Review – Actual Crimes: Jack the Ripper
Developer: Virtual Playground
Publisher: Sanuk Games SARL
Release Date: September 1st | October 5th
Price: £3.49 | €3.99 | $3.99
Rating: PEGI 7 | Everyone
What I liked:
- Atmospheric music/sound effects
- Pictures have depth
- Puzzle mini-games break up point and click gameplay
What I disliked:
- A bit much saving/loading
Actual Crimes: Jack the Ripper is a hidden object game (HOG). This particular HOG released on the DSi back in May. After undergoing a slight name change, it found itself on the European PlayStation Network earlier this month. While I was playing PixelJunk Racers 2nd Lap, trying to unlock new multiplayer game types, Chris sent me a PR e-mail for Jack the Ripper. I begrudgingly switched games and began what turned out to be an overall fun experience.
First off, I’m not really a HOG fan. Before playing this game, I forgot that the genre even existed, to be honest. I spent a bit of time with SANUK GAMES’s previous mini, Spot the Differences, but moved on to the next game as soon as I lost. There didn’t seem to be much of an incentive to keep playing that game aside from the ‘satisfaction’ you feel when spotting that one subtle difference between two practically identical photos. I didn’t feel like I was progressing, you know? Well, Jack the Ripper sure fixed that problem. The first thing I noticed (aside from the absolutely excellent music and sound effects, which will be mentioned later) was the intensely in-depth storyline and dialogue. You follow Sir Melville Macnaghten and Professor Sir Francis Galton as they revisit the previously unsolved case of Jack the Ripper. You go from murder to murder in chronological order, picking up evidence and building a case against each subject. It may sound silly in a HOG, but it works well enough. There were times when I was thinking, “yeah, I found that f’in torn letter, what’s up now, Mr Sickert? Making sketches by moonlight, huh? Yeah, I bet you were. You’re coming with me, buddy.” All of this is possible because of the haunting soundtrack. The music is really good, and the sound effects of people bustling in the background of a pub or animals cooing at the church don’t sound stupid. As a matter of fact, the game’s soundtrack was reminiscent of Resident Evil 2’s creepy chords, or Zombie Apocalypse’s ominous title screen music. I’m not sure where the correlation between 1880’s serial killer and modern day zombie game music came from, but it’s there nonetheless. The soundtrack and the game’s attention to historical detail is impressive, but what about the gameplay?
To me, HOGs equate with those Highlight’s For Kids magazines hidden picture games. To this day the doctor’s office is never a dull place if there’s a Highlight’s sitting on the magazine table. So how did Jack the Ripper stack up? Incredibly well. The photos in Jack the Ripper have showcase an understanding of depth of field, making it more difficult and ultimately more satisfying when you finally find that hidden carriage parked in the background garage. There’s a hint system that points out where an object is hidden. All you have to do is press ‘Δ’ and you will be transported to the next object on your list. The hint system takes about a minute to recharge, so if you’re still stuck after a while, feel free to use it again. I only used it a few times when on the final stages of the final missions. It’s surprisingly rewarding to find that final object. After a while for searching for a pipe, you find it and think, “well, duh, that is a pipe!”
The hidden object discovering makes up the bulk of the game, but I was pleasantly surprised when met with my first mini-game. Sometime during the first mission, you find a painting that’s scrambled. It’s up to you to reset the picture through a tile swapping mini-game. Though I absolutely suck at tile swapping (it took me about 40 minutes to complete this relatively easy mini-game), it was nice to see some variance in the gameplay. There are several of these mini-games that pop up throughout the game, ranging from tile swapping to putting a torn letter back together, to matching fingerprint samples, and more. Thankfully, there’s an option to ‘skip puzzle’, because there’s a much more difficult tile swapping game in one of the later missions. I was not having that.
I know I used the word ‘surprise’ a few times in this review. The reason, of course, is how surprisingly good AC:JtR is. I played it on my PS3, but as a mini it’s totally portable, another plus for the game’s features. The only minor problems I had with the game were that I was unfamiliar with some of the items. This may not be a problem for European players, but I’m just not sure what a carring, a farthing, a horse brass, or cricket stumps look like. With a bit of detective work, though, you can pretty much figure out what’s out of place and click on it. Another slight annoyance was the amount of saving and loading that takes place throughout the game. It doesn’t take too long to save the game then load in between photos, but it does happen quite frequently. All in all, Jack the Ripper is a robust package. If you’re at all a fan of HOGs, history, or have an undying desire to find a steak, some cuff links, half of a head, and 4 pigeons, this game is for you.
P.S. At the end of the game you’re tasked with picking which subject you think is Jack the Ripper. In the developers’ opinion, my “chosen suspect is the 5th most likely of the 5 to have been Jack the Ripper.” Maybe you’re a better detective than I am.