Sherlock Holmes: The Vatican Cameos is an interesting text adventure that is more interesting by virtue of innovative designs than the actual gameplay. The game is based on the "affair of the Vatican cameos" mentioned in passing in The Hound of the Baskervilles. As renown private eye Sherlock Holmes, your task is to catch the culprit behind a mysterious murder by investigating clues, interrogating suspects, and make the right deductions to connect the murderer to the weapon and the motive. It is not enough to find the truth, however: to win the game, you must be in the right place at the right time in order to be summoned to testify in court. Then, you must correctly answer a series of ten questions in order to convict the culprit and win the game. Unlike most othe text adventures, The Vatican Cameos is turn-based: the clock keeps on ticking whether or not you make a move, and you will lose the game entirely if time runs out.
Although the game is purely text-based, The Vatican Cameos has more in common with point-and-click games than traditional parser-based games. This is because you can only form short commands from a small menu of verbs such as MOVE and ASK. The writing is solid, although it seems to me too pretentious - as if the writer were trying too hard to emulate Sir Doyle's style. One nice touch is that suspects move about the game in real time, forcing you to deduce their agenda to intercept them for questioning. Some suspects lie and hide information until confronted with the evidence, and clues are scattered throughout the story. There are also many red herrings to throw you off track, so frequent saving is crucial.
With a decent plot, solid writing, and some interesting characters, The Vatican Cameos is worth a look for mystery fans. The game's very limited interface unfortunately prevents it from being too interactive, but if you prefer games like The Scoop to full-fledged text adventures, this little-known underdog may prove entertaining. Reviewed by: Underdogs