Monthly Archives: March 2013

Just a Couple of Notes

I was going to write something a bit more serious today, but I’m still full from last night’s Easter dinner with my two families and whee from chocolate, so you might get a Demon Diary review out of me, but not much else.

Until I get my shit together, here are some things:
I just ordered a shiny from the super awesome store Ivaldi’s Dream Trove. I will post plenty of pictures when it arrives, don’t worry.
Until then, some notes:

  • I have managed to force myself to write again, and when I’m finished, I’ll have TWO chapters of The Splicer up for you sometime, and then I WILL finish Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and then I WILL work on whichever one grabs my attention next.
  • I’ve learned how to edit comments. From now on, stupid comments will be edited and snarked at, mercilessly. Note: There is a big difference between “I disagree with you, and here’s why” and “LOL ur such a [ableist slur]! HURR DURR!” dickwaving. The former deserves polite discussion, the latter deserves snark.
  • I HATE SNOW AND WISH IT WOULD GO AWAY! MAKE IT GO AWAY!
  • I should not have stopped writing The Splicer right after introducing Wesley and before introducing Dominic, because now I have an angry hacker in my head who is pissed at me for not letting him be with his boyfriend (his girlfriend will come in later).

 

 

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Please plaster this all over the entirety of the Pagan interwebs, right now.

Shadows of the Sun

“There is no such thing as speech that is free. You must pay for everything that you say.”

— Marine Corps Staff Sergeant Sykes, Jarhead

I am about to pay for my words.

This piece will likely make me very unpopular, because I am going to talk about a very large, nasty elephant in the Polytheist room. A very large, nasty elephant that a lot of people aren’t wanting to address with sincerity, much less with any intention of doing something about it.

I accept the impending consequences. I accept the coming backlash, the (intentional) misinterpretation of my words, the spitting of black toads and the toddleresque tantrum-throwing.

Indeed, I welcome it. What better way for my voice to be heard than through reactionary criticism of it? Those that hate me and what I have to say shall be my most adamant and dedicated Word-Bearers.

My only care concerning this…

View original post 2,792 more words

My Mani Necklace Broke….

Pagan!Gef: Ohshit! THAT MUST MEAN THE GOD IS ANGRY WITH ME! WHAT DID I DO?! *goes through everything she’s done since last week* THIS HAS TO BE A SIGN!

Rational!Gef: I’m sure the beads were just too heavy for the string and it broke. *picks up pieces of necklace* You can restring it.

Pagan!Gef: But what if He really is angry at me?

Rational!Gef: The. string. was. too. weak. The. beads. were. too. heavy. Restring. it.

Pagan!Gef: *pauses* Really?

Rational!Gef: Really, and I’m sure you can do some ^waves hand* Woo thing to determine if the moon god is mega pissed at you for something. If you ask my opinion though, you just need to restring it. Stuff breaks. “‘The simplest explanation is usually the right one, etc. etc.”

Writer!Gef: Um, hello? Can I get some love?

Everyone: Fuck no, mom’s going to be riding our ass all day!

Writer!Gef: ……..

Dealing With Death Through Writing

Those of you who have been paying attention will note that I haven’t been talking much about my NaNoWriMo novel, The Eldermaid, apart from updating you on its progress, mostly because I’m paranoid that DIRTY THIEVES will STEAL MY IDEAS!

None of you would be mean enough to do that, would you?

I thought not, but if so, I wish you an eternity of listening to Vogon poetry while someone plays Navi’s “HEY! LISTEN!” sound effect in your ear.

For eternity.

Anyways, on a far less serious note, I haven’t been talking about my novel much, but I think this is a good opportunity to give you a glimpse of my thought process as I tried to get it all down in a month.

I imagine I’ve mentioned this before, but like many people in this culture, I have a crippling fear of death. I don’t want to be anywhere near it. I don’t care what anyone says, open casket funerals are just….ugh….seriously, I’m dead, bury and then go out and get drunk or fuck each other or something. Spare everyone from having to view my ugly mug (that some stupid mortuary beautician has probably ruined with too much makeup) and be all like “Boo hoo! Gef was such a good person!”

