Jack The Ripper Review
developer: Galilea Multimedia
PIII 500, 64MB RAM, 16MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jan 28, 04
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Nothing's changed... the gaming masses still have a growing need for playing some decent adventure games on their PC's. Development team Galilea Multimedia and US publisher Adventure Games (a division of Dreamcatcher Interactive) worked together to produce Jack the Ripper, the latest point-and-click adventure game inspired by the Myst classics. The concept of the game is exceedingly simple. Players get to roam around various locations, deciphering clues in an attempt to track down one of the world's most ruthless murderers.
Almost a century had passed since the brutal killings in London which were linked to an enigmatic and devious character, colorfully named Jack the Ripper. The game takes us to the Low Side District of New York City during the year 1901, when a series of vicious murders transpired that seemed frightfully similar to those documented in the White Chappell district of London thirteen years before. Many suspicious and unsavory characters dwell in the Low Side District. This certainly doesn't make things any easier for the police. James Palmer, a young, bright reporter working for a local news paper, emerges as the only person willing to get to the bottom of things. The police, of course, are handling the case in a very slipshod manner, blaming the killings on a local gang of Chinese opium smugglers. Doing your best to cover the story and impress your Editor-in-Chief, you'll also stumble upon several clues, unwittingly overlooked by the rash police investigators. Pretty soon Jack the Ripper in the flesh will take an interest in your work. Not surprisingly, this puts you in serious danger. From here on out, things get a bit hairier and the story becomes more interesting. Even though players go down a specific and linear path through a somewhat proverbial storyline, there are several aspects of the whole adventure that can lure you deeper into the game; like a few novel plot twists.
While poking around the seedy parts of old New York City, you'll come across a variety of characters. This is actually one of the game's shining points. In due time, players become close to the characters they meet along the way... such as Abigail, the "Irish Nightingale." Accenting the player's personal connection to these individuals stands out as the game's finest quality and should, of course, be a defining tone of any decent adventure game. Imagine playing Myst, only with a presence of real-time rendered characters. This livening of the "Myst genre" is certainly a step in the right direction, but it also begs the question of why the developers decided to stick with the pre-rendered backgrounds in the first place. It just seemed to us that the game would appear and work a lot more naturally if the entire world was real-time rendered. It's obvious that visual and gameplay consistency had to give way to the need to appeal to the broadest possible audience. After all, people that play Myst-like adventures are rarely the ones running top of the line PC hardware.
There are about a dozen locations players can go to. Some sections of the town contain evidence vital to the case, while others are inhabited by characters that provide you with important information concerning Jack. Plus, there's an impressive degree of authenticity to the whole ambiance, thanks to which you can almost sense the dreadful smell when you face the (implied) horrific aftermath of the killer's handiwork. That's maybe one of the reasons why the developers had to stick with pre-rendered backgrounds. The idea was to create the best possible atmosphere without the risk of alienating most of your core audience.
Going past the story and the visuals, two gameplay drawbacks immediately caught our attention. First off, gamers are bound to encounter difficulties due to the inadequate and somewhat clumsy interface. This off-putting feature comes into view before you even set out on your first assignment. The thing is, new locations can only be visited once you drag'n'drop a particular item onto the city map. It took me approximately 15 minutes of senseless clicking until I realized what I was supposed to do. Of course, I could've simply read the f-ing manual, but I'm a lazy bastard like that. And after all, I thought, with my l33t adventuring skills, I would have no problems mastering the interface in a Myst-like adventure game. On a more positive note, however, this glitch only proved annoying at the beginning. After that, you won't have too much trouble with the interface. But the fact remains; a majority of gamers will surely be aggravated once they run into this unpleasant stumbling block right off the bat. The second problem that could put players off early is related to key items. Most of the time, useable objects are quite easy to notice, seeing as nearly all of them are presented in full 3D, and are highlighted to easily catch the player's eye. Then again, on an occasion or two, we had a real kicker trying to discern vital clues from the pre-rendered background. Seeing how mouse-over coordinates for the pointer aren't the most precise we've ever seen, we had to spend excess time simply making sure we didn't miss any items in the seemingly blurry background. To an experienced adventurer this won't present much a problem (as they are probably used to the aggravation), but that doesn't mean that we should disregard it altogether.
Progressing through the game is really fairly easy once you get past the initial interface and visual issues - and this is probably Jack the Ripper's greatest shortcoming. Let me explain; you move around by using a 360-degree camera. Everything is set in a first-person mode, which sort of increases the tension from time to time, bringing players a bit deeper into the entire experience. But the early thrill soon diminishes as you realize that there are hardly any truly challenging puzzles on offer. Not to mention that this game needs more puzzles (logical or otherwise) to begin with! If your idea of a challenging adventure game is one that often comes down to simply engaging in dialogue with NPCs to progress further, then Jack the Ripper might be right up your block.
Fairly intriguing storyline, solid characterization, authentic atmosphere, modest hardware requirements, solid voice acting;
Interface problems, often unchallenging and tedious gameplay, bugs, scant ambient sounds.