mythos Software & Electronic Arts
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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  1. It is over too soon and its puzzles are all over the place, but still it looks incredible, and it is the basis for Gabriel Knight and all of its clones. Are you going to add Rose Tattoo as well?

    1. Just based on 25 year old memory but the 2nd part was a rounder and more rewarding experience. Looking forward to it! (again)

  2. Would LOVE to see the 3DO version on here if you can ever find a way to get it to work! Would be awesome!! :)

    1. I honestly thought the emulator would word. It says 100% on the 4DO emulator page but both that and its open source Opera fork on retroarch crash during the first conversation with Lestrade. ScummVM plays further, but it's borked in a lot of other more graphical ways. Annoying.

  3. This game is my favorite Sherlock game!!!

  4. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the game, personally I love it and I've been playing it off and on for years. I love the graphical style and each screen is bursting with colour. The music too is of a high standard and helps to set the scene. It was a simple point and click game but it did have a lot of atmosphere to it, although I suppose given the subject matter its a shame it never felt unsettling like either a Darkseed or Gabriel Knight. I did prefer it to the follow up which was just too slow and fussy to keep me entertained for long. Even though I've played it for years I will download your version so I will have a definitive copy. Thank you!

    1. I did enjoy it to an extent, but I found its sequel to be the game I wanted this one to be. The storytelling to game ratio was far more balanced. Serrated Scalpel is by no means a bad playthrough, but perhaps I went in with too high expectations which left me disappointed.

  5. Anyone get the 3do.version to work with it crashing every 5 min?