Fuck that, seriously.

So yeah, I have issues with death. I guess its not so much the actual process of dying as the complete cessation of my existence. Like, nobody will remember me and people from the future are going to find this blog and be like “Who was this bitch?” “I don’t know, man.”

Assuming the internet even exists in such a way that anyone could read this blog. Speaking of which, if anyone from the distant future is reading this. THERE ARE COOLER BLOGS THAN THIS ONE! WHY ARE YOU READING THIS?!

I didn’t start writing The Eldermaid to unpack my own issues, I was trying to tell a story in a month, and in the process, I learned things about myself. For instance, I learned that it would probably be much less stressful for me if I made a plan before diving right into it.

In the process, I think I learned a little something about death.

The world of The Eldermaid is ruled by Five Big Deities, these deities are personifications of abstract concepts like Love, or Knowledge. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that the world is ruled by Four Big Deities. Actually, that’s not really correct either, but that’s completely beyond the scope of this post.

The Fifth, and the oldest of these deities, is Yemena (YEH-men-ah), I should think her sphere of influence is obvious, right?

Fine, it’s Death.

As Goddess of Death, Yemena stands apart from the other deities. The other deities squabble and fight and stuff, not Yemena, Death doesn’t take sides. When one of them gets the idea to create humans (accounts vary as to who gets the credit/blame for that) Yemena gives humanity the BEST. PRESENT. EVER. Mortality, to keep humans humble because the Powers are Eternal  (also, because overpopulation is a bitch).

The whole premise of the novel, mind you, is that the deities eventually grow a bit fed up with humans and are all like “humans are way too needy” and so they all go away–except Death. Death is a constant presence in the world, and because Death is always there, she doesn’t have the huge temples and statuary that the other deities get. She’s just, well, there. Death is a friend, perhaps not always nice all the time, but the people in the world don’t have the same “OMG FEAR!” reaction that many people (including myself) have. Savvy readers might note a similarity between her name and a certain other underworld deity. Yes, it’s deliberate.

So, the end result of my month of writerly abandon is this “friendly” Death, wearing a cloak of stars, who spends her days and nights gathering souls and sorting them out and smiling as she works. A goddess who is more like Holda than Hel (although I’ve heard some say that they are the same).

And I think, in the process of writing this, the idea of death became less scary, not sanitized, but less scary. Maybe in time, Yemena will reveal a harsher face if you people give me enough money to write a sequel, but not at this time.

Like what I wrote here? The Eldermaid will be published….soon….hopefully to be celebrated with a giveaway (sighed copies!!)…..and then a sequel….maybe….

Game Review: Defender’s Quest

Oh GOG.com, I hate you so much. Every time I tell myself I want to save money, you come out with a new deal that will give me Inquisitor, a game I’ve been eager to play since I first watched the trailer, as long as I buy a few other games for an equally ridiculously low price.

Defender’s Quest was one of those games.

I actually played the demo for this game awhile ago, and thought it was interesting, but not interesting enough to really grab my attention at the time.

And now I want to smack my past self because this game is great. It has some of the most simplistic yet addicting gameplay ever, the story is good (even though the writing could use some polish) and it’s challenging without being sadistic.

So what is Defender’s Quest?

Defender’s Quest is a mixture of tower defense and RPG. I’ve never played a tower defense game, so I had to look it up. In a tower defense game, you build “towers” to protect a “base” from an onslaught of enemies. In Defender’s Quest, your “towers” are your party members, and your “base” is Azra, the main character, more on this later. Like a conventional RPG, characters gain experience and level up, which gives them a point to put in various skills. You can also purchase weapons and armor in towns.

The plot, such as it is, concerns the outbreak of a deadly plague in the Kingdom of Ash. Azra, the Royal Librarian, contracts the disease and finds herself thrown into the Pit, a place littered with the dead, dying, and once-dead revenants, discovering that she possesses a mysterious power that allows her to destroy the revenants in a place between life and death, she sets out to find the source of the plague with the help of some unlikely allies.

