Back when I was a kid, my dad thought it would be a great idea to buy a Sega CD, and with it came some of the numerous “classics” like Sewer Shark and Night Trap. The system did have a few good titles though, and one of the games we had was a little adventure title called Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective. Okay, looking back on it now, it was not very good, but it was a game I actually enjoyed. It allowed the player to truly enter the role of Sherlock Holmes and, while I was generally not very good at the game, it sparked my interest in both Sherlock Holmes and the adventure genre in general.
Jump forward many years later, and Sherlock Holmes still finds himself in many new mysteries. It seems like developer Frogwares has recently brought Sherlock Holmes back to gaming in a series of adventure titles for the PC. And here is the first game in the series to make it to consoles, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper. Based on the title alone, the premise may seem silly, but it is actually very cool. What if Sherlock Holmes had existed and he was able apply his own detective skills to the murders of Jack the Ripper? This was another title that truly put the player in the role of the famous fictional detective.
The game’s strongest points lie in the setting, story, and overall feel of the game. You take the role of both Holmes and Dr. Watson as you investigate a series of murders all centered on the “Whitechapel killer” (or Jack the Ripper, as he is later referred to). As all adventure titles go, there is a lot of exploring, puzzle solving, and (in true Sherlock Holmes fashion) many deductions to make. At the end of this tale, it all seems to tie in rather well with the actual history involving Jack the Ripper, so things seem a bit more grounded in reality than you may think.
The puzzles are all ingenious and generally take a lot of effort to solve. They are all mostly well designed and very clever, and you will make a LOT of mistakes while solving them. The game is rather short, but most of your time will be spent solving these puzzles, as some of them may take a lot of effort. Those familiar with adventure games will find themselves right at home here.
The actual “crime scene investigation” and deduction making processes are excellent as well, and you really feel like Holmes himself as you try to put together these pieces to a continually growing puzzle. You will do several things during the game that feel out of place, but it all comes together in the end as you slowly piece together who the killer really is.
On the downside, the game is really hampered with technical problems and a very poor presentation. The game looks pretty bad by today’s standards, the character models are ugly, and you often get very odd clipping and hit detection issues. The voice acting, outside of Holmes and Watson, is pretty bad as well. However, as good as the voice acting for the two leads may be, many of their voice clips are repeated ad nauseam. These problems really hinder the game, but they don’t truly ruin the experience as you might think.
Also, if you are going to play this game, I recommend the PC version, as the interface would probably be a lot easier to use. The 360 controller works, for the most part, but some of the interactions with different objects or characters can be wonky at times. The controls aren’t complex, they just seem poorly implemented. Also, certain puzzles seem like they simply work better with a mouse and keyboard.
Overall, this is a solid adventure title, especially great for the Sherlock Holmes fans out there. The game’s presentation is poor, and the technical issues really bring down the overall experience, but at the budget price, this is a must have for adventure game fans desperate for a new game. It tells a great story, and it will really get your mind working.
Pros: Excellent story; very well designed puzzles; the investigation and deduction scenes make you feel like Sherlock Holmes
Cons: Horrible presentation; technical issues that bog the experience down; 360 controller isn’t exactly adventure game friendly