ESRB: Teen - Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence
A review by slydos 15th February 2004
Since 2002 Galilea presents exciting mystery stories in adventure game-format. After "Loch Ness" and "Amenophis" ("The Cameron Files 2"), which both have a supernatural touch, this time it's about "Jack the Ripper", without ghosts but therefore with many real existing details. Jack the Ripper still today - over 100 years after his 'working' in Victorian London - employs professional and hobby-criminologists, the press, film makers and authors. This may on the one hand be up to the fact that one could never catch this series murderer, on the other hand that the particularly gruesome kind of murders and the self-portrayal of the 'Ripper' not only let the people shiver but also fascinates them. Among the multiplicity of web pages a German Jack the Ripper-sitehttp://www.jacktheripper.de/ can be recommended, which presents the facts of that time and the investigation results until today.
Our Story is a mixture of invented plot and characters with real events, data and people and the extremely well succeeded combination of fiction and facts.
We play James Palmer, reporter at the New York Today. The year is 1901. At the Low Side District murders on two prostitutes were committed and Mr. Bur, Palmer's boss, is not very delighted of the fact that again the Daily Illustrated is ahead. They compare the murders with the deeds committed 13 years ago in London, for which Jack the Ripper is made responsible. They even publish detailed drawings of the crime scene. Palmer has to write a daily chronicle to increase the sales figures of the paper.
Together with James we now will experience the next 12 days and nights. He examines the scenes, contacts the police and even works together with the Pinkerten Private Eye Agency (adapted after the famous Pinkerton Agency), pursues traces into the dark districts of New York with brothels, bars, night shelters, homeless people, small-time criminals and even the Chinese opium mafia. He also attracts the attention of the culprit, who calls himself "Jack the Ripper" and who - exactly like the London killer - documented his cruel acts. After some more terrible murders Jim is breathing down his neck and puts not only his own life at risk but also that of his colleagues and friends.
The story of this game is extraordinarily well figured out, very excitingly told and has surprising twists. The abrupt end is logical and fits in my opinion very well.
During the automatic installation inserting CD1 and CD2 is requested and then again CD1, which is mostly forgotten with other installations. we need 15 minutes approximately, until we can start "Jack the Ripper". From the main menu we start a new game, which is introduced by a short black-and-white video. We can see New York from bird's eye view or better said from raven's eye view and then directly arrive at our desk in the editorial office. Someone calls our name. The game starts.
"Jack the Ripper" is a point&click adventure, but we access the main menu with ESC and skip dialogues with the P-key. We move around in 1st-person-perspective, can turn steplessly 360 degrees and also look upward and down.
In the center of the screen we find a punctiform cursor, turning into an arrow, if one can change to a new scene. A very pleasant navigation characteristic is, that the background stands still as long as we leave the cursor in the middle of the screen, only if we drag it to the outward areas the background moves again. Nobdy must become dizzy anymore, as with so many 1st-person-games, where each mouse movement is converted into a pan shot.
Other cursor shapes (like hand-icon or bubble) indicate, whether we can look at things, manipulate, take up or speak to somebody. The different shapes of the cursor are selected very large and glow in the dark, so finding hotspots isn't difficult. All actions are set off by the left mouse button. With the right mouse button one opens and closes the screen-filling inventory.
1/4 of the inventory space serves for storing objects. Maximum 6 of the 9 small slots are used for that. Things, we use up or pass to someone disappear, while we must return things e.g. that we've borrowed. Items cannot be combined within the inventory. All objects are zoomed in a window, which shows otherwise a picture of the current location, when contacted by the mouse they are added by a detailed text description. The cursor waits to take over the shape of the selected objects until it's right above the matching hotspot. You can hardly make it easier for the players.
Half of the inventory screen consists of a New York map. All accessible places are marked and you can go there by mouse-click. If we find out about a new location, we must connect a note with a pin on the map, to make it accessible.
We can only leave certain places, if we have accomplished a certain action. We do not get an arrow cursor on the map and also no map-icon at the normal scene exits in this case. This is no bug, but a hint for the gamers, that not everything is completed yet.
In addition we can find Palmer's note book in the inventory. Taken up documents or pictures are stored here automatically and can be read any time. So the players don't have to take notes for themselves, but can always look up relevant texts or pictures. The ESC-key leads back into the main menu, where one can find 16 save slots following the menu option "Save". In addition to the respective screenshots date and time are stored here. Scene changes and leaving the inventory need noticeable time (approx. 2-3 seconds) even with fast systems. On the other hand starting and exiting the game is quick.
There is only one noticeable disadvantage with the otherwise very successful, easy controls, which must be pointed out: the cursor sometimes keeps the previous state, while the possibilities of action change, mostly when leaving a zoom view.
"Jack the Ripper" lives from the story. In order to get the story going on, our reporter must speak with the correct persons at the right time and the correct place. Finally it's a linear game, even if there are some possibilities to bypass. In most cases a certain conversation is the premise for further actions. The location where we can meet a character can vary as a function of time. Some dialogues are not relevant for advancing and it can happen, that we don't lead them at all, because we were doing something else during that time.
Beside the dialogue puzzles, which inform us about places and persons, there is a distinct smaller number of simple object/inventory puzzles. None of these puzzles comes with the appearance of a makeshift, but always advances the investigations in each case and is like all other tasks not only integrated into the story but results logically from it. Keys we used e.g. without permission, must be put back not to attract suspicion. We don't even have to actually take up and use all usable items. There is very much to see, but very few hotspots. Even fewer hotspots only serve simply as explaining extra.
