Jack the Ripper: New York 1901

2003 Galilea
Designed by JO Barrez, Jean Baptiste Berlioz
Reviewed 2004 April 24

Rating -5 Linearity narrow, segmented
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty easy Relevance strong
Interface 1st 360 simple Real-time minor

You are a reporter for a New York city daily in 1901. A gruesome series of murders terrify the city, and you're assigned to the story. With the police being less than apt, you must ultimately try to figure out who Jack is and stop him.

There are a number of simple characters you have to deal with, none with any great depth. The story unfolds nicely, finding and dismissing suspects.

There's a lot of plot to run through, which is a good thing because there's little in the way of game here. Almost all you do is run all over looking for the next hotspot or "active" character, somebody to tell you something new and trigger another shuffle or explicit time advance. Since the characters move around, this can get tedious. You can usually narrow down where to go or who to see, but too often an exhaustive search is your only recourse. There might be a serious challenge or two in there somewhere, but they were trivial, and most of your activity (other than talking to characters) is of the lock-and-key variety. The occasional bit of poor focus or pixel hunting is the greatest challenge.

A device that grated with me was the occasional psychic vision. It wasn't really a psychic vision within the game world, just a cut-scene intended to do ... something. All it did for me was throw me out of the story, and made the "real" cut-scenes confusing -- I wasn't sure if they were really happening or just another vision.

The game is played in first person, with node-to-node movement and bubble-view. The backgrounds are nicely conceived, bringing out the miserable nature of a seedier side of old New York. Unfortunately, the images are blurry. This might not have been too bad, but active objects and characters are presented in a crisp 3D, and the contrast is glaring. As with the backgrounds, the characters are nicely conceived, distinct from each other, but blocky.

The control is well designed, although it tends to lead you too much. If you have to give an object to somebody, the cursor will show that when passed over the character, not even allowing you to talk. Since you usually have only 2 or 3 things in your inventory, this takes away what little opportunity there is for thinking.

The program was very sluggish for me. Load times were long: switching to and from the inventory, moving around the map, and working with objects took much longer than necessary. My computer may not be bleeding edge, but other games with a similar interface are snappy enough.

Jack has a decent story for an adventure game, but without any significant game you're effectively left with a slightly interactive movie. Without the visual and conceptual flair of, e.g., Syberia, the experience is similar to that of a throw-away pulp novel. It's not bad, the time passes pleasantly, but there's nothing to recommend.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.
David Tanguay's Game Reviews
Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.