So, yeah, the story is kind of cliche and your cast is the usual assortment of stereotypes: you have your bloodthirsty berserker who is always itching for a fight, your cool, calm, and collective ranger who keeps the berserker from rushing headlong into battle and killing himself, an atoner, a highly religious sort who’s become something her religion abhors, a dutiful knight, etc.  Fortunately, the game takes the opportunity to poke fun of these conventions at every turn, although, to be honest, the story really isn’t anything that you haven’t seen before.

Battles, however, are where the game gets interesting. Battles take place in the “Half Way World” between life and death. Azra can summon her allies to the map by spending Psi (MP, basically). This is where the “tower defense” part comes in. Your goal is to protect Azra (your “base”) by placing your party members (the “towers”) strategically around the map so they can destroy enemies before they reach Azra. Your reward for fighting off all the waves of enemies is determined by whether Azra is unharmed or injured because you weren’t paying attention. Azra can also “boost” defenders to allow them to use stronger skills (ie. boosting Slak, your berserker, to level two will let him use his “Double Hit” skill, which does exactly what it says). Every enemy your defenders destroy nets you some Psi, which Azra can use to cast spells of her own or recall the defenders in order to place them elsewhere on the map. You can also give allies certain commands like “attack the weakest enemy” or “attack the one last in line”. If the waves are moving too slowly for you, you can also adjust the speed of battles on the fly.

If this sounds very complicated, it’s really not, it just looks complicated in writing. Basically, figuring out where to place your defenders so they get the most out of their range is crucial, and there will definitely be battles where you’ll want to move them around a bit.

A typical battle with Azra on the far right and defenders positioned in the middle.

Or, to make it really simple, here’s the (nearly) perfect guide getting “Perfect” rank in battle:

1.Boost Ketta (your Ranger) to max.

2. Watch her destroy everything stupid enough to come in range.

3. Keep other defenders around just in case something survives.

(Note: This strategy doesn’t work on one particular level.)

For all its simplicity, the game can be pretty challenging, but never unforgiving (and for those of you who like even more challenge, there are optional bonus challenges to pursue). At several points in the game, I found myself having to go back and play some of the earlier levels on Extreme difficulty so that I could have a chance at beating levels on Normal (especially since I wasn’t using any generic recruits), but trust me, it can be done, I just did it.

In terms of the art, the graphics in general are really low tech, so you shouldn’t have any trouble playing this on older PCs. The art style is cartoonish the facial expressions in particular come across as kind of creepy (Wrenna in particular looks like she’s going to tear your heart out whenever she smiles.) The soundtrack has this very “SNES RPG” feel to it, the music does get repetitive, but I enjoyed the boss themes in particular. (Boss battles, btw, are quite tense, frantic affairs).

In terms of replayability, there’s a New Game + mode, a whole score of achievements, those bonus challenges, optional side quests, and five different endings to find (although all you have to do to find them all is reload the game after you’ve beaten it), and a few different difficulty levels for each level, and you WILL want to get three gold stars on each level, yes you will.

In sum, Defender’s Quest is a great game that probably won’t win any awards for compelling storytelling, but the simple-yet-challenging nature of its gameplay will keep you busy until the next time-sink comes along.

No, Just No.

The tumblr Pagan tag is a source of endless entertainment and frustration for me, but mostly entertainment. Today, I found this graphic:

I have no words for this.

Actually, I have a couple:

“Ishtar” is pronounced “Ish-tar”, this is the way my professor pronounced it, and I trust his judgement, because he, you know, studies this stuff for a living.

ERMEGERD CONSTANTINE! For the love of everything, Constantine didn’t have anything to do with determining the date of Easter or the meaning of Easter or anything like that, THAT debate wasn’t resolved for AGES after Constantine.

Bunnies? Try lions.

