Mycroft Holmes as a superspy babe? Manta ray–like attack submarines in the Thames? This lively app makes such things seem just about right, even if they might give Conan Doyle pause.
Steampunk is more than Victorians with Uzis, though it’s that, too. Instead, it’s an ethos of clanking machinery, good manners, waistcoats and improbable technologies. In this reimagining of a Sherlock Holmes tale, for instance, Holmes and Watson get hold of some seriously heavy ordnance: While navigating the narrow streets atop a whiz-bang motorcycle-ish contraption, faithful narrator Watson tries “to target the airship with my rocket-launcher; twice my projectiles flew wide of their mark.” Airship? Yep, and never mind the chronology of Graf Zeppelin’s experiments. And as for the submarine, well, readers will need to suspend disbelief enough to imagine a mashup of Jules Verne, too. Getting around this app isn’t immediately transparent, any more than piloting that sub would be, but once into it, it makes good sense. A screened-back band at page bottom, for instance, not only shows chapter breaks, but also flags bookmarks, while a suitably ornate top panel keeps maps, sound effects and other features within easy reach. As for the hot-chick–ness of Mycroft, an illustrations panel brings up black-and-white animations that drive home the point, while in text, the artwork is rendered in full color. Mycroft’s cute, all right, though that cigarette is going to age her; Sherlock has worse habits still, but he looks like a vampire, while Inspector Lestrade looks—well, a bit like Jude Law, the Watson of Guy Ritchie’s like-minded film franchise, an obvious inspiration for this entertainment and its inventive storyline. The background music is bouncy, though more Tijuana Brass than Band of the Life Guards, and altogether, the parts work well as a whole.
Suspend disbelief, then, and try not to get too caught up in the gears of Watson’s prosthetic superlimb. Say what? (Requires iOS 6 and above.)