Reviewed: June 29, 2009
Released: May 22, 2009
Over the past few years Frogwares has quickly became one of my personal favorite game developers. Over the last few years I have taken an adventure through the streets of London and into the swamps of New Orleans and back again. I have stepped into the shoes of one of the greatest detectives in literary history. Sherlock Holmes returns this year in Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, a title that instantly held my curiosity upon it landing on my desk.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is a first and third person perspective point and click adventure title. Like the previous titles, Jack the Ripper is portrayed in 3D environments which you must traverse as Holmes, Watson and for a brief period you see from the eyes of Jack himself. In addition to the trademark first person mode, Frogwares has now added a third person mode for those that prefer the more traditional interface.
Now before I continue my review of this title I will tell you the contents of this title are derived from one of the many possible theories that surrounded the case that has cast a dark stain over the community of Whitechapel to this day. Jack the Ripper, in this title is inevitable named but his true identity will assuredly never be known.
As mentioned above, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is a point and click adventure. You can play the entire game using only the mouse. Simply click in the direction that you want to go with the left mouse or double click the left mouse button to run. You have to look around with the mouse look function, but Jack the Ripper offers another way to move around the world of our famed detective. You can use the arrow keys or the WASD cluster to move around while using the mouse to look around.
The addition of the traditional third person mode, which was also added to the remastered version of The Awakened, gives veteran and casual gamers another way to play. I grew up with traditional style adventure titles but I prefer the new style that is offered here. I prefer the feeling of actually being the character instead of directing it around the world they inhabit.
Frogwares mixed things up this time by adding a more advanced investigation system. You still have to piece together what has happened and who you are looking for like you always have but now you get to solve the crimes via deduction boards, and time scale based off the clues that you have uncovered at the crime scenes and other sources. I particularly like one of the other new features that I came across earlier on in my adventure. I basically had to reenact the murder of Polly Nichols with Watson being the victim and Holmes being the killer. I found it to a pretty cool start to a title involving Jack the Ripper. The puzzles throughout were cool involved everything from date locks to tumblers, and slide puzzles. Then there are a few puzzles that involve deduction skills from things you’ve learned as well as doing a few experiments with pork which was quite fun.
The thing that I appreciate more than anything about Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is not its puzzles, sounds or graphics but its story. The developers at Frogwares have pitted the world’s best fictional detective against the world’s most infamous real life serial killer.
The story of Jack the Ripper is a blood soaked one filled with unspeakable violence, venereal disease, prostitution as well as being a racial hotbed. Given the stories I had to wonder, like probably many others, how far they would go, but they did it brilliantly without swinging hammers. The detail that they put into making this adventure authentic as possible such as the dates, victims and locations while still creating a version all their own is remarkable.
The graphics of Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper are bloody good, and I mean that quite literally. The detail that was put into everything was well done in this adventure into hell itself. The locales are dark and foreboding save for Sherlock’s domicile. The character models are sharp as ever and the animations are just as well done as before.
The one thing that I give Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper props for beyond all else is the dark nature of this title. Everything from the atmosphere to the murders themselves is well executed and is a sight to see. There were more than a few times were I am glad that they didn’t go to the extent that was shown in “The Awakened.” If they had I would dare say that it would be hard to digest.
The developers managed to keep things fairly low key as far as the bodies were concerned particularly in the case of M.J. Kelly. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is pretty faithful to the events that actually occurred and I really like how they approached the murders graphically. They did a good job with the overall style and execution, without making things totally unnerving.
The sounds of Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper fit the mood of this heinous time in London’s history. The sound of street carriages and hollers of Whitechapel vendors selling flowers and umbrellas adds to the feel of what that district must have been like in 1888. Well that and the numerous number of “unfortunates” that roamed the streets and corners.
Every time I heard a scream while making my way through the dark alleys and streets of Whitechapel, I kept thinking that someone had just met a very bad end. The voice acting for most of the non-playable characters was good, though a few got on my nerves to say the least. Rick Simmonds and David Riley did a superb portrayal of the famed Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson once again. My hat goes off to both of these gentlemen.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper was highly enjoyable every step of the way. I was glued to my chair and computer for so long that I was able to finish it in 2 sittings which took me about 15 to 16 hours to complete which is good. I’ve played a lot of adventure titles over the years and this one is probably the most satisfying that I’ve played in a long time. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper retails for $20 at most retailers.
All in all, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is one of the best adventure titles I have ever played. Frogwares has found their niche in Sherlock Holmes. This particular title is not as frightening as “The Awakened” was but it has a story based in a reality that everyone knows about. Jack the Ripper whoever he really was has left a lasting shadow upon the London community. Frogwares now has left a lasting impression with me with a tale that could only come from hell.