During the last few years of the nineteenth century a number of prostitutes were murdered in London. What made these killings especially mysterious was the grotesque nature, and the obviously excellent anatomical knowledge the killer possessed. These poor women were butchered in ways almost unimaginable, and even to this date the case hasn’t been solved – although many have tried.
Jack the Ripper, a game published by The Adventure Company, puts you in the role of James Palmer, an ace reporter for the New York Today, a newspaper trying to get the perfect scoop on the recent murders. After speaking with your editor you’re given the assignment to investigate the strange killings, which takes you around the darker areas of New York. You’ll meet a host of characters, ranging from prostitutes to a paper boy. You’ll converse with bums, shady criminals, and plenty more. During your investigation you’ll follow many leads, all while trying to keep your editor happy and your readers well informed.
The game is essentially a Myst-style adventure game, with definite thriller/horror elements. You look around using the mouse, left clicking to perform actions, and right clicking to bring up the inventory and map. The whole Myst approach to movement usually works well enough, because you pretty much just click where you want to go. One of the game’s problems is that the movement arrows don’t always show up when you expect them to. Sometimes, if you want to walk in one general direction you have to position the mouse in a fairly small area. Since you spend much of the game-time on the same locations it’s not as much of a problem, because you eventually learn the best routes, but it’s still something I’m sure could’ve easily been improved.
An interesting graphical aspect is that the developers went far to intermingle pre-rendered background graphics with 3d rendered characters (some of which even have dynamic shadows). Not all the characters are equally detailed and believable, but it’s a far better solution than the 2d animated jpg counterparts, as seen in other relatively recent adventure games like Zelenhgorm
. Better performance is another obvious advantage of the pre / real-time rendering mix. The resolution can be scaled up to 1024x768, and turning on anti-aliasing shouldn’t exhaust many systems, since the algorithm doesn’t have to work with anything but the characters. I also recommend turning on V-Sync in your display options, because it reduces much of the “tearing” you otherwise get.
Since the background images aren’t real-time rendered we can usually expect them to be high-quality across the board. The artwork used in Jack the Ripper is above par, but the far-away details are often quite blurry, but that’s not really a major problem.
What I really did miss in terms of graphics was more animations. For instance, when you’re watching a friend of yours perform a song on a stage, you hear clapping, and all the people watching are just sitting perfectly, which ruins a bit of the atmosphere. The lip-syncing is also fairly bad, but the characters that actually do move do it quite well, so it seems as if the lack of animation isn’t just a limitation in the 3d engine. A pity, but a fairly small detail in the grand scheme of things.
Surprisingly the audio might just be the game’s strongest point. All the game’s characters are voiced with more or less excellent voice talents, who all sound very convincing. You’ve got your poor Irish immigrant, gentle French prostitute, shady Italian criminal, and more. The game’s music is also quite good, with the obvious high-point being your female friend’s interpretation of Irish Rover and The Three Ravens (two traditional Irish songs). The rest of the music is largely ambient, so it’s not as easily noticed – for better or worse.
Unfortunately I can’t talk too much about the game’s story, since it’s likely to ruin some of the story, but I can tell you what I didn’t like. For instance, the story elements in the game are all triggered by certain actions. Like, for a certain phone to call, you need to solve a puzzle. However, the game expects you to have picked up a close-by newspaper that serves no direct purpose in the game. If you don’t have that newspaper then the phone won’t ring. That’s just an example to illustrate the point, but I could name several. This is a planned feature, but I’m sure the numerous bugs weren’t. Bugs are usually very specific, but having played through the entire story I had to fight some bugs that I’m having a hard time understanding why they weren’t dealt with. There were for instance times when the map just wouldn’t work, where I had to quit the game, start it again, load a save, and it’d work just fine.
Jack the Ripper tells an interesting story of what could’ve happened if a certain British serial-killer immigrated to New York. It tells the story from an interesting perspective, and does a pretty good job of presenting it all – especially when it comes to audio. This isn’t a very demanding game, so I’m sure most of the adventure junkies that don’t have high-end PCs will be able to play the game just fine. In fact, the minimum requirements are a 500MHz CPU, 64mb of RAM, and a 16mb video card.
I honestly do wish the developers spent more time polishing the game, because the game is buggy at times, and could’ve used some more animations, but beyond that I really liked the atmosphere, and even started caring a bit for some of the characters. At the same time knowing Galilea as a responsible developer, patches for the bugs in the game will most likely be released soon - let's just keep our fingers crossed.
This should be a safe purchase for any fan of the genre, but it could’ve been a great game.