So, me and my other half have recently been on a kick of playing ‘detective’ style games, partially because we both like point ‘n click games and partially because detective games usually have a central mystery which is fun to work out regardless of who ends up actually controlling the game. So we decided to compile a list of games that looked interesting from various places and a few from our own gaming experience and began to play through them. As we did, I managed to rediscover a game that I haven’t played for a fair few years, and boy was it a good one (hint: not really).
Enter Ripper, a 1996 title released and developed by Take-Two interactive and one of the many infamous FMV titles of the 90s. Surprisingly, even after playing it and having to admit that for the most part the gameplay is complete b*lls, I still want to recommend this game to you, and here are 5 reasons why.
1. Just look at that cast list!!
Ripper has an absolutely insane amount of star power for a game that few people have actually heard of. The game stars Scott Cohen, who has had stints in shows like NYPD Blue, Gilmore Girls (yay?), and Law & Order. On his own, Cohen may not add up to much, but the game also stars people like Burgess Meredith (Mickey from Rocky), Karen Allen (Scrooged and Raiders of the Lost Ark), Jimmie Walker (Dyn-o-mite!!), John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings), and CHRISTOPHER FREAKIN’ WALKEN! (Do I even need to tell you?). Other than the fact that it’s just fun seeing all of these big name people in a video game together, it also means that for the most part the performances are actually quite good, barring some…interesting moves made by Walker.
2. It’ll teach you how not to make a game (if you care)
Although the game’s plot is very interesting, and it does make you want to play through the game, it’s surrounded by some of the worst mystery gameplay that I have ever experienced. Every single time you want to get somewhere you have to watch the same overly long walking animation, which artificially pads out the length of the game by a considerable margin. Trying to figure out where you’re going or what you’re doing starts out pretty simple and is intuitive, but as the game progresses it just gets worse and worse, but by far the worst element of gameplay is the puzzles. Lots of games from the era had frankly insane puzzles, so much so that it’s sort of a staple of the genre, however in Ripper they’re so bad that at points they become basically unplayable. There are no less than two slide puzzles in the game (a true mark of quality), two chess clones, a stupid crystal puzzle based on constellations, and at least one situation where you have to solve a riddle based on Egyptian mythology that has clues which are impossible to understand. On top of this, some of the sequences are actually action sequences which are basically rail shooters, the worst kind of rail shooters. Trust me, there is no shame in playing this game on easy mode.
All of this might sound like a negative point, but honestly it’s very good at making apparent why the game doesn’t work. If you’re a student of design or are just interested in making your own game, then it’s worth playing just to see where it works and where it doesn’t. The footage and style of the game is very appealing, but is wrapped around a terrible framework, and this could easily prompt thoughts on how you would have framed it yourself.
3. CHRISTOPHER FREAKIN’ WALKEN!!!
Yes, I know I technically mentioned the star power behind the game, and the fact that Christopher Walken has a major role in the game, but this genuinely deserves to have its own point on the list. There are so many moments in the game that show Walken in his insane majesty that you absolutely have to play it. I won’t spoil all of them so that you can appreciate these moments for yourself, but I will show you this absolute gem.
4. The plot is super interesting, and changes every time you play it!
As I said before, the game’s plot is one of its strong points (mostly), but an addition to that is the fact that the answer to the game’s big mystery, who the Ripper is, actually changes each time you play the game. Rather, it has four possible outcomes that are randomized whenever you start a new game and are based on playing close attention to what is said and to the clues that the game throws your way in the final act. The only shame about this one is that it’s just the killer’s identity that changes, but I suppose it would have been too much to ask for a game from 1996 to have branching paths, and honestly it probably would have made the plot less cohesive.
5. Blue Oyster Cult
No, this is not a reference to the famous sketch starring Will Farrell and Christopher Walken, the game’s main theme is actually the hit song “Don’t Fear the Reaper”. The song is awesome (if you disagree then you suck!) and features heavily in the opening and closing of the game. In fact, you should probably pay a lot of attention to the song, even if you don’t enjoy it as much as I do, because it actually features in one of the penultimate puzzles of the game and requires you to know the lyrics of the song by heart…or you know…use Google, I guess.
So yeah, if this article doesn’t make you want to play the game, then may I suggest you at least check out Spoony’s playthrough of the game so you can at least see it’s beauty, even if you don’t wont to expose yourself to the actual gameplay. Failing that, you can play it online for free right now over at archive.org