Added to the lair: 3/3/18

Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure / 1st person

Developer: Take-Two Interactive

Year: 1996

Platform: DOS

Emulator: DOSBox 0.74

Wikipedia: Ripper

Ripper

Jack's back.

I'll admit it - I have a serious soft spot for live-action FMV-heavy games. I realize that they're mostly considered an extremely dated relic of a bygone era at this point, but something about them - when done well, which I'll admit was a bit of a rarity - is really charming to me. Ripper is not an "FMV game" but it is a very FMV heavy adventure game, somewhat reminiscent of Tex Murphy titles.

You play the role of news reporter Jake Quinlan, following a story on a grisly series of murders by a mysterious figure who calls himself The Ripper. Jake has the unfortunate honor of being The Ripper's personal pen-pal - receiving messages from him after every murder which are then printed in the "Virtual Herald" (it's the future after all, and adding "virtual" to anything makes it sound futuristic). While this is a boon for Jake's career, the horrific nature of the crimes makes it a heavy burden.

Gameplay involves navigating around environments, gathering clues, talking to other characters, and solving puzzles - pretty typical, serviceable adventure game fare. There are also some fairly poor "action" sequences, which generally amount to rail shooting, that I could have lived without. Luckily they drape all this in a fantastically moody atmosphere and a genuinely interesting story. Some of the puzzles are admittedly pretty damn obtuse though. It's worth mentioning that the person who ends up being the Ripper can be one of four different characters, which is determined at random in each new playthrough - I thought this was a pretty neat touch.

If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that Take-Two spent a lot of money on Ripper. The production values are very high for a game of this type and from this period. They hired an impressive bevy of famous actors to fill various roles in the game - Paul Giamatti, Karren Allen, Burgess Meredith, John Rhys-Davies, Scott Cohen and, front and center, Christopher Walken. The acting is all thoroughly enjoyable (notice I didn't say "good"), albeit in a campy, pulpy, kind of way; which is primarily the result of the writing. Walken, as usual, just absolutely chews up the scenery every second he's on screen. Maybe I'm just weird, but I found it extremely difficult not to have a giant smile plastered across my face every time he was speaking. The only complaint I have on the production front is that the music (barring the hamfisted but not terrible use of Blue Oyster Cult's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper") is non-descript to the point of being practically non-existent. Most of it is rather boring, looping clips that are only a few seconds long. It's background music that truly sounds like background music.

The only seriously major complaint I have with the game is that the animations for moving between areas are obscenely slow and, worse, unskippable. What I find doubly ludicrous about this is that... the one thing you can skip? Dialogue scenes. You know, the one thing you wouldn't want to skip. When you add in the occasionally unintuitive zig-zaggy nature of some of the navigation points, it's an extremely odd and unfortunate design choice.

That said, Ripper is, overall, a well-made, entertaining, and gripping adventure game that's worth checking out. It's campy as hell, like some lost 90's Saturday night sci fi horror flick, but that's a big part of the charm.