Saturday, 27 October 2018

RIPPER


In the realm of FMV computer games, has there ever been a more star-studded cast that of Ripper? Released in 1996 by Take-Two Interactive, it stars Christopher Walken, Karen Allen, Burgess Meredeth and several other recognisable faces among the rabble of Hollywood working stiffs. But can this retelling of Jack the Ripper transposed to the cyberpunk future of 2040 match the movie-quality output of its US setting?

With the tortured green face screaming at you on the game's box art, Ripper always intrigued me as I walked past the shelves of my local game store. And that blood-red 18-certificate emblazoned next to the company logos made me desire it even more (though for some reason, ELSPA gave it a 15+). I was naturally way too young to purchase it, but I was allowed the 15-rated Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within which has since become one of my favourites.

Big name movie stars may not have brought their A-game,
but they did up the entertainment value considerably.

While both games came on 6 CDs to hold all of their ambitious FMV, Ripper has a much more playful tone to the game. The future-scape presented here is one of ingrained corruption and ageing, oil-stained technology where much on one's life is spent in cyberspace populated with garish mid-90s CGI. But that doesn't mean the real-world has no impact. In fact, a spate of technologically advanced and brutal murders have been terrorising the citizens of New York and before they happen he sends a message to a reporter named Jack Quinlan (Scott Cohen).

The tough-talking Jack is our protagonist throughout the game and Cohen does a pretty good job at bringing him to life. He plays it straight but is never bland or out of place in a world where there are some terrible over-acting - which takes some talent. The first big name you'll talk to is Christopher Walken's grouchy Detective Vincent Magnotta, a character who chews cigars as vigorously as he chews the blue-screened scenery. He veers dangerously close to ruining every scene he's in but the performance is so strangely oddball that it becomes nothing less than entertaining. I'm sure modern audiences can mine a wealth of memes from it.

Cyberspace is represented in a garish Virtual Reality fantasy land.
You can access the 'wells' of various characters if you can figure out their password.

The game plays in the first-person perspective with fully animated transitions between each screen. Along with the large cursor icons, this reminds me a lot of Trilobyte's classic horror series The 7th Guest, and that comparison can also be applied to the puzzles. While not as self-contained as those puzzles, many featured in Ripper are still a touch incongruous the overall plot. You'll be finding yourself guiding a ball through a maze, flipping coins into a till and deciphering what time to put in clocks - and these are just the puzzles found in one location.

As fun as these can be, they're not all like that. You'll often need to take down observations of your surroundings to get the answer or decipher codes in a very round-about way. This means that the difficulty curve is all over the place. At one point you might struggle for some time trying to figure something out but once you do you'll breeze through the next few.

Some characters will have you play an arcade sequence 
before you can access their cyberspace 'well'.

Beyond the expected puzzles, you'll also find one of the things that most adventure gamers fear - the arcade sequence. You'll be pleased to know that these mouse-controlled on-rail shooter segments are actually nicely programmed and thought out for what amounts to little more than a mini-game. I've played games where this is the sole mechanic that play a lot worse. They've even had the forethought to reduce frustration by having you respawn just before the sequence should you fail. This was a lifesaver for me as I easily died the moment I came across it.

Depending on your play style you can change the difficulty if you want. There are three settings for both the puzzles and action sequences which is nice - I played with medium puzzles and easy action which still gave enough of a challenge but wasn't a pushover either.

There is a point very late in the game where the plot will randomly diverge in one of four different paths. This is where one of the four suspects is chosen to be the killer, but it seems rather random. The game mechanics and plot progression work in such a way that all four look just as guilty as each other. The murder mystery staple of the red herring cannot be implemented here as the culprit is randomly chosen, not pre-ordained. As a result, you cannot use your Sherlock skills to correctly point the finger, but when the time comes the best course of action is to save before you make your guess, then re-load if you chose wrong.

Some puzzles are self-contained and logic based (left)
while others require closely observing the environment (right)

It's a shame more thought didn't go into this poor excuse for replay value. 99% of the game is exactly the same but you'll have to play through all of it four times to see each ending. If writing four separate stories for each outcome isn't viable, I would've preferred a single, more focused narrative than one that has to accommodate each ending.

