Day 3: A Game That Is Underrated

Most of the games I play are pretty well-rated, so this was really hard. I wracked my brains trying to think of one, but I couldn’t. Psychonauts came to mind, a brightly coloured children’s platform game which hasn’t had a huge amount of attention since its 2004 release besides a couple of sequels releasing this year and next (much to the delight of its fans). But I never finished Psychonauts, so I felt I couldn’t in good conscience put it as my #1 Underrated Game. Instead, I’ve gone for something that’s…less than triple-A, let’s put it like that. My choice for A Game That Is Underrated is Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper.

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Yeah, okay, there may be a bit of self-indulgence here. This game was panned for clunky mechanics and game-breaking glitches, as well as dated graphics and sound quality. However, the ability to dive into my favourite book series at the time (I played this in about 2010-ish when I was about 16) was wonderful in itself; I was probably in the middle of the books at the time and since then I’ve read every Conan Doyle story of Holmes. I said last post that I get borderline obsessive with characters, and Sherlock Holmes was one of those. So, dodgy mechanics aside, I was just really excited to play as my literary hero.

I’m also a little bit of a crime nerd. What I really liked about this game was the ability to get up close and personal with the crime scenes of Jack the Ripper. I loved examining the bodies because they are replicas of the actual murders committed by the Whitechapel Murderer. And this is what makes this game worth it; it’s a fictional world laid over reality, and the details are such that it can be used as an educational tool. Real victims. Real suspects. The most exciting moment for me was walking into the in-game Mitre Square, finding Elizabeth Stride, and knowing that Catherine Eddowes was out there, still waiting to be discovered. There are lots of other little quirky moments, but as I haven’t played the game in seven years I’ve mostly forgotten them.

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Examining the body of one of the Canonical Five; the cartoonish art lessens the gory effect. Above, the player finds a bruise on the left cheek indicating the killer had his thumb around the victim’s mouth.

Having said that, I’m hugely biased. I love crime and serial killers and Jack was one of the first I ever learned about. It’s true that the game glitches and there’s a weird point-and-click mechanic when you’re in third person to make Holmes and Watson move about. When you’re surely hovering over the place you need to click on, the game makes you search for the exact pixel, a laborious and frustrating task. The cutscenes jerk from one location to another, separated by a static loading screen, and there’s no audio or visual fade. Both sound and visuals black out suddenly, go to the loading screen, and then another cutscene will play, usually in a completely different place. This is a jarring experience for the player and doesn’t help with immersion.

But…it’s Jack the Ripper. Versus Sherlock Holmes. Come on.

Remember you can always tweet me at TCasualGamer or comment below with your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Author: Phoebe Wright

I am a musician and musicologist currently studying my MA Music at Bangor University, specialising in music for video games. For my undergraduate degree I wrote a 12,000 word dissertation focusing on the music of various horror games, although my favourite games are those with a limited horror factor. I've been playing video games since I was small and I'm fascinated by the in-depth stories and personal relationships that can be made with characters in video games.

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