Jack Is Back!
In real life, the identity of the infamous Jack The Ripper is still unknown. Hypothesis about his profession, the reasons behind his masterful killings as well as his identity abound. For what purpose were vital organs taken from his victims? Were they to be used for some strange experiments, or was he just a madman acting out a personal vengeance toward prostitution? Was he in reality a doctor with knowledge of anatomy and skill with a scalpel? No one will ever know, for he is surely in his own grave by now - 116 years since his 1888 London murders surprised and shocked the world.
In this rendition of the story, Jack the Ripper surfaces in New York City in the year 1901 and resumes his killing frenzy. Of course, it takes awhile to conclude that it is, indeed, Jack – but I’m getting ahead of myself.
One New York paper has beaten everybody to the punch with the story of the first murder. Competition being what it is, you work for another newspaper and your boss is determined to outdo everybody else. Your character, Jimmy Parker, is given the assignment. You guide Jimmy as he hunts down clues in various locations, talking to people who knew the victim and learning more about Jack in general – all in first person perspective. During the next 12 days (and nights), more murders occur and “the plot thickens”, as they say. Eventually Jimmy is able to pinpoint exactly when and where the last murder will occur and might have an actual opportunity to catch Jack the Ripper.
This game is atypical of some other French-made games I’ve played recently – graphics-wise at least. You’ll find static backgrounds with animated people and objects. The interactive characters and pick-up-able objects are so very obvious that they stick out like sore thumbs. (This can be good or bad.) There is nothing really very atmospheric about the backgrounds other than they are dirty and destitute, like they’re supposed to be on the “Low Side” of New York. The newspaper is cluttered and has the feel of an early 1900s place. Clothing on the characters is in keeping with that time also.
Music is good, but not extraordinary. The English singing voice of Abigail is very nice to listen to. Ambient sound effects are everywhere and, in fact, add the only real atmosphere I felt while playing the game.
The game ships on 2 CD-Rom discs but there is no disc swapping. Disc 2 is used only for installation and never required while playing. There are 12 game save slots, which was adequate for me. Several resolutions are selectable in the options as well as the choice of shadows, anti-aliasing and sub-titles .. but there was no volume control selection. The navigation map is accessed with a right-click and is easy to use. I did find the object use function a bit clunky, but nothing to hinder enjoying the game.
The story is good, although it takes awhile to get “into it.” Each day Jimmy must write his “chronicle” for it to become night. The plot gets better in about Day 4.
New York City is a huge place, so there should be plenty of locations to visit. Yet, you only get to visit one brothel, one cabaret, one police station, one hospital and one agency office. There are several alleys and the crime scenes, but all-in-all there is not enough versatility. Too few characters is also an issue.
And, the locations you do get to see are absent of things to do. There are many screens which contain “eye candy” only … nothing to interact with, nothing to do but look. There is a meager attempt to add atmosphere with meaningless flashbacks when a raven appears.
If you use a walkthrough, the game will play out in about 10 hours – if not, you’ll find it drags along at least for the first few game days.
Lastly, it is very, very, very linear. If you go somewhere or do something out of order, you’ll need to revisit/redo what you’ve already done. And, in the worst case, the game can actually hang up.
The Bottom Line
This version of Jack the Ripper could be considered a weekend diversion. As adventure games go, it is nowhere near a classic and will soon be forgotten once finished. It really covers no new territory in the Ripper story and leaves you with the same questions you started with.