Sherlock Holmes is on the case of Jack the Ripper, and that is not surprising. A lot of fiction has already broached the topic -but few allow the audiences to actually take part in the action. This is Frogware's Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper, and impressive mystery solving game that will put you on the trail of London's infamous serial killer in the hopes of preventing more deaths. You do not take the challenge alone, as players will have the access to Sherlock's vast trove of knowledge and information gathering abilities, much like the previous games of the series, the player's role is more akin to guiding Holmes, as opposed to directly solving the mystery.
We start the game with Sherlock back in his iconic Baker Street residence. Here, he and Watson mull over and discuss (rather one-sidedly) Holme's lack of trust in the local law enforcement's ability to solve murders. And when they read about the news of a Whitechapel prostitute that was killed (yep, Mary Ann Nichols -whose body was found I Buck's Row), they decide to take action, and thus begins the course of the game. Controls are straight forward and simple, and the way the game alternates player control between Holmes and Watson works well from a storytelling perspective. Though in terms of ability, Holmes has a lot more to offer in order to facilitate gameplay. Players will have to click on clues, find items, and of course, solve puzzles in order to progress the story.
This is a point and click puzzle game so there are no life bars or sudden game overs. Instead, players must exercise both focus and patience as they seek out the various clues that will lead them to the right track. The good thing is that Holmes is able to quickly identify important things, so players should pay close attention to the dialog. There is plenty of dialogue in this game, and paying attention is the key to avoiding red herrings and knowing which leads are legit. Speaking of dialogue, the voice over work for this game is funny and nice, though there are a few moments that seem a little bit off. In any case, we appreciate that the added voices since reading the interrogations in text dialogue boxes would not be as fun.
Getting back to the puzzles, the game has plenty of them. From minor "use X item on Y place" to more self-contained logic puzzles that will make you feel a little clever for solving them. There are hidden messages with codes that you must decipher, locks that require picking, and of course, investigating the murder scenes which make Jack the Ripper look like one of the most evil serial killers ever to exist. In one scene, you actually manage to almost get to Annie Chapman -by almost, we mean about an hour too late to save her. But that means you also have a fresh crime scene to work on and even several potential murder weapons (in the form of knives no less) to figure things out. It all sounds very bloody and grisly, but it is not; as macabre as the actual, real life Ripper murders are, they are all presented in as classy a manner as they can be in-game (but those of you playing this for being curious about Jack the Ripper and less about Holmes need not worry about being disappointed, the game is deep into the lore -like Leather Apron deep).
The game is fun, for the most part. Even when you are dealing with some rather bland and bare visuals as some of the background and textures look like they have been made by a lazy designer. The visual appeal ebbs and flows, with most of the key parts of the game getting the best visual treatment while the rest have what is the CG equivalent of inconsistent in-betweener art for animations. But that is all forgivable, as the game is able to consistently keep you interested in the case of Jack the Ripper. It does drop the ball at some points when you have to deal with random cases about missing jewels and doing other meandering side quests for the various NPCs who all want a piece of Sherlock's crime-detecting pie. It is all fun and good if you want to take a break, but we feel that it tends to take away too much from the great momentum and tension that the main storyline has. In any case, if you want a great mystery providing far more elaboration than the more simplistic Whack the Serial Killer where you chase after the most elusive serial killer the world has known, then Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper is for you.