Certain tasks can be only handled at day or night and it's necessary to visit most places several times. Further tasks are, among other things, a one-armed bandit, coding puzzles, morsing, comparison puzzles and also a timed puzzle where Palmer can also die (Game Over). I would not like to miss this extremely exciting part of the game, in which I ran around in ego-shooter style with a chopper in front (don't get scared - there is no action sequence).
I felt none of the puzzles and tasks as difficult. Though one doesn't find all solutions and necessary ways at first attempt, there are actually no situations, in which the game flow and thus the development of the story were stopped. The game has beginners quality, however also advanced puzzle fans will not bore, but be absorbed by the story.
One is indulged by excellent prerendered background graphics and streaming freedom of movement. We can experience all 12 main locations both at day and night, and not only lighting, shades and colours change, but also many small details, as implements on a desk but also the soundscape. In addition the places are at the beginning of the game quite animated, at least at day, but after the Ripper strikes again this diminishes.
All characters, interactive and extras, move in 3D-realtime. They are partly a little sharp-edged still, even if one switches on anti-aliasing. Some however succeeded already very well, like the small crook Patson or Jim's colleague Paul. Most of the character movements, gesturing and mimic are created very near to real life. Unfortunately lip movements and spoken words often diverge. This particularly applies to the shows of the 'Irish Nightingale' Abigail. Neither mimic nor gesturing can really convince. And while you can hear the musicians, they are standing beside her like stuffed dummies. Exactly the same with the liveless audience, whose applause doesn't even let them twitch with the small finger. Spooky!
On the other hand Abigails partly blithesome, partly melancholic folk songs belong not only to the musical highlights of the game, but also form a connecting link to the Ripper, who e.g. refers to the text of the Irish folk song "Three Raevens" in his letters. We can watch her show most of the evenings in rhe Red Chapel Theatre, but one day a Kinetoscope demonstration is set, where we can observe a man on the screen, likewise watching a movie on another screen. As this is an allusion on Edisons invention, we find further allusions on contemporary events, as a poster about Houdinis show or we notice that the painter Silkner reads Rimbauds original "Une Saison en Enfer", what the Ripper knows too.
There are only few video scenes and they are alienated with intention or blurred, like the short visions, which overtake Palmer at the scenes in form of lightning-like, frightening pictures. Sharp colors and disturbing music let you shiver each time.
The game is recommended in North America starting from 13 years what is the result of a whole set of scenes, in which a quantity of blood and other unappetizing details like chopped off fingers can be seen, but actual human corpses appear only in drawings, are indicated by a hand pearing from under a cover or for seconds in video scenes. In addition the murders are described however in the text in detail. The brothel scenes are absolutely harmless in word and picture.
Apart from the excellent music, which is used only rarely and selective as chaperonage, we experience a lot of likewise excellent sound effects, which particularly produce a grueling suspense during the night scenes. While one creeps around dark corners, one really considers whether those coughs or the steps derive from friend or foe or whether the coach, stopping somewhere near perhaps transported the Ripper. The sound however not exclusively serves atmospheric purposes, but is also important for the tasks, which Palmer must complete. Graphics, sound, story and puzzles form a strong unit, not often experienced in games in this form and fascinate the players beyond movie-like watching.
Dialogues can be initiated by a mouse-over in "Jack the Ripper" and then run off automatically. For example our Boss will usually lift his head and urges us to do our work or the bothrel madam addresses us with an ribald comment.
The English sub-titles can be hooked up and are easy to listen to. When starting a longer conversation or if its about important information the bubble-icon occurs and our notepad appears in a screen corner. We must anyway settle all topics - there are not more than 2 or 3 at a time - and cannot stop, before all questions are checked off. Dialogues can be skipped with the P-key, but be careful - they are not repeatable!
James Palmer does not give comments on the environment or events. We hear his voice only in the dialogue scenes. Both he and all other characters are professionally and suitably synchronized. Some sound cunning or slightly snooty, others catch your ear by special accents, like the Italian owner of the Red Chapel or the French accent of one of the girls in the brothel. All speakers furnish expressive performances, which correspond to the situation and their characters.
After I just had to leave two games half way which I wanted to test, because of technical difficulties, I am glad again to play another TAC game with a stable run and without crashes. Except the mentioned short waiting period during the loading scenes and wrong cursor-shapes there is nothing to expose.
Some puzzle friends may regret, that there is in fact a lot to see, but very little interaction with the rare hotspots. But despite or just because of the easy puzzles one concentrates on the exciting story and of course tries to unmask the culprit. You must fear for Palmer and his friends more and more, since the Ripper became attentive to them. The mix of real events, even the use of the real ripper letters and allusions on actual suspects like the physician Tumblety (in the game Tumbletwo) is fascinating. A game that is entertaining in the best way and gives you at least 20+ hours the feeling to be able to unmask one of the most well-known criminals of history.
My rating: 82%
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
- 500 MHz
- 64 MB RAM
- 1,6 GB free on hard disk
- 16x CDROM-drive
- 16 MB DirectX 3D compatible graphic card
- DirectX 7-compatible sound card
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Article of the competitor
Paul is responsible for sports and entertainment
The police doesn't like reporters meddling in
Palmer starts his feature
Every morning you start in the hall of your paper
Paper boy Patrick knows everybody
The "Irish Nightingale" Abigail
Pinkerten has a huge criminal archive
The 'eye' was also the logo of the real Pinkerton-Agency
Vagabond Jason and his pal use to sleep in a shelter from time to time
As always you can't do without keys
The cold storage depot can be lethal for Palmer
The silhouette of the Ripper?
Looking up at Pinkerten's
The inventory with map and note book
Blood and innards in a secret room
The Blue Velvet - brothrel and source of information
Let's look through the window first if someone's at home
The cold moon separates the chapters
A new crime scene
Abigail and Paul warn Palmer