Sometimes, when I’m walking around in my neighborhood, I think about solving crimes.
There’s a very specific day dream where a neighbor flags me down, presents a crime scene (a dead body, a broken potted plant, the last place they say their fat orange cat named Caruso, etc.) and I, miraculously, follow incidental details like bread crumbs to the gingerbread house of a job well done. The neighbor hugs their cat or new geraniums or dead uncle then cries and thanks me. And I keep walking on to the next case.
But most of the time I can’t find my keys. So, to serve this need to be a master detective when the daydreams won’t come, I play video games. Most of the popular crime games though make me feel like a badass Robocop and not like a sharp-witted Sherlock. Only one game really makes me feel like that, and it’s Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper.
And that sounds bananas, sure. It’s a wonky premise for anything. Something about it feels very Carmen Sandiego or King Kong vs. Godzilla, but this is the one game that makes detective work feel actually rewarding. You collect clues, you draw deductions, you stage the Whitechapel Murders based on forensic evidence and it’s not a button-press timing game. It’s not an incidental series of action set pieces. It’s not pressing “A” when the controller rumbles to pick up a suspicious beer bottle (looking at you L.A. Noire). It’s a guessing game. And you have to guess.
This game, released in 2009, does not wear its age well. Its muddy and smeared graphics and cut-string-marionette-like character animations do not make for an eye-popping glory-fest, but I’ve yet to play an Xbox One or PS4 game that has me test blades on a dead pig to discern which is the murder weapon, or interrogate a mad gay doctor who travels with a jarred vagina (that’s some real shit by the way, this goes into Victorian squalor like a health inspector Charles Dickens in a biohazard suit).
Jack the Ripper, funnily enough, is a perfect adversary for Sherlock. He’s spectacular and attention-grabbing, pulling the entire focus of London towards its poorest citizens. Sherlock is a recluse, solving barely noticeable mysteries in small corners of the country. They’re both quintessentially and starkly of their time. It’s an odd idea out loud, ludicrous on paper, but when you’re behind the eyes of Mr. Holmes, interviewing down-on-their-luck prostitutes about their recently butchered friend, the genius shines through the grime.
Like I said, I play detective. You cannot keep a surprise party or Christmas gift out of my hands. But, I’m also not doing anything but blogging and my day job, so my phone isn’t exactly blowing up. Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper uses its long sharp knives (filet knives, by the way, according to the cuts on the pig) to scratch that itch. It’s the only way I can, honestly.
So if you’re similarly afflicted, if you look at life like it’s a detective’s cork board, and if you feel like setting your wits against the Western world’s first serial killer, call Watson, put down your violin, and find out who killed those poor women down in Whitechapel.