That's from a narrative perspective, though. If you look at Ripper in terms of gameplay, it actually plays very well. The premise is decent as is the sci-fi setting though I was expecting more horror and scares given the title and box art. Ripper has far more going for it than it has against it, and one of those negatives - Christopher Walken - might just make you love it even more.



To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
  03.06.2019 - Ver.2 - Installer now asks for destination folder

File Size: 3.61 Gb.  Install Size: 3.72 Gb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Ripper is © Take-Two Interactive
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


Like this? Try These...

http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/dark-seed.html  http://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/black-dahlia.html  https://collectionchamber.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-x-files-game.html

25 comments:

  1. So it was an FMV adventure game restricted to a comparatively small PC gamer audience by which Scott Cohen as protagonist Jack Quinlan gave some decent shine to the genre, a couple of years before I became aware of him for the first time. That was exactly when he starred in Gilmore Girls, where he was acting a rather significant role for, all in all, 13 episodes. So, when I had my first contact with Ripper sometime later, I thought: "For sure it wouldn't be the worst thing to play as Max Medina from Gilmore Girls, your favourite TV series once upon a time!" (Guess I'm kinda exposed now, haha).

    I know that from an objective actor's popularity point of view, it should have been the great Christopher Walken, actually, to be seen as the perfect appetizer for getting into the game, but for me it was that one Scott Cohen instead who, in large part, made me want solving the riddle of the Ripper back then.

    And although it was only due to the long-winded transitions between each game section that eventually held me back from successfully blowing one of the four Rippers' cover at the end of the day, I have mostly fond memories of this bizarre Adventure trip, which rest on the futuristic-noir tone along with its shady characters and tough Myst-ic puzzles, that, thanks to Biff and his present preservation entry, have been beautifully revived once more.

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    1. Thanks Thomas, I was trying to pinpoint where else I knew Cohen from and it was indeed Gilmore Girls. I have a vague memory of his CSI guest appearance too. Christopher Walken was the biggest of a number of big names in Ripper, but if Quinlan had acted like him throughout it would've surely got on my nerves. He's the charasmatic straight man, perfect for an adventure game lead. Walken's in it just briefly enough not to annoy but still make a bizarre impression.

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  2. This is brilliant work. Well done for combining these 6 CDs into one convenient installer. I read somewhere that there was a bug in the middle, around the 3rd CD, but I assume Biffman has gotten around that problem, since he successfully completed the game. If he ever uploads this custom installer to the adventurelegends site, he may also notice there are two patches given there. I assume he has incorporated those patches into this installer as well.

    I was surprised the review said Ripper has a more playful tone than Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. I would have expected the exact opposite. Maybe it's to do with Christopher Walken's ripe acting (which I always enjoy). Anyway, other famous actors not mentioned in the review include Paul Giamatti, later to star in Sideways and Straight Outta Compton, and John Rhys-Davies from Indiana Jones, captured here before he played Gimli in Lord of the Rings. Everyone should be interested just on the cast alone.

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    1. Also, I want to confirm that this 1996 game runs perfectly smoothly on my Windows 10 machine. The only tweak I needed to make was to change fullscreen=desktop to fullscreen=original in the dosbox CONF file, to get rid of my wide black margins. I learned how to do this tweak from one of biffman's posts in another thread.

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    2. Thanks for mentioning Paul Giamatti, by the way. Since I got the picture of him in my head originating from the formidable Sideways, I guess that probably I wouldn't have recognized him at first sight when he was entering the stage in Ripper.

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  3. I meant "fullresolution=original", not "fullscreen=original".

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    1. Thanks James. It depends what setup your desktop is as to which one is better. I found "fullresolution=desktop" is more universal going by what others have told me. It's also patched to version 1.05 as it had video issues all before that. Don't know much about the bug, but I managed to get to the end.

      I found GK2 to have more of a serious storyline, even though there are some comedic moments in there. It's based on real-life history and legend which adds credence to it. Ripper felt like it came from a pulpy comic book and Christopher Walken's acting is just insane. IMO both are must plays for adventure fans though.