I love how this graphic uses “fertility and sex” as if they’re a matched set. I’m sure it might surprise some of these people to learn that songs like “Ishtar will not tire” exist, which have nothing to do with fertility and everything to do with the goddess fucking a whole lot of men near the wall of the city. Why? Because she wants to. (And she’s the goddess of prostitutes, they prayed to her for customers.)

Honestly, why am I even responding to this? Everyone reading this knows that its stupid.

Review: Wrapt in Crystal by Sharon Shinn

Today I had nothing better to do than finish this book because cramps. My only exposure to Shinn’s writing previously has been Troubled Waters, a very character driven fantasy with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. I thought Troubled Waters was good, not the best I’ve ever read, but I’d be interested in a sequel.

So now I come to Wrapt in Crystal, a character-driven science fiction novel with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.

I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

The novel takes place on the desert planet of Semay, where two different orders of priestesses, the jovial Triumphantes and the austere Fideles, serve the goddess Ava. Despite serving the same goddess, the two traditions are as different as night and day. When a serial killer begins preying on members of both orders, however, Cowen Drake, a member of the intergalactic special forces known as Moonchildren, is sent to investigate. Caught between two different worlds and two very different women, it’s up to Drake to catch the killer before they claim their next victim.

My summary probably makes the book sound more like a mystery novel, and there are some times where Drake does a little detective work, but that’s not the focus of the story. The focus of the story is definitely the characters and their relationships to each other. In genre terms, Wrapt in Crystal could probably be classified as a space opera (if I’m reading Wiki correctly). Even the world, though interesting, is secondary to the character drama.

As many of you might know, I like books where religion plays a role beyond just being a prop for the characters to be like “Oh my gods!” all the time, and religion definitely does play a role in this book. There are two dominant religions on Semay, both worshiping the same goddess. The Triumphantes are a popular sect who focus on the “joyful face” of the goddess, and this sect enjoys immense popularity among the upper classes. The other sect, the Fideles, emphasize austerity and service to the poor. The two sects are so completely at odds that one character remarks that someone will think twice before inviting a couple who frequents a Triumphante temple to the same dinner party as someone who receives blessings from a Fidele priestess. Much of the novel focuses on our protagonist (who has, predictably, lost his faith in any deities) seeking to understand these two sects. At times, the book becomes downright philosophical, touching on love and forgiveness and faith, but it never really becomes preachy, this I like. I like when books don’t preach at me.

In terms of the characters, our main character is very much a just-doing-my-job, serious kind of guy (who is also a bit of a dick), and his character pretty much remains constant throughout the novel (except near the end, where he becomes lovesick and can’t go for two seconds without thinking of his love interest). He’s also lost his faith in deities (he comes from a family of polytheists, in case you’re wondering) due to a personal tragedy, so much of the theological discussions have him playing the role of the skeptic. Personally, I didn’t really like Drake, because he was kind of a dick, but he wasn’t completely unsympathetic.

At this point I should inform you that the back of the book lies, because at one point there are three potential love interests, and all of them get what TV Tropes calls the Ship Tease. There’s Lise, a fellow Moonchild who is the hothead to Drake’s calm, cool and collective demeanor, Jovieve, a member of the Triumphantes who is quite the flirt, and Laura, a Fidele who is really, really, really devoted to the goddess. In short, both of them are pretty much their orders personified, hooray. My personal preference is for the Triumphantes over the Fideles, so I naturally liked Jovieve a whole lot, but there’s nothing I particularly disliked about any of the women, probably because Drake is a bit of a jerk.

The thing is, for a novel that’s so character-driven, the characters seemed kind of…flat. This might have something to do with the fact that Shinn likes to repeat herself a lot, so the reader is constantly being informed that Lise is the type of girl who can “take care of herself” and Laura is very devout, and Jovieve has a “thing” with the governor. It’s like Shinn took, at most, two traits and is simply referencing them over and over in the hope that the reader won’t notice.

