The enduring and morbid fascination with the mystery of Jack the Ripper and the terror generated by his crimes in the London of the 1880s comes not so much from the murders themselves but from the fact that his identity and motives were never discovered.
We'll never know for certain, but St Brides has now produced its own version of the events in a three-part 48K adventure, that places the Ripper firmly in this world of ritual magic and highly-placed skullduggery
It's a fantasy, rather than another attempt at solution, but uses accurate descriptions of some of the murders and tries to recreate some of the atmosphere of Victoria London.
The accuracy of the description seems to have caused CRL a few problems with the film censors who, so I'm told, have insisted on some modifications in the game itself and also to the gory pictures on the cassette cover before they'd award it an 18 Certificate. I don't know the legal ins and outs of getting certificates for computer games but this kind of fuss of this kind won't do them a lot of harm to the old sales figures.
Our hero is a rather dapper and well-heeled Victorian gent who, by accident, stumbles upon the Ripper himself as he leaves the scene of one of his crimes in Whitechapel. The police arrive just as our man is bending over the corpse, bloody knife in hand.
Understandably they think he's the Ripper and pursue him throughout the first part. You'll face two major tasks in this section, first to evade the busies successfully and then to get a magical text from the safe of a posh club into the hands of an aristocratic lady who knows all about the Ripper and is doing her best to defeat the conspiracy by counter magic.
From then on you go through strange out-of-body experiences in underground caverns that reek of evil and magic and, in the third part, enter a bizarre and literally subterranean underworld beneath the throbbing streets of London. There you must defeat the foul plans of the man or men who are Jack.
Throughout the game there are undertones of Masonic ideas and you'll find imprisoned demons, crystal balls and the very real danger of bullets and runaway carriage horses.
St Brides has written the game with Gilsoft's PAW system and has piled in swathes of atmospheric description and text to fill out their picture of the Ripper's London.
The writing is intelligent and fluent with occasional flashes of humour to balance against the horror, which, to give St Brides its due, is not portrayed in some juvenile ghoulish way but is treated as seriously as it should be.
Jack the Ripper doesn't rely on vast numbers of locations or the collection of piles of objects for its success. What it does have is problem succeeding problem in very quick succession, often in the same location, and you're going to need to observe your surroundings very carefully indeed if you want to survive longer than a few minutes.
Basically it's a detective game and uses the PAW system to allow instructions like Examine the knife carefully to provide far more detail than a simple Examine. Shades of Sherlock but I think it's lots more gripping and evocative than that oldie.
Negative criticism? Not an awful lot to be honest. The game's well-written and researched with plenty of opportunity for lateral thinking and head-scratching, even some philosophy for them as wants it. Such minor irritations as there are in the plot, like not being told in a description when a window's open, don't interfere too much with the real action and movement.
Some of the graphics though are highly questionable - seemingly present to titillate only, being inaccurate and unnecessarily distasteful. Not St Brides work, apparently. Instead they were added by CRL seemingly in the interests of increased sales - which is all a little sad.
Tips? Make sure you take the knife from the scene of crime and, when examining objects, make sure that you type in quotation marks if they're included in the text.
Jack the Ripper is another solid product of the St Brides hothouse. It's a game of moderate difficulty set in a bizarre Victorian world very much like a Hammer horror movie. Despite the 18 Certificate there's no mindless violence and you'll need a resourceful and clear headed to reach the Ripper in his lair - 'cos if you don't Jack'll get you first.
Author: St Brides
Memory: 48K (3 loads)/128K
Joystick: Not applicable
Reviewer: Richard Price
The first game ever to receive an '18' certificate. Very literate effort from St Brides, with 'gore' added by CRL.
The ladies of St Brides have been programming games from their highly suspicious hide-away for middle-aged women in Ireland for a couple of years. Marianne Scarlet and Priscilla Langridge are in charge of the 'school' and are among the most unusual people in the industry...SOFTOGRAPHY: Secret of St Brides (St Brides, 1985), The Snow Queen (St Brides, 1986), The Very Big Cave Adventure (St Brides, 1987).