Your average big-budget, somewhat interactive B-movie.
The year is 2040 and you are Jake Quinlan, veteran crime reporter for the New York Virtual Herald (cuz you know, it’s the future). A mysterious serial killer calling himself the ‘Ripper’ stalks the streets of futuristic New York, murdering and ripping people apart with about the same gory enthusiasm as your standard anti-personnel mine. Your character is the only one the Ripper is willing to communicate with, and you’re tasked with going through a gauntlet of puzzles and bad acting in order to solve the mystery.
The plot’s sci-fi setting only vaguely mirrors the true murders of the infamous Londoner with the same alias (who was infamously never caught or conclusively identified). It’s ridiculously outlandish, the plot, amplified by some equally outlandish acting delivered in most by Christopher Walken (who plays an over-the-top, trigger-happy detective), with other notable cast members including Burgess Meredith, Karen Allen and John Rhys-Davies, a pretty high profile cast of actors overall.
So what’s really wrong with Ripper? As overblown sci-fi B-movie material it’s actually quite entertaining if you’re into that sort of thing. The acting here definitely helps – one can’t help but smirk when characters start talking about ‘Data Angels’ and still keep a straight face. But all-around this is an average murder mystery wrapped in overblown sci-fi colors and fair acting. If you really do try to get into the story you’ll find the game toys with you by presenting several Ripper suspects with a possibility of getting either one of four possible endings. But none of these endings are very clever or satisfying, and the only difference between them are the voice-overs. This wayward attempt at enticing players with replayability backfires heavily with Ripper, as it doesn’t give the story any meaningful closure and you probably wouldn’t want to replay the game anyway.
The puzzles themselves are an odd bag of ingenuity, weird and the occasional stupid. The very first puzzle you receive involves stitching together a broken mug to make out some written text on it, but you can’t use the text on the mug for reference when assembling the broken pieces, and the puzzle requires pixel-perfect accuracy or it won’t give you credit for it.
A later star chart puzzle (every adventure game needs one!) is just as painfully specific, and here too the game fails to give you credit even when you figure out the solution and realize the internal logic behind the puzzle (yet can’t advanced because you’re not hyper-precise enough). On the other hand we also get puzzles that are clever and well worth the firing synapses over, but they’re offset by some hugely misplaced rail shooting sequences. Fortunately one can wimp out on these and lower their difficulty level.
Although better designed than most FMV adventures, Ripper still suffers from an unfortunate mishmash of corny storytelling, frustrating puzzles and some out-of-place design (I’m especially looking at the rail shooting bits). There’s some incentive to plow through the puzzles just for the melodrama and the bad sci-fi everywhere, in a ‘it’s so bad it’s good’ type of exercise, and perhaps a few of the more clever puzzles themselves are worth your time. But overall this game simply lacks the wit, smarts and fun to make it worthwhile.
System Requirements: 486/DX66 CPU, 8MB RAM, SVGA, MS-DOS
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