Mystery Murders: Jack the Ripper is a hidden-object game that tasks you with solving the mystery that has puzzled the world for well over a century now — just who was Jack the Ripper? Here, you’ll be transported to the Whitechapel district of London during the Autumn of 1888 to attempt to stop the infamous serial killer before he kills again.
Throughout the game, the story is delivered through the eyes of three characters; a clairvoyant who is haunted by visions of murder, a rookie journalist desperately looking for his big break and inspector Frederick Abberline who was an actual investigator on the Ripper case. Switching back-and-forth between these individuals helps to freshen things up throughout the campaign, but this method hurts the story a little in the form of its delivery.
Early on the game, this change between characters leads to a sense of disconnection from the plotline as it’s hard to tell whether you’re supposed to be getting to know your character or digesting the current events. Fragments of text – broken up by gameplay that moves the story forward in a minimal way – may have you feeling far removed from the narrative early on. Fortunately, things get a bit more cohesive and interesting about halfway in, and while it’s not enough to completely make up for the moments of befuddlement, it’s slightly redeeming nonetheless.
Navigating the Victorian era streets of London is mostly a breeze and veterans of hidden object or adventure games should promptly find it to be common procedure. Searching your surroundings is done by dragging the stylus around the screen until your cursor turns into a magnifying glass or hand to signify an object or area of interest. Don’t tap though, as the game likes to suspend your play often to warn you that tapping will not help your progress – and it’s totally annoying. We’re quite confident that if tapping were an option, it would actually assist us and eliminate some of the detection issues present throughout the investigation.
For example, your inventory is settled along the bottom edge of the touch screen and from time to time you’ll have to combine items by dragging and dropping them onto another space. The issue here is that that bottom section of the touch screen is also commonly used to back out of a location, so there were many situations where the game was unsure of what we were trying to do. This isn’t a major problem, but it can get bothersome and the detection could have certainly used a little more tuning overall.
As far as the puzzles go, there is a bit of variety but nothing that requires too much thought. For the most part, you’ll be scouring your environment for items to get you through the next locked door or lead you to your next clue. Often, you’ll be presented with a screen full of objects cluttered together and a check-list of items you need to locate in the mess. This is essentially "I-Spy" and can be equal parts fun and redundant due to their frequent presence. Just be prepared to be patient, though, because some of the items are so deviously mixed into the scenery that they barely exist from a visual perspective.
Other puzzles will have you deciphering scrambled images and sequencing gathered evidence – these feel more like segues between narrative developments than thoroughly designed brain teasers, but they do at least help to break things up. All of the puzzles can be solved through simple trial-and-error, though progression may sometimes be halted due to the inability to locate the correct tool needed to advance. However, there is a solution for this.
When initially starting a save file, you’ll have the option of choosing between casual or challenging play. The game itself is exactly the same regardless of which difficultly you choose, but in casual mode you’ll have a bit more assistance in the form of highlighted areas of interest and faster replenishment of hints and the "puzzle skip" feature. These functions are also available if you settle for the challenging route, but you’ll have to wait a little longer for them to become available or replenish after uses. As far as we could tell, you have an endless supply regardless.
We actually recommend going with the challenging difficulty because we found that when we had more frequent access to hints, we’d be tempted to use them in a reactionary manner at the earliest sign of confusion. Having to wait a little bit longer for hints to replenish ensures you’ll focus a little greater on figuring things out for yourself. There are no timers or penalties of any kind, so even on the challenging setting, this is still a fairly casual experience through-and-through. The only difference is it might just take you a little longer to complete.
Had the game featured any kind of voice work, we feel that this may have been a bit more immersive of an experience; the atmosphere is quite unsettling and the music often becomes quite chilling. Overall, the game functions well enough despite a few technical hiccups throughout. The developers even added a 3D effect to the top screen — it’s completely useless considering all of the “action” happens on the touch screen, but it’s still nice to see the effort. All of our criticisms aside, this is a relatively harmless affair – to the contrary of the source material, of course.
Mystery Murders: Jack the Ripper isn’t a particularly bad game, it’s just repetitive, unfocused – and if we’re being honest – somewhat mediocre. It truly does feel like a budget game that would have been released during the 90’s era of PC gaming. Fans of the genre will probably find some enjoyment here but it would be realistic not to expect anything all that memorable. Weak story delivery and mediocre gameplay elements make Jack a dull boy.