London,1888. Whitechapel has been rocked by a series of grisly murders, which have horrified police and public alike. A gruesome discovery in a dark alley plunges you headlong into a world of mayhem, murder and mystery. And there's more to the killings than meets the eye...
When I first saw Jack the Ripper, I thought, 'Wow - CRASH SMASH!' The text is unbelievable, brilliantly conveying the horror of the slayings in gory detail. The game onstruction is excellent, and the problems are interesting, realistic and entirely logical.
By the end of part one, however, I'd changed my mind -a curious demand for speech marks as part of an input and a totally unnecessary adverb meant the game narrowly missed that coveted accolade.
The plot thickens in part two, with more problems to solve and further revelations about the Ripper slayings, but the third section lets the game down badly. The authors overplay the now-apparent occult element, plunging the player into an almost fairytale object swapping exercise where it's easy to lose or destroy the one you need next.
Jack The Ripper a good adventure which would've been even better if the authors had stuck to the original historical horror theme they did so well. But at £1.99 for three parts, it's well worth buying - the first two parts are great!
Almost a century ago, Jack The Ripper roamed the dark streets of London's East End for four terror-filled months in 1988. At least seven murders of prostitutes have been attributed to the killer (or killers) unknown, and the gas lamps didn't make anyone feel any safer; Jack might be afoot that night, and British razors have always been of good quality.
CRL and the 'lady' programmers of St Brides, known for their Victorian attire, have chosen to 'commemorate' these events with the first computer game to receive an 18 certificate from the British Board Of Film Classification. It follows in the horror tradition of the same software house's Dracula and Commodore 64 Frankenstein, both given 15 certificates. (St Brides's previous credits include the rather milder 1985 adventure The Snow Queen.)
This scrolling script of Victorian terror was written using Gilsoft's Professional Adventure Writer system, and the mock-19th-century text is complemented by graphics screens showing the more unpleasant aspects of the human anatomy when a cutting edge bites deep.
Circumstance leads you to become prime suspect in the police's hunt for London's most wanted man. On waking the next morning you discover that your house is watched by the police. To prove your innocence you must escape from the confines of your small abode and follow the pathway of clues that can prove your innocence.
The window seems the only means of escape, but climbing out of a window when there are police close by might make you look a little suspicious ... perhaps some kind of disguise could be the answer.
Commands can be given in full-sentence form, or using conventional abbreviations such as W Instead of GO WEST; adverbs allows you to accomplish tasks slowly or carefully. Commands can be given to other characters with the SAY TO instruction. The INVENTORY command lists everything that you carry, while LOOK brings up a description of your surroundings.
But whatever instructions you might use, don't forget that time is precious. The London bobbies are out to get you.
Graphics: small gory pictures
Sound: there's an ocarina to play in the first room
'What a gruesome subject - I'm not a wimpo, but I can see why it's got an 18 certificate. The graphics aren't really that scary, but the text creates a terrifying atmosphere. Practically, it's annoying to have to go all the way through the long, time-consuming opening sequence each time you play. But once you get into the meat of the game you have to be really clever, trying to fool everyone as to who you are. Jack The Ripper is repetitive, but there's plenty of atmosphere and it's interesting enough to appeal to nonspecialists.'
PAUL ... 78%
'Unlike so many adventures, Jack The Ripper has a wide variety of options, locations and vocabulary available from the start. The language used is clear enough without the very flashy graphics, and it's extremely easy to follow what's going on.'
BYM ... 72%
'Jack The Ripper is a reasonable introduction to the world of adventuring. But there's in fact very little to do; your course of action is clearly mapped from beginning to end. True, there's some atmosphere when something nasty happens, but it wears off rather quickly. Perhaps the best point is the extensive vocabulary, which allows the novice adventurer to communicate with the computer with hardly any trouble.'
ROBIN ... 65%
The enduring and morbid fascination with the mystery of Jack the Ripper and the terror generated by his crimes in the London of the 1880s comes not so much from the murders themselves but from the fact that his identity and motives were never discovered.
