Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper Review
Detective titles on the Xbox 360 are something of a rarity; in fact, the only detective-style game available is Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos on the Xbox Live Arcade. When the announcement of a Sherlock Holmes title arriving on the Xbox 360 was made, most expected an action-adventure title based on the upcoming Sherlock Homes film. Instead, sees the arrival of an adventure title based on the events of Jack the Ripper.
Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is the fifth in the series of Sherlock Holmes titles developed by Frogwares and the first for the Xbox 360, following the story of the popular fictional detective accompanied by his assistant: Dr. Watson as they investigate a series of murders on female prostitutes within Whitechapel, London during Queen Victoria’s reign in 1888.
It’s probably worth mentioning very early on in this review that the game requires a lot of concentration, time and, during some spells, a good memory. Whilst all the spoken dialogue (which has been done to a very good standard) and any evidence the players collect are stored in the inventory where they can be viewed at any point throughout, the sheer amount of dialogue to get through is quite significant due to the narrative being heavily-told through the use of dialogue. Whereas it is bearable, it does appear to drag on despite being brilliantly told and fairly interesting.
The game begins with our two protagonists discussing the events that occurred the previous night of a lady being murdered in the street. After the opening credits roll, a cutscene plays out of the Ripper approaching and killing his first victim. The narrative has players searching for evidence and witness accounts from nearby residents including local landlords, shop owners and even prostitutes from the local brothel regarding the murder. Nevertheless, not all of the residents of Whitechapel are quite so willing to share their information with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who quite frequently find themselves on a wild goose chase doing tasks for everyone and forced into completing puzzles.
One of the positive aspects to arise from Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is the incredible amount and variation of puzzles throughout. From working out possible motives on a notice board by placing the appropriate note in the right place to moving shapes about in order to obtain a jewel, there is such a range of puzzles that they never seem to get repetitive and hearing Sherlock Holmes say the famous line: “Elementary my dear Watson” is always a bonus.
Nevertheless, they do have their flaws. A lot of the puzzles require players to trawl through evidence and old dialogue to work them out and therefore being quite time-consuming, whilst quite a few are fairly difficult, requiring a lot of effort and thought. To make matters worse, the puzzles must be completed so progression can be made and there’s no help option on hand if players get majorly stuck.
Despite being very well-told, there are, unfortunately, a number of problems with the narrative. The narrative seems to sidetrack at times to focus on small-scale seemingly pointless objectives such as removing a snake from its cage in order to retrieve a tanner mask – increasing what appeared to be a short storyline into a lengthy storyline of around 10-12 hours.
Once the story mode has been completed, that’s pretty much it for Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper due to the lack of any other game modes and features. To make matters worse, the story mode hasn’t got the legs for a second playthrough and therefore finding players leaving the game to collect dust on the shelf – not initially justifying the game’s price.
Sherlock Holmes vs. The Jack Ripper is the first in the series to allow players to play in one of two perspectives. Previously players have been trapped in the first person view, unaware of the entirety of their surroundings, though an additional third person perspective has been introduced, especially for the Xbox 360 version. However, it’s an inclusion which didn’t particularly need to feature. The third person perspective makes general movement of Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Watson rather awkward due to the constantly changing camera angle, leaving players constantly battling with the game as they walk in the wrong direction. Thankfully and rather bizarrely, changing the perspective can be done quickly and easily by pressing the X button.
The remainder of the game’s controls are also strangely assigned. To switch between your character walking and running, players press the back button – a button I personally forgot existed. Selecting objects is done with the right trigger and the left trigger can be used to display nearby points of interest. At first, the controls do take a bit of getting used to though players will get to grips with them with ease in no time.
Graphically, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper isn’t to the excellent standards we have seen from other titles on the Xbox 360 though what is evident is perfectly adequate. Something which certainly grabbed my attention was the game’s lighting which has been excellently designed to create some great shadow effects.
Sherlock Holmes vs. The Jack Ripper is an enjoyable title that is let down by basic flaws such as the controls and unnecessary objectives in the story mode. Whilst the title feels like a simple PC port, if you’ve been looking to get your hands on a detective game for the Xbox 360, this is a recommended purchase.