Publisher: Take-Two Interactive
Developer: Take-Two Interactive
Platform: DOS; Mac
Take 2 Interactive’s first FMV adventure was highly touted and had a high-profile cast as one of its selling points. Scott Cohen stars in this cyberpunk thriller as Jake Quinlan, a reporter for a virtual tabloid in 2040 New York City. A mastermind has been committing gruesome murders in the vein of Jack the Ripper, and has been anonymously contacting you in order to get himself some attention in the papers. Your girlfriend and fellow reporter has become the fourth victim. Luckily, she managed to survive the attack and is resting in a coma. Now the case has become personal. You must seek out the Ripper in order to help to save your girlfriend and prevent more pointless murders.
Ripper does an excellent job at developing a suspenseful mystery where everybody’s a suspect and everybody can be your friend. Christopher Walken plays detective Vince Magnotta, a hard-ass cop who cares more about getting his bounties than seeking justice (or following the rules). Dr. Clare Burton, the reserved doctor who knows more than she’s willing to reveal is portrayed by Karen Allen. Rounding out the cast is David Patrick Kelly, Burgess Meredith, John-Rhys Davies, and Ossie Davis.
Of course, a star-studded cast isn’t worth the paper their names are printed on if the director isn’t either. Phil Parmet, an accomplished cinematographer, is obviously at a loss when it comes to working with the actors directly (and from what I read, used a teleprompter to direct some of the actors). Walken gives a laughably bad, over-the-top performance, though my guess is he pulled a Marlon Brando and did it intentionally. He’s just too good to have performed that poorly. Allen is okay, but mostly looks lost while delivering her lines. Meredith does fine in his last performance prior to his death from Alzheimer’s, and Davis is always a hoot to watch. The supporting cast is good enough, and while the overall acting is sub-par, it would have been passable had the game itself been top-notch.
The game is played from a first-person perspective, essential for maintaining continuity in FMV adventures. Sadly, this is one of the few things the designers got right. You must slowly maneuver clumsily through different set pieces by clicking the hot spot you want Jake to move towards. Conversation with actors is simply exhausting all available topics while sitting back to let the talking heads go at it. Whenever you are presented with a decision, it only has bearing on what video sequence plays and not how the story unfolds. And then, you got the puzzles.
Like Ripper’s more successful and enjoyable cousin The Black Dahlia, Ripper is saturated with difficult puzzles. Unlike the latter, almost none of them make sense, or at the least, are necessary, within the context of the plot. Some answers require you to go on a goose chase of lock-and-key puzzles, which is akin to having a safe inside a safe inside a safe to protect your valuables. Many more are just thrown in for puzzle’s sake. Much of the game takes place in cyberspace, where you must enter wells to find information. Some wells are public, like the library and the newspaper. Individual wells are not only password protected, but also protected by ICE, which is either a logic puzzle or a shoot-em up to prevent access from those less determined. While some of these are entertaining, they are all superfluous.
The game was also touted for having four separate endings, which is true in only a technical sense. Entering Act III, the game randomly veers into one of four plot branches, leading to the killer being one of four different suspects. However, each plot branch continues to cast great suspicion on all four suspects. Thus, when the game comes to a close and Jake must determine who the Ripper is, the player has to guess. And if the player wants to see the other three endings? Play through the game and let it randomly select another plot branch. Considering how much of the game is monotonous, I refused to do so. Thus, I was unable to see Rhys-Davies’ performance, as he only appears in two of the branches.
One thing I did take from the game was the music. Blue Oyster Cult’s (Don’t Fear) The Reaper is the game’s theme song, and while wholly inappropriate within the context of the game (especially since one of the puzzles tries to use it as a hint), it’s one of the highlights. Otherwise, the game provides little satisfaction and leaves a lot to be desired. For those who love FMV games, I would recommend Ripper as a compliment to your collection. Everyone else should spend their money and time on better games.