Even a century after his brutal crimes, Jack the Ripper is such an immense figure in popular culture that you expect big things from any game bearing his name. Toss in the world's most legendary fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, and you up the ante even further. Given all that, it's perhaps a little disappointing that Frogwares' newest addition to its long-running adventure series starring everybody's favorite detective feels sort of generic. Although Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper is mesmerizing in spots due to a fantastic blending of the serial killer's crime scenes with Holmes' rigorous investigating, too many stock adventure quests interfere with your eerie wanderings around Whitechapel. It's hard to get involved in the great story and sleuthing while being constantly interrupted to run mundane errands.
Breaking down the evidence gathered at each murder scene and making deductions are necessary if Holmes is to track down saucy Jack.
That said, there are some real strengths here. The story is a brilliant retelling of the real Jack the Ripper saga that unfolded in the slums of East London's Whitechapel district in the summer and fall of 1888. Much of the script has been adapted from police and newspaper records. As in real life, Jack murders five prostitutes in grisly fashion, slashing their throats, often butchering their remains, and even taking away organs as trophies before vanishing into the London fog. The only fictional additions are Sherlock Holmes and his trusty companion, Dr. Watson, who decide to get involved after reading about the first murder in the newspaper. From this point on, you control both Holmes and Watson by turns in their endeavors to stop the murders and identify Jack.
Some aspects of your investigations are absolutely riveting. Holmes and Watson show up to inspect each crime scene after the murder takes place, so you get a close-up look at Jack's work. This isn't quite as gruesome as it sounds, because the bodies are replaced with cartoonish dummies that bear just the slightest imprint of the murderer's attentions with his knife. Slashed throats, for instance, look like they could have been drawn on with lipstick. Still, the ability to visually inspect such famous murder scenes as the "Double Event" killings and run a magnifying glass over the bodies of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes is creepy and involving. Each crime scene also lets you reconstruct what happened, taking the pieces of evidence and linking them together until you can form conclusions. For instance, when checking out the body of Anne Chapman, you discover such pertinent clues as blood on a fence, bruises under the right side of the jawbone, and a bloated tongue, which allow you to deduce that the victim was killed while lying down after being choked with a left hand. These deductions are chosen from pulldown lists, though it still feels like you're actually investigating crime scenes as you do all the work of gathering the evidence. In addition, you also take on sleuthing back at Holmes' famous 221B Baker Street flat. You comb through dialogue and documents to establish murder times, and you even work up detailed theories about why the murders are being committed. If the real London police had had Holmes on the case back in 1888, Jack wouldn't have stood a chance.