I’ve always got time for games that are different to the usual FPS/shoot everything formula that seems to be constantly recycled on consoles, especially point-and-click games. So, how did Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper hold up?
The gameplay involves exploring various locations around an autumnal Victorian London; collecting clues, solving puzzles, and making deductions. It all starts off well with all the elements present for a fun point and click game, and some of the puzzles are fun to solve. But as the game goes on, some of the puzzles are badly explained, and frustrating to solve — at least one of the puzzles breaks the fourth wall — it requires knowledge not provided by the game to be solved, and this is an issue for me, as I believe the game puzzles should provide everything you need to solve them.
As the game goes on it begins to feel like ‘investigation on rails’. In particular, the deductions are simple a case of putting index cards in the right order until they turn green. As a result, the game makes you feel like you’re following Sherlock Holmes, trying to catch up with his conclusions, rather than playing the role and solving the crime for yourself. There is no risk that you’ll reach the wrong conclusions at any point, which eliminates risk, so you feel less involved.
Whilst there is a certain atmosphere in the gloomy squalor Victorian London, the graphics are essentially very bland. Most of the NPCs on the streets of London are standing around not doing much. The game is pretty dark and dingy as a whole, except for Holmes’ flat – the most detailed area of the game. The level of period detail is no where near as high as bigger budget titles like Assassin’s Creed and this makes exploration boring, and somewhat confusing as you wander streets and alleys that all look the same. It ultimately hampers any real feeling of immersion.
Whilst the gloominess adds to the atmosphere, the lack of brightness/gamma options means several locations can be obtrusively dark, potentially causing clue objects that should be obvious to be missed in the darkness.
The plot of Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper is an interesting take on the Jack the Ripper legend, featuring morbid and adult themes such as venereal disease and removal of human organs. However, the story itself isn’t particularly gripping or memorable. The surreal, ‘arty’ climax after putting a good few hours into finishing the game is a big let down.
There is very little variety in terms of incidental music, but I felt the theme played through the majority of investigations really added to the gloomy atmosphere. The street ambient fx were also atmospheric with distant heavy coughs and dogs barking.
Apart from Dr. Watson, the voice acting is TERRIBLE! Holmes’ voice is often rushed, and has quite strange inflection. He also sounds as if his sinuses are blocked — is this a subtle nod to the character’s cocaine use that is otherwise unhinted at in the game? Some of other characters’ attempts at the English accent and their strange pronunciations make Dick Van Dyke sound like Patrick Stewart by comparison, and those who can pull it off don’t sound convincing as characters due to the script.
On the whole, I found the voice acting to be jarring. I was spending more time cringing than taking in the story. The experience could actually be much improved by playing with just the subtitles.
Most of the game’s appeal comes from novelty — a new location to explore, a new murder scene, a new puzzle. I played it through once and collected all the achievements. I’m not sure there’s enough to make me want to play it through again.
Sherlock Holmes vs Jack the Ripper has a lot of potential but ultimately fails to deliver. The game jumps from being fun and interesting one minute, to being frustrating and dull the next. The terrible voice acting, combined with the bland graphics, and a general feeling of not really being responsible for the game’s outcome makes for a less than satisfying experience.
However, due to the lack of point-and-click games on the Xbox 360, it does makes a nice change and is worth a go if you’re a fan of point-and-click games, if you’re hunting achievements, and if you can pick it up for a good price.