We'll never know for certain, but St Brides has now produced its own version of the events in a three-part 48K adventure, that places the Ripper firmly in this world of ritual magic and highly-placed skullduggery
It's a fantasy, rather than another attempt at solution, but uses accurate descriptions of some of the murders and tries to recreate some of the atmosphere of Victoria London.
The accuracy of the description seems to have caused CRL a few problems with the film censors who, so I'm told, have insisted on some modifications in the game itself and also to the gory pictures on the cassette cover before they'd award it an 18 Certificate. I don't know the legal ins and outs of getting certificates for computer games but this kind of fuss of this kind won't do them a lot of harm to the old sales figures.
Our hero is a rather dapper and well-heeled Victorian gent who, by accident, stumbles upon the Ripper himself as he leaves the scene of one of his crimes in Whitechapel. The police arrive just as our man is bending over the corpse, bloody knife in hand.
Understandably they think he's the Ripper and pursue him throughout the first part. You'll face two major tasks in this section, first to evade the busies successfully and then to get a magical text from the safe of a posh club into the hands of an aristocratic lady who knows all about the Ripper and is doing her best to defeat the conspiracy by counter magic.
From then on you go through strange out-of-body experiences in underground caverns that reek of evil and magic and, in the third part, enter a bizarre and literally subterranean underworld beneath the throbbing streets of London. There you must defeat the foul plans of the man or men who are Jack.
Throughout the game there are undertones of Masonic ideas and you'll find imprisoned demons, crystal balls and the very real danger of bullets and runaway carriage horses.
St Brides has written the game with Gilsoft's PAW system and has piled in swathes of atmospheric description and text to fill out their picture of the Ripper's London.
The writing is intelligent and fluent with occasional flashes of humour to balance against the horror, which, to give St Brides its due, is not portrayed in some juvenile ghoulish way but is treated as seriously as it should be.
Jack the Ripper doesn't rely on vast numbers of locations or the collection of piles of objects for its success. What it does have is problem succeeding problem in very quick succession, often in the same location, and you're going to need to observe your surroundings very carefully indeed if you want to survive longer than a few minutes.
Basically it's a detective game and uses the PAW system to allow instructions like Examine the knife carefully to provide far more detail than a simple Examine. Shades of Sherlock but I think it's lots more gripping and evocative than that oldie.
Negative criticism? Not an awful lot to be honest. The game's well-written and researched with plenty of opportunity for lateral thinking and head-scratching, even some philosophy for them as wants it. Such minor irritations as there are in the plot, like not being told in a description when a window's open, don't interfere too much with the real action and movement.
Some of the graphics though are highly questionable - seemingly present to titillate only, being inaccurate and unnecessarily distasteful. Not St Brides work, apparently. Instead they were added by CRL seemingly in the interests of increased sales - which is all a little sad.
Tips? Make sure you take the knife from the scene of crime and, when examining objects, make sure that you type in quotation marks if they're included in the text.
Jack the Ripper is another solid product of the St Brides hothouse. It's a game of moderate difficulty set in a bizarre Victorian world very much like a Hammer horror movie. Despite the 18 Certificate there's no mindless violence and you'll need a resourceful and clear headed to reach the Ripper in his lair - 'cos if you don't Jack'll get you first.
Author: St Brides
Memory: 48K (3 loads)/128K
Joystick: Not applicable
Reviewer: Richard Price
SUPPLIER: CRL/St. Brides
PRICE CASSETTE: £8.95 (Spec), £9.95 (C64/Ams), £14.95 (all discs)
No swirling mists added a cloak of mystery and suspense as I wandered down the Victorian lanes in the Whitechapel area of London.
It was a clear night, and I saw the strange shape lying by the wall only too clearly. I examined it, and slowly, in gory detail, the immensity of my find was revealed to me a woman's body, slit from ear to ear.