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    2. I see. FYI, my desktop resolution is 1920x1080. That translates to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the most common display type since 2009, I believe, and is also the aspect ratio of all modern TVs sold today. Perhaps it is because I have a 17-inch monitor, although I doubt that makes a difference. Well, it is an easy tweak anyway, so it doesn't matter to me.

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    3. I'm the same, though I use a TV via HMDI rather than a monitor so maybe that's it. Not really researched it tbh.

      Also, you got me a bit paranoid with the crash bug so I did a little digging with that. It appears an early distributed ISO was ripped badly (or early prints were buggy) which makes it crash during a transition around the Monkey Lab area at the Tribeca hospital (Act II). I got past this so these ISOs are definitely safe.

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  4. Yes, I remember the Monkey Lab was where the bug was located, from what I read. I expect being patched to v1.05 would have cleared that up, so that's good. It is history now. I hope you upload this to adventurelegends so more people notice this, but that's up to you.

    I am very lucky that I noticed your post describing how to change the dosbox CONF file to "fullresolution=original". (I believe I noticed it on the Azrael's Tear thread.) Otherwise, I and others like me would probably play all these games with wide black margins... which I realise wouldn't damage gameplay, of course.

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    1. Thanks. I'll add that bit of info to the FAQ if I haven't already. I don't control the links AdventureLegends but I have given their moderators free reign to link here as and when they choose.

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    2. I informed the people on the adventurelegends site that there are new updates here. They ("Scaryfun") said, "I'll get caught up probably on next week's update. :up: "

      hfric: "also , Biffman should visit us often ..."

      zobraks: "Biffman is a member? Hail to the King! :)"

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  5. Hmm, sadly, I don't think this has subtitles. Not all games from the mid-90s had integrated subtitles. This is like watching a movie at the cinema, which usually doesn't have subtitles. At least you can read all the questions, which should help to understand the answers people give. It's unfortunate, I know.

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  6. The Spanish version had subtitles. I think they were enabled on version 1.05

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    1. Unfortunately, this English 1.05 version didn't seem to be intended to come along with any kind of subtitles. Which gives me as German Kraut the one or other little headache from time to time; when my mind is only able to capture the essence of the spoken word in moments like this, due to the missing of English subs. But it's still bearable, though.

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  7. You may have missed my last post, which somehow ended up in the middle of the thread. It said that the people on AdventureLegends are requesting you to visit more often. They said this in a thread titled "The Collection Chamber", in the "Site Suggestions" section of their forum.

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  8. Hellooooo. Is Biffman well? Is he still alive? His last comment was over a month ago. These long absences make his fans worry that something untoward has happened to him. They're probably worried over at AdventureLegends, too.

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    1. Biffman is probably up to his eyeballs in work and that's why he's not responding. I assure you he's alive and well :)

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    2. You're half correct Karl. Read my recent update for my half-hearted excuse :)

      The excuse for Adventure Legends is an even more sorry one. I lost my log in details and didn't get around to requesting new ones :P As you can gather, I'm really bad at that.

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    3. Well, I have informed the Adventure Legends site that Biffman has lost his log-in details to the site. Let's hope they notice. (I would like more visitors to AdventureLegends to make their way this site, that's all.)

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    4. I sent an email with the login and password now to the email you registered under. If you don't get it, let me know. :)

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    5. Thanks Scaryfun. I've got the email.

      I'm sure I could've figured something out if I put my mind to it. I'm not a very organised person as you can probably gather :)

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  9. So I just discovered The Collection Chamber recently through an online acquaintance and I have to say it’s absolute treasure trove. As someone who’s really into to odd and obscure games, but also recognizes how much of a pain messing with emulators can be, these simple installer packages are fantastic.

    If I could make a couple of requests/recommendations: I’d love to see Gadget: Past as Future and Eastern Mind 2: Chu-Teng get this treatment. I wouldn’t mind seeing more PS1 games either, like maybe LSD: Dream Emulator or Policenauts.

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    1. I like your taste in game, Elwood :)

      Some of those are already on my radar for a release, however I don't think Eatern Mind 2 will be here anytime soon. It never saw a release outside Japan and while a fan translation exists, it's still in text form and hasn't been hacked into the game itself - at least last time I checked.

      When I find out that's happened it's one of those games where I'll drop everything to play.

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