Commodore User

Jack The Ripper

Author: Keith Campbell
Publisher: CRL
Machine: Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #52

Jack The Ripper

Jack The Ripper was the nickname of the villain responsible for a series of murders which took place in London's East End between August and November 1888. They were never solved. The Ripper's victims were prostitutes, and all but one were slain whilst soliciting. The method of the murderer was to cut the throat, and usually to mutilate the body in a way that indicated some anatomical knowledge.

Gruesome stuff indeed, and there is today a pub, not far from the dark twisting lanes where these foul deeds took place, whose name commemorates those grisly events.

Not the sort of story on which to base an adventure, you might think. But why not? The Ripper has provided the theme for a number of novels and plays - so why not a computer game?

Jack The Ripper

And so it comes to pass that you find yourself in the Whitechapel area, wandering down Bow Lane, when you come upon a shape lying on the ground at the end of a darkened alley. Examine it, and examine it you must if you are to proceed through the game, and two screenfuls of detailed text follow, describing the gory state in which you find a body - slit from ear to ear, with its stomach ripped open. This text is followed by a digitised and equally gruesome picture. But it was the text, far more than the graphic, that disturbed me - and that surely proves that text in an adventure stimulates the imagination more than graphics.

The game was submitted to the British Board Of Film Censors, and as a result, some alterations were made before it was awarded an 18 certificate, and published. Now, of course, this is partly commercial gimmickry - there is really no obligation for a game to be subjected to such scrutiny. However, it does mean that publishers CRL are covered, should someone try to get it banned. And it really is a sensible guide - the game is quite definitely not suitable for children, or even young teenagers.

The text, though full of gory detail, is impeccably written, and conveys a sense of narrative, being written in the first person. But how does the game perform as an adventure

Jack The Ripper

After discovering the body, you are mistakenly taken for the villain, and from then on it is a race against time to keep ahead of the police, and try to solve the murder yourself. There are some clever puzzles, and as the game is played in real time, the STORE option, which saves a position to memory, is a very useful aid that allows you to quickly go back and overcome developments that you hadn't foreseen.

The Ripper was written using the PAW, and is the first commercially available PAW-ed adventure. Multi-word input is accepted, and is often necessary during the course of the game. The parser, in fact, starts off by giving the appearance of being as powerful as Magnetic Scrolls' - but it isn't. I tried PUT RAZOR AND SOAP ON WASHSTAND and only one of the items went down. Nevertheless, it is very good.

There is an obvious comparison to be made with Rod Pike's adventures, also published by CRL. The Ripper seems to be a little more relaxed, if a horror adventure can be so described. There is less emotional build-up, and more emphasis on the physical level. Also, it has the advantage of being written on a superior system to GAC and The Quill. PAW apart, I'd say it was a matter of personal choice as to which you'd prefer.

If you have enjoyed Rod's adventures, or fancy a bit of horror, then this game is for you. But do heed the 18 certificate on the package.

Keith Campbell

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