As I recoiled in horror, my hand, groping for support, slid into the body's entrails, as it entered a gash that exposed all the vital organs of the stomach.
Strong stuff, including the digitised pictures which are displayed following key events in the game. Jack The Ripper has an 18 certificate from the British Board of Film Censors, the first adults only horror game to be released, claim CRL.
Is the official rating a gimmick? CRL claim that they would lay themselves open to prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act, had they not voluntarily submitted the game for appraisal.
This is probably true in fact, some parts were altered as a result. And there is no doubt that some of the text descriptions are quite disturbing, and certainly not suitable for children - I joke not.
Here is a very remarkable adventure in more ways than one. First, it is a most unlikely creation from two ladies whose reputation is more in the realm of humour. To look at them, you wouldn't think butter would melt in their mouths!
On the other hand, the Victorian setting of St. Brides School, did perhaps help with the atmosphere.
Secondly, this is the first commercially available adventure written using Gilsoft's Professional Adventure Writer - the successor of the Quill. It's capabilities are most impressive, as you will see in a moment - to sum up, you could say that here is Sherlock without bugs.
The comparison with Sherlock is inevitable. Ripper is set in London in about the same period. Couple that with real-time playing so that other developments are happening "behind the scenes" as time ticks by, and you will begin to get the picture.
Multiple word input is accepted, and indeed, necessary from time to time, so as to be able to distinguish, for example, between the fine carved table, and the occasional table - the crumpled paper, and the small piece of paper.
The plot is somewhat linear, with side branches at frequent intervals leading to the player's arrest for the murder (end of game) - but the puzzles to enable the dead-end branches to be bypassed are quite clever, and give satisfaction in solving. The further one gets into each of the three parts, so the ram save STORE command becomes more and more useful, producing a highly playable adventure in place of what would, prior to ram save, have been completely unacceptable.
Altogether I found Jack The Ripper pleasantly unpleasant to play. This is certainly St. Brides' best to date. The text descriptions flow long and atmospheric.
It is amazing to think of the amount of development effort by programmers that went into the bug-ridden Sherlock, also a Spectrum game, compared with the superior results achieved here in a shorter time by non-programmers using what is a commercially available adventure creator utility.
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £9.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Joint authors (you can decide among yourselves in which context you wish to view the word joint!) of Jack The Ripper, the latest adventure release from CRL, are none other than the St Brides ladies - or more specifically - Marianne Scarlet and Priscilla Langridge. These writers' previous claims to fame include Bugsy, The Secret Of St Brides and The Very Big Cave Adventure, none of which impressed me very much. However, it seems that the ladies have matured somewhat in their approach to the adventure world (even if they do still behave strangely in public) and Jack The Ripper is the first of their games which has actually held my interest for more than 20 minutes.
Set in the year 1888, when olde London Towne was in the grip of the evil Ripper, the player is put in the unenviable position of being suspected by the Peelers as having more than a passing interest in the recent horrific murders. They do in fact seem to think the player is the Ripper and are intent on both catching him and putting an end to his gruesome vocation.
The adventure begins as you discover the horribly mutilated body of a young woman, examination of which not only produces one of the many tasteless pictures to be found within the game (as Mel Croucher discovered in THE GAMES MACHINE Issue 2, even the St Brides ladies couldn't bear to look at them) but also two scraps of paper and a bloody knife. Taking the weapon is a dumb move so stick with the paper and don't forget to pocket it before leaving the scene of the crime.
Events at the start of the game tend to lead the player through without much interaction but the prose is very readable and quite descriptive. Once control of the hero has been gained there are many problems to solve, mostly in the form of covering your tracks. The general atmosphere created within Jack The Ripper smacks of Rod Pike (adventurous author of Pilgrim, Dracula and Frankenstein) although this is by no means a bad thing and St Brides do it very well.
Putting aside the censorship hype and the less than agreeable topic of the adventure, Jack The Ripper is professionally implemented and quite exciting to play, the three parts included also add to the package by making it value for money... a must for those of us over 18!
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