Actual Crimes: Jack the Ripper Review – Good Game, Great Port
Actual Crimes: Jack the Ripper is a Hidden Object Game (HOG) originally called Real Crimes: Jack the Ripper on other platforms, but brought to Minis with the name change by Sanuk Games. Other than the gruesome theme (which is glossed over, there’s no gore or anything), it’s pretty much a standard hidden object game. Basically you are given a list of items and shown a scene. The goal is to find those items in the scene, and then you move on to another scene. Sounds pretty basic, and I guess it is, but it can be surprisingly fun and is to casual gaming what FPSes are to hardcore gaming.
As the name implies, it’s about a real actual crime, the murders committed by Jack the Ripper. It’s even actually based on a real life, albeit after the fact, investigation of those murders by Sir Melville Macnaghten, though they heavily fictionalized the details for the game. Modernized, really, using relatively recent theories about the Ripper’s identity.
Like most hidden object games, often the objects have small or no bearing on the scene in question, and often they are placed in places where objects normally aren’t. For instance, hidden in trees, in the textures of walls or floors, or up in the sky as clouds. They at least picked objects that fit the era. I don’t think people ever use sextants anymore, but they are a staple in hidden object games, and this is no different. Didn’t see any astrolabes though.
In most of these games, there is some ambiguity as to what you are looking for. But I think they went a little too far. For instance, you are looking for a “Bone” and you click on a skull. A skull is technically a bone, right? Well, not in this. This confusion must be deliberate, one scene had you looking for a “Compass” and there was one, right in the middle of the screen, plain as day. But it was a compass that you draw circles with a pencil with, not the sort they wanted (which to be honest, I couldn’t even see, it was behind a chair, had to use hint to finally find it).
While I could explain the compass as being a trick question sort of thing, in a couple cases the original description just seem to be not descriptive enough. For instance, in one scene you are supposed to find a “Hat”. There are two hats up in the sky. But I kept clicking on one of the hats but it didn’t pick. They meant the other hat. Why? I don’t know, but I guess because one was a man’s hat and the other was a woman’s hat. There’s a couple more instances of this, as well as one I had no idea what they meant (”horse bronze”?). It didn’t bother me too much, but it was a bit annoying. But then I played on untimed mode. If you play timed, well, these things could be very problematic as you are penalized for bad picks.
In addition to the hidden object scenes, it also mixes up the gameplay occasionally between hidden object scenes. Most games of this type do it nowadays, it keeps things from being too repetitive. You can skip them if you want, though. I did that with one that was one of those slide puzzle things (I hate those). Some are logic puzzles, and a few others involved matching pairs of cards(aka the memory card game) and one had you reassemble a torn up letter (so like a jig-saw puzzle). Fascinatingly, it was a real life Ripper letter used.
There’s no speech for the dialogue (some fancy PC HOGs do), but the music and sound effects are pretty good, if a little quiet, and appropriate to each scene. Loading times are usually short, but once or twice it took much longer than expected (the start of the last victim investigation).
It’s fairly long (say four hours?) and it’s got some re-playability because the list of objects you need to find changes somewhat. There is some re-use of scenes in the game, but not too much. What’s different is that is doesn’t really have an ending, you pick one of the five suspects you think is the Ripper, and then you get a few paragraphs about him, including how likely the developer thought he was the Ripper.
I’ve played a lot of these games on the PC. It doesn’t really compare to the best of those, but it’s competent enough. It’s firmly rooted in the more traditional sort of Hidden Object Game, rather than the newer “IHOG” which is more like an adventure game (The Mystery of the Crystal Portal, for instance).
This may be the third hidden object game ported to Minis, but it’s the first one that got the controls right, I think. You can zoom in and out with the O button, though you’ll mostly be using the zoomed in view on the PSP, while I guess the zoomed out view can be used on the PS3 (I don’t have one of those, so I can’t try playing it on one). You move the cursor around with either the analog nub or d-pad, but the speed it moves differs. The d-pad is used for fine movements, while the analog nub is use for fast movement. This solves the problem that Mystery of the Crystal Portal had, with the sluggish cursor.
So, basically it’s a solid, but not spectacular, Hidden Object Game with a perfect port. On the PC, where probably 3-4 of these come out a week, it might not stand out, either good or bad. But as far as Minis are concerned, we get one of these every oh, six months or so, it’s definitely worth a look if you like the genre, especially since it’s the most playable of the bunch on a PSP.