Jack the Ripper takes place in a seedy district of New York called Low Side. Jimmy Palmer, a young reporter, has been writing a series of articles about several brutal murders in the district. Little does he know that he's investigating the infamous London serial-killer known only as Jack the Ripper. Eventually, the killer himself takes interest in Jimmy's stories and begins to correspond with the reporter through riddling messages in the newspaper. Jimmy finds himself in a unique position, relying on unusual access to the hidden killer and only his own instincts to back him up. His adventures also introduce him to love interest Abigail, a local singer, and other interesting characters. Players will conduct their investigations in a virtual recreation of New York City and solve several tricky puzzles.
Jack the Ripper is a story-based game - in fact, this is taken to the opposite extreme of frustratingly puzzle-dependent games; there is barely an intellectual challenge posed at any level. The most thinking you'll have to do is in figuring out the silly map system (which requires you to drag inventory items onto preset pushpins to create visitable locations).
Whether you place a higher priority on story development or puzzling challenge, I think even the most puzzlephobic gamers will find themselves disappointed by the lack of intellectual stimulation here. When a story is "on rails" as interactive fiction gamers put it, you at least have to make it fairly clear at all times what the next step is. The Police Quest games are a great example of that. Here, you are FAR too often reduced to simply visiting each location every day and seeing if there's anything to do there; the logic of the order of events is tenuous at best. What's so frustrating is the stranglehold of the linearity; you'll generally find that events must be completed in a certain sequence, even when logic dictates otherwise. One action triggers something at another location, and once that is dealt with, something is triggered elsewhere, and the end effect resembles a game of dominoes much more than a coherent, dynamic story.
The examples of this become more and more frequent as the game progresses, and there are literally more than I could count on both hands. But my favorite comes late in the game (and if you're determined to slog through this game, you may want to avoid the minor spoilers about to be unleashed): on Day 11, you tell the police sergeant that you know where Jack the Ripper is going to strike tonight. His response is a mocking "Get a picture of him for me tonight!" Which is fine. So you go through the motions of Night 11, and do get said picture of Jack. You'll be tempted at the start of Day 12 to run back to the police with your photograph of the city's most prominent murderer, right? But the sergeant just keeps saying "Get a picture of him for me tonight!" I was completely dumbfounded until I found out that you must talk to your editor and show him the picture first in order to "trigger" the police sergeant into Day 12 mode. This is far from an isolated incident, and you'll find yourself very often confused by the absence of a certain plot element, when really all you're missing is a trigger event. A moment of silence for logic, please.
All of this is such a shame, because the story behind this game is actually reasonably compelling. I'm not a Jack the Ripper historian by any means (though my interest in Sherlock Holmes has given me the basic story) and I learned a lot about the famous Whitechapel murders from this game. If I have not much else positive to say about Galilea, I can at least say they put sincere effort into making the game historically accurate. The idea of Jack the Ripper, who was never caught in London, resurfacing in New York thirteen years later is an interesting one. If you step back and just look at the story and the way it progresses through the 12 days and 12 nights of gameplay, without considering the execution, it is a pretty strong story.
Graphically, the game is strong as well. The characters don't look bad at all, especially when they're walking around, and there is a nice attention to historical detail. The environments are woefully devoid of any meaningful interactions (and I mean any, the game is full of items you can't pick up or examine and people you can't talk to), but at least they're fairly pleasant to look at. There are also some cutscenes that look very good and add a bit of short-lived suspense. Jack the Ripper is almost totally devoid of music, which is annoying sometimes...but then, when I think of how awful the music in Post Mortem was, maybe it's a blessing in disguise.
Sadly, all the graphical niceties and story strengths in the world can still equal a monumentally incompetent game. But what's really amazing about Jack the Ripper is how truly shoddy it feels. The conversation system is a joke; the first two topic options are always "Mission" and "Community" for some reason, and usually the resulting questions have nothing to do with either of those topics. The dialogue subtitles almost never match what's actually being said on screen; at some points they're not even synched with the character who's talking, to say nothing of the deluge of spelling and grammar errors in the subtitles. And as I said before, the constant, enormous logical failings lend to the general air of unprofessionalism.
Is it really that hard to throw five people in a room for two days and make them all play through this game? I don't even know how many times I wondered aloud why beta testing was apparently forbidden, but I promise you my six-year-old nephew would have caught many of the flaws before they made it to store shelves. He certainly would have noticed the main map screen of the "Low Side Dictrict." I'm not trying to nitpick here, I just don't want to be constantly reminded that no one at the developer actually played through the game to see if anything within made sense first.
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Jack The Ripper, Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express, John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles: An Adventure in Terror, In Cold Blood, Jack Orlando, Jack Orlando: A Cinematic Adventure, Ripper, Journey to the Center of the Earth
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