I was very excited to play Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper when I first heard about it. Point and click style adventure games are right up my alley. I love playing those types of games and don't get to play too many of them anymore unless I go into my old collection of PC games. The mystery solving aspect of those games is always the most enjoyable; being able to move through the game, find the clues you need and put them together is rewarding and fun. Because of this, Sherlock Holmes seemed like the perfect game. What else does Sherlock Holmes do beside solve mysteries? He finds the clues, puts them together and comes up with the story of whodunit and why. Jack the Ripper being combined into that seems like a perfect combination; the unsolved serial murder mystery that continues to captivate the imagination.
All of the pieces were there for the game to be fun, exciting and enjoyable. It started off with me getting perplexed, frustrated and annoyed. One of the first things that I did was to install the game to my hard drive. Big mistake. Apparently, when installing the game to your hard drive, some sort of mystical 'screw you' command gets transferred to the 360, preventing the game from running past the first cinema sequence. In order to play the game, the player has to do an online search to find out the problem, uninstall the game and then play off the disc. After fixing the problem, I started to actually be able to play the game (after being forced to listen to the opening cinema at least three times while I tried to figure out the problem).
For all of my efforts in getting the game to start, I was immediately treated to bad voice acting. Very bad voice acting. Sherlock Holmes is, of course, the quintessential uptight know-it-all Brit who is ever so blase about life in general. You expect him to sound bored and apathetic. But there's a difference between sounding bored and apathetic because it's cool and sounding as if you're just pushing the words out because someone else told you that you had to. Holmes alternated between sounding as if he wanted to rush through every phrase and sounding as if he couldn't be bothered to expend the air to speak.
Thankfully though, the game alternates between playing with Holmes and playing with Watson. Watson is actually enjoyable to listen to and a lot of fun. I was enjoying walking him around London, talking to people and picking up hints and clues until I got to a particular puzzle. Without telling too much, there's an object that needs to be put together. Watson is very specifically told the size of the object. As a matter of fact, when the item is being put together, there is a ruler on the side that can be used as a reference. The ruler is incorrect. It does not accurately state the size of the item being picked; either before or after it is put together. What's the point of telling me the size of it and providing the ruler if it's incorrect? The amount of time it took to complete this puzzle was compounded by trying to figure out how I was supposed to use the ruler when none of the objects actually matched up in size.
Once that obstacle was gotten over, I continued the game. I suffered through playing with Holmes for a while and even suffered through a cork board mini game with him. Basically, you take all of the clues that have been gathered and using them together, you have to make logical deductions about what's going on with the murders. If you make the correct series of deductions, you are allowed to continue on with the game. If you make the incorrect series of deductions you are not allowed to continue on with the game. At least one of the deductions left me stressing over it for over an hour, changing previous answers and trying to come up with the correct responses to move on. After a bit I called in a friend to assist. They had trouble figuring it out as well and by the time we figured out what the game wanted us to deduce, we were both totally convinced it was the wrong deduction based on the evidence presented, or at least, not necessarily the best deduction that could be gotten to.
But you know, that's part of a mystery game. Trying to figure out what's really going on. And if I can't figure out what conclusion the game developers are trying to push me towards, maybe I'm just a dumbass. Moving on, I continued with the game, figuring I needed to be more careful with the next problem. It didn't take too long to come up. There is a game feature where by pressing a button, you can reveal all points of interest immediately visible on the screen; anything that you can interact with. I don't like using it because I enjoy being able to figure it out on my own. After a certain point, it became obvious that for certain puzzles it was necessary to use it in order to progress through the game, because objects/clues did not show up and were not visible without the tip. For example, in a dark dreary room, barely visible footprints on the ground were what I needed to examine to continue. I could not see them without the tool tip and had to wander the city for at least an hour trying to figure out what I'd missed until I was willing to go to every screen and use the tool tip. And later a hidden wastebasket gave me all sorts of difficulty.
Some of the puzzles were difficult to solve even when you had all the necessary components. I had to put together another object and because I wasn't combining them in the sequence the game wanted, I was unable to put together the object that I needed. I had to look up the correct order of combining pieces of wood and nails. Let's just say that it was very frustrating. Another puzzle involves picking a lock. You are not given any clue as to how you are supposed to pick it; listening to the noises that are made as you move the pick around does not help, nor does trying to pick it based off the resistance you feel as you're moving it around the lock. Apparently, the bend in the metal is your clue as to what you're supposed to be doing. Even when following that, the lock didn't open when it was supposed to. It took some more random twisting to make it work.
A game where clues need to be put together to solve the mystery should be able to stand on its own without adding in impossible and frustrating puzzles to make it harder. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper suffered from so many badly constructed puzzles that I stopped being able to pay attention to the story. I was no longer immersed in London; I was sitting on the bed in my room, cursing at the screen as I tried to figure out how to get past the puzzle I was trying to complete. It stopped being fun far too easily, and as soon as I got over one frustrating puzzle and started to enjoy myself again, I'd be confronted with yet another frustrating task.
The accessory things for this game were better put together than its most important aspects. The ambient noises weren't that bad and the graphics were actually surprisingly good. I believed I was on the dirty filthy streets of London and was able to loose myself visually in the game quite easily. The controls weren't that difficulty to master and were very easy to handle once learned. This game had a lot of potential that was ruined by the puzzles. With an online guide opened and at the ready, the frustrating aspects of the game can be avoided and it becomes easier to enjoy, but I don't count a good game one where I have to constantly cheat in order to play it without throwing my controller into the television.