The game is on with Sherlock: The Network

I am a huge fan of BBC's Sherlock, and I immensely enjoyed the new series that completed its run on BBC One a couple of weeks ago, and is currently airing on PBS in the states. Coinciding with series 3, an official app was released featuring exclusive video footage of stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Mark Gatiss as Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and Mycroft Holmes, respectively. That app, Sherlock: The Network, makes its US debut today.

Sherlock: The Network has 10 cases that need solving, and you become one of the members of Sherlock's Homeless Network to assist him and John. There are a number of mini-games, a "Mind Palace" just for you, communication with key members of Sherlock's team including Lestrade and Molly and much more.

If you are a fan of the quirky nature of the series, Sherlock: The Network will delight you from the first launch. Don't skip the introductory video, else you'll miss a key opportunity to be recruited and berated all at the same time. Unlike the other videos, it can't be replayed at this time, though developers are working to address this.

The cases navigate you through London, and most fans of the series will be familiar with the use of pounds and London's tube system. Sherlock and John provide a guiding hand throughout via text and voicemail messages. The voicemails have transcripts in case you're unable to listen to the audio. You want to solve the case as quickly as possible, but hold onto to your money, so you'll get pretty familiar with the tube mini-game. The touch sensitivity isn't quite what I like. It was a bit hard to maneuver the bits of the tube tunnels into place, and I had to tap several times to get parts to move.

I really like how this game grounds itself in as much reality as possible, from the London tube stations to voicemails being tied into the local date and time on your phone. The cases are actually pretty tough, which loyal fans will appreciate. If the case proves too difficult, you can either forfeit your points by having Sherlock solve it for you or you can wait and see subtle hints appear to guide you to the correct answer. Sherlock: The Network fits in the series' world in every way and doesn't dumb down its content to appeal to a broader audience. Granted, Sherlock wouldn't stand for such a thing. Even if you're not a Sherlock fan, if you enjoy the Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton games, then you'll like this one.

The game is US$4.99, and there are no in-app purchases. The Project Factory made a smart move here to have all the content available from the start. However, I would love to see new cases eventually be available through in-app purchases. Buying the HD version for the iPad requires a second $4.99 purchase. The Project Factory's Andy Skinner explained that separating the iPhone and iPad versions kept the download size the games down. The iPad version, which features larger pictures, clocks in at 433 MB and the iPhone version is 260 MB. The content on both versions is the same. Those worried about spoilers will find some cheeky references to series 2, but no spoilers for anything past series 1.

If you're a Sherlock fan, the $4.99 is worth it just for the extra content featuring Sherlock, John and Mycroft alone. The immersion into Sherlock's world is top-notch, and you'll find yourself awaiting more cases just as eagerly as you'll await series 4.