Lots of versus games out these days. Stalin vs. Martians, Plants vs. Zombies, Duke Nukem vs. Non-Existence... now, Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper, the fifth in a series of adventure games starring the famous detective. This time, the fictional Holmes is hot on the trail of real-life slasher Jack the Ripper, who is butchering prostitutes without a permit in the district of Whitechapel, London.
The demo begins with Holmes and Dr. Watson sitting around in a parlor, where they chat for a bit and decide to go to bed (presumably not together). The game then shifts to the perspective of Jack the Ripper, who approaches a prostitute, then strangles and eviscerates her. Cut back to Holmes and Watson in the parlor again, where they decide to investigate. Pleasantly, you can play in either first or third-person perspective, and you may control both Holmes and Watson at different times.
The Case of the Missing Police Station is a vexing one, Dear Watson.
The demo throws a number of puzzles in your path, and in the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I chose to treat each puzzle as an individual case. The first: The Case of the Missing Map. It seems Holmes, brilliant as he is, doesn't know his way around his home city of London without a map, and doesn't remember where he left it. Luckily, the case is busted wide open when I, controlling Watson, immediately find the map on a desk a few feet away. That leads to a second case: The Case of Locating Whitechapel on a Map. It's pretty easily solved; you just open the map there it is. With these two impressive victories under their belts, Holmes and Watson embark on a third adventure: to find the police station in Whitechapel.
The Case of Let's Find The Police Station Oh Wait It's Right There is solved before I'm even through naming it, as Holmes has cleverly decided to materialize directly in front of it. Once inside, a constable is happy to have the famous detective helping with the murder, but rather than giving him the case file, he sends Holmes on an errand to locate a satchel containing "unimportant" paperwork he accidentally left in an alleyway for some reason. Seems like a misuse of the most brilliant deductive mind in England, but I guess the gruesome murder can remain unsolved for a few more minutes.
Before DNA tests and fingerprinting, there was a crime-solving method called "Looking."
Visiting the alleyway, Holmes meets the caretaker of a boarding house and stumbles across another mystery, The Case of the Caretaker Who Won't Give Holmes The Satchel Unless He Runs Another Errand First. This errand revolves around locating a drunk who coughs too loudly, which is a source of annoyance for the caretaker. The Case of Finding Someone Who Is Coughing involves wandering around until you hear someone coughing, and Holmes quickly deduces that no ordinary man would cough in such a manner. This leads straight into another puzzling mystery, The Case of Getting Medicine So The Guy Won't Cough Anymore, which is solved by walking into a clinic and asking for cough medicine. So far, this ain't exactly CSI: Whitechapel.
Solving all those cases leads to recovering the satchel, which is locked with a serial of numbered dials. Thankfully, The Case of I Hate Goddamn Number Puzzles comes to quick closure due to Holmes and Watson having access to Google and typing "Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper Demo Walkthrough" into it. That Sherlock Holmes, he is a clever one!
I believe I've discovered some snogging, Watson. I shall investigate further.
Once Holmes has the case file, it's off to the murder scene, where he and Watson finally get to do some proper sleuthing. As Holmes examines the ghostly body of the victim with a magnifying glass, Watson takes notes and creates a "deduction board", where the clues are gathered and facts figgered out. The pool of blood, for instance, indicates the victim was already dead when her throat was cut, else there'd be evidence of blood spray on the street and wall. A bloated tongue and bruising indicates strangulation, and other clues give us all the details of the murder we don't actually need because we witnessed it at the start of the game. Once Holmes gathers all the clues, he humiliates Watson by drawing on him with make-up, then forces him to lie down in the dirty street while he sits on him, pretending to strangle and stab him in an effort to re-enact the crime. Believe me, I've had worse days at work.
Displaying a casual attitude amidst horrifying cirumstances = you will be dead shortly.
Despite the ease of the puzzles, and the low-tech look and feel of the demo, I kinda liked this little adventure. It's not your average point-and-click affair: walking around in first-person gives it a lot more life and immersion than most adventure games. It's well-written and acted for the most part, and the deduction board, where you extrapolate the truth from all the clues, is pretty cleverly done. I'm opening The Case of The Demo That Made Me Want to Buy The Actual Game, and I'm solving it with twenty bucks.
Download the Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper demo on FileShack.