If I had to name one major flaw with this book, it’s that it’s slow. It seems like Drake does a lot of driving around and thinking about things, then he goes to talk to the two women, then he gets teased by his fellow Moonchildren, wash, rinse, repeat until the mystery is solved. This is the same problem I had with Troubled Waters, you have to be in a particular mood to enjoy these books, otherwise you’re going to want to throw it across the room. I can say with confidence that her writing is also much, much better in her more recent work. The one lengthy action scene in this book was so terribly written that I had to check to see if I was still reading the same book.

Other things of note: I like how Jovieve and Lise pretty much fuck who they want and don’t give a shit when stupid men try and slut-shame them. Jovieve also admits to being polyamorous in all but name. Drake can be a sexist dick at times, though, and there is a possible homophobic insult (involving a guy who mistakenly believes Drake and Laura are signing on with a pimp). I don’t remember any POCs with significant roles to play (several characters are described as “dark-skinned”).

So, my recommendation? If you don’t mind a main character who is a bit of a dick, like science fiction that doesn’t require a degree in physics to get the most out of the story, and don’t mind the slow as molasses pacing, you might like this. In the end, it’s just sort of an okay book. I’d say get it from the library.

Lore vs. UPG vs. Experience vs. ???: A Personal Ranking

I’m sure a lot of you have been in similar spaces, but I’ve been in online spaces with an “anything goes” approach to Paganism(s), wherein you would be hard-pressed to find credible research on anything, and that’s if anything’s been cited at all) and other spaces that are very eager to use the Lore (TM) as a thing with which to beat people over the head who dare to innovate in any way.

TBH, if I had to choose either extreme, I’d much rather hang out with the fluff bunnies. In fact, this is exactly what I did when I was turned off from all the lore-thumping.

However, the space that I find ideal is neither of these extremes. I want to have an intellectual conversation with knowledgeable people who won’t bite my head off if I haven’t read five different translations of the Eddas. I want a space where I can share a sudden insight I’ve had without fearing that I’m going to be laughed at (although there might be some gentle teasing) or derided because that’s not what the oldest of the old books that we have say.

In short, in the debate between lore vs. UPG, I want a balance, I want my cake, and by golly, I am going to eat it!

However, I must confess that for me, at least, this whole thing with lore vs. UPG is a bit more nuanced. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I fall more on the UPG-centric, reconstructionist-derived side, and that’s true, but not really….

Let me break it down for you:

The first tier is my own experience, my gut, if I spent time doubting my own experiences, I’d never get anything done. If something “just works” for me, chances are I will insert it into my personal practice, even if it isn’t historically accurate. My use of tarot cards and prayer beads would fall into this category (although we have examples of beaded jewellery, to the best of my knowledge there’s no indication that the tribes used beads in prayer).

Secondly, we have the lore, but this is where it gets complicated. The lore is something like the collective experience of the people who actually worshiped my deities way back when. However, the problem with the lore is that it’s been mangled and filtered through a Christian lens, so while it is valuable, it gets the number two slot (but not really, you’ll see in a bit).

Thirdly, we have the experiences of other people, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone, but in the event that I’m around other people who know more or have been doing this longer than I have (which is almost everyone I hang out with online) I like to bounce sudden insights off of them. However, the experiences of others are weighed against my own, if they match up (or the information feels “right”) I keep it, if it doesn’t, I usually toss it. Keeping in mind, though, that there are some things I just need to hear.

Somewhere on this list we also have scholarly material, but I don’t know exactly where to put it, so I’m thinking between 2 and 3. Something that is irrelevant that it isn’t even on the list is the opinions of asshats. Seriously, even pop culture/fictional worlds made the list. Asshats, IMHO, aren’t worth anyone’s time.

Pay attention now, because this is where things get complicated. You see, I have a nice little list here, but the truth is that the process by which I determine if something is “useful” to me spiritually is much more nuanced than this neat little list would suggest.

For instance, let’s say I have a “god dream” in which Mani appears saying that He wants me to buy a pink top hat and wear it every Monday for the next month. I will take this bit of information, and I will usually do the following:

Chat up my like-minded online friends: “So, I had this weird dream last night in which Mani told me he wanted me to wear a pink top hat every Monday. WTF is up with that?”

