Jack the Ripper (1981)   4 comments

Softside’s Adventure of Month feature dipped into a grab-the-treasures game for August, but returns in September for a more narrative-oriented game, with Peter Kirsch back at the helm.

I’m assuming Jack the Ripper himself — murderer of at least five women in East London in 1888 — needs no introduction.

Although this can be a quick primer. The Illustrated Police News, October 27, 1888.

The series continued to be published for Apple II, TRS-80, and Atari computers. The Apple version is not available anywhere I can find.

TRS-80 opening on the top, Atari on the bottom.

The Atari version had some bugs — I’ll point out where in a moment — so I stuck with the TRS-80 version for this game. As implied by the starting text, you start on a random London street looking for Jack the Ripper. There doesn’t seem to be any attempt at real geography (despite the game tossing the Thames in) as “Rue Street” and “Pagon Avenue” are nearby and neither show up on a real London map. To the west of your starting place are a pub, and inn, and some shops.

In the Pub, you can PLAY DARTS and win a pound.

The pound can be brought into a dress shop to buy a RED DRESS, which you can then wear. (I gather the premise is, given the real-life Ripper preyed on real-life prostitutes, to dress in a way that attracts his attention and then capture him via superior police kung-fu. Yes, this might be cross-dressing, although the gender of the protagonist is unspecified.)

The Atari version lets you just take the red dress without paying. If it was just that bug I wouldn’t be concerned, but there’s also a missing character — there’s a child playing outside the dress shop that you can trade some candy for a plastic knife, and they don’t appear in the Atari version at all. I assume it’s still winnable because Gaming After 40 has a walkthrough and used the Atari version (although I haven’t looked at it … yet).

There’s also an inn where you can check in, via TAKE QUILL, DIP QUILL, and SIGN REGISTER…

…