Somebody might reply with “I found x references to hats in the lore. This might interest you.” or “So and so did some research on hats in the lore.” or “Look, I found an article about hats being associated with the moon!”

Another person might say “OMGS MANI LOVES TOP HATS! No, seriously, He asked me to wear a top hat once too, mine was black though, I have no idea why yours is pink.”

Another person may conclude that it’s actually Loki who is invading my dreams to troll me.

Meanwhile, I’m picking my dream apart trying to figure out what the colour pink means to me, and what I associate with top hats. And I’ll also be looking for snippets of lore and scholarship that might be helpful.

In the end though, it’s up to me to decide if and how I’m going to use this information, I might decide I had too much spicy food to eat that night and discard the dream, or say “Why the fuck not?” and get a pink top hat. If I’m wrong, the most that’ll happen is I’ll look silly and people will give me odd looks.

All of this comes with a couple of cautionary notes though:

When things contradict other things. Sometimes this happens, you have this piece of information and the lore (or general scholarly consensus) contradicts it. When this happens, I tend to either discard it completely, or put it in the “but it works for me” pile. As in “there’s no evidence the Norse practiced sex magic (volsi cult aside) but it works for me, therefore I use it.” If something seems too off the wall though (“Hela likes bunnies, adorable white floofy bunnies!”) then it probably is.

Sometimes you just need to go with the flow. As loathe as I am to tell anyone to stop thinking, sometimes you just need to put on the pink top hat. This is something I really have trouble doing, I like to think things through and carefully weigh my options before doing anything, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. There are things that the lore and the academics and other people can’t tell you, you just have to do them. And it’s hard, it’s very hard. It might not be historically accurate, it might not be something that anyone outside your circle of friends has talked about before, but some things you need to do.

Seriously, just do it.

Making Prayer Beads, or Buying Fair Trade Beads is Expensive

Today I decided that I was going to make the Thirteen Moons Rosary in honour of Mani (instructions for making it are in the book Pagan Prayer Beads: Magic and Meditation with Pagan Rosaries by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn.

And then I stumbled upon this review for the above book which was yet another reminder that everything I own probably comes from a sweatshop (actually, I own a few fair trade necklaces) and I started thinking “Oh shit, Mani likes kids, I don’t think He’d be pleased with sweatshop beads….”

So I am trying (for once) to do things right and look for ethical beads. The problem is, fair trade beads charge by the bead….and I need 182 beads for this thing, at $5.95 per bead (the cheapest I could find that was aesthetically appealing), that’s $1083 and that’s before shipping costs.

So, apart from making them myself out of paper (which is by far the cheapest, most ethical option) I can try and choose beads from countries with extensive labour laws. Seed beads from Japan seem like a safe bet, as do the “moon” beads (simulated pearls with a core made of crystal).

On the other hand, I could just make them out of paper….but I can’t help but feel like I’m being cheap. On the other hand, look at the alternative.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Why haven’t you realized this before?” Because I am an ignorant Westerner stuck in a bubble of privilege, okay? Now STFU.

It’s a small thing, I know, and it’s not going to change the fact that there are a thousand other things around me that were probably the end result of someone slaving away under shit-tastic working conditions, unless you go completely off the grid and work on a homestead (not feasible for me due to my disability) you can’t avoid it.

But it’s one small thing.

I will update you on my progress with this thing.

P.S. Sorry Freyja and Njord, I already made your prayer beads using beads I bought at the craft store. I will do better next time.

P.P.S. The Eldermaid has been sent to the editor who actually knows what they are doing, since I have finished messing with it. Still waiting for the IRS to get back to me re: an ITIN.

Game Review: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

You are Sherlock Holmes, and this is your investigation!

This is my 300th post (hooray!) and one of my Facebook friends suggested that I do something to piss off the Asshattru. Well, the thing is, I pretty much piss off asshats by existing, but I think I can manage to think of something for post 301, for now, a review of a game I just completed.

I would classify myself as a casual Sherlock Holmes fan, I haven’t read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works (though they are on my ereader) but I’ll happily jump on any adaptations of his works. My favourite show right now is undoubtedly Elementary, but I also enjoyed the movies with Robert Downey Jr. The Holmesian mythos is just one of those literary phenomena where one might never have read the stories and yet still has a vague idea as to the roles Irene Adler, Inspector Lestrade, and Professor Moriarty play in the grand scheme of things.

Apparently, Frogwares (a company I’ve never heard of until now) has put out a series of adventure games following Holmes and Watson as they solve cases in and around London. This game, billed as Holmes’ “darkest adventure yet” is actually the seventh in a series, but you don’t have to play the previous games to enjoy it.

I used to play point and click adventure games back when they were the only games in the bargain bin at Staples, and I didn’t like them very much but I kept buying them for some reason, maybe in the hopes that one of them was actually good. I would sit there for the longest time trying to figure out the puzzles, which seemed to use their own form of mind-bending logic (octopus + dollar bill = grappling hook?) and that’s if I could stand the mind-numbingly bad voice acting.

Having said that, there are good and bad things to say about Testament, but overall it was an enjoyable romp through Victorian London.

These two guys, you play as them. (Sherlock is the one of the right, FYI)

Let’s start with the good stuff, shall we? For those of you who are looking for something a bit more akin to the recent movies, this game’s got you covered. The developers aren’t kidding when they say this game is dark (and more than occasionally gruesome). It’s also interesting to watch how the relationship between Holmes and Watson develops through the game, particularly when Watson begins to question whether Holmes is really that trustworthy (to say Holmes comes across as a bit of an asshole in this game is an understatement).

As for the puzzles, there are a lot of them in this game, but few of them have the kind of bizarro logic adventure games are (in)famous for having. There were a few solutions that left me scratching my head, but that’s what walkthroughs are for (and even armed with a walkthrough, it will take you quite a bit of time to get through the game). I should note that if you get really stuck, many puzzles have the option to skip them, though you will miss out on an achievement if you do.

An example of one of the many puzzles you’ll find in this game.

Gameplay is pretty much what you would expect from an adventure game. You can examine objects (indicated by a magnifying glass), pick them up, and combine them to form new objects (although this is more common in later cases). A much-hyped feature of this game is the deductions board, where Holmes attempts to suss out details related to certain cases. Unfortunately, this feature really isn’t used much outside of a few cases, which is kind of disappointing. Occasionally, you’ll switch from playing Holmes to playing as Watson, in the early stages of the game, you basically do this so Watson can fetch a book while Holmes is at his desk, doing important detective things, but in later areas, you’ll have to switch between them in order to achieve your goal.

I also think that the developers did a great job of capturing the “feel” of a Victorian London where everyone and their brother is dropping like flies due to plague and the poor and hungry are everywhere. Frogwares paints a very bleak picture of London at that time, which, as far as I know, is entirely appropriate given the setting and the tone of the game.

Unfortunately, the game is marred by some issues. For one thing, it’s as linear as linear gets and the one point where there was potential for some non-linearity (the deduction boards) is wasted. The player isn’t allowed to make a wrong decision (unlike in say, something like L.A. Noire, which let the player continue trying to solve the case even if they failed at detecting whether someone was lying). I could be a bit more optimistic and assume that the devs wanted you to feel as if you were in the shoes of the legendary Sherlock Holmes, but I’m not feeling very optimistic so I’ll just call it a waste of an interesting game mechanic. The voice acting runs the gamut from tolerable to pants on head annoying (including an antagonist that I wanted to punch in the face every time he opened his mouth). I should have probably just muted the game and put on subtitles.

In sum, if you like Sherlock Holmes, mysteries, or adventure games in general and don’t mind references to madness, poisoning, and cannibalism (among other things) I’d give this one a shot, but if you don’t have the patience for puzzles that sometimes veer into WTFery or you want a bit more shooty gun action, I’d say pick up something like L.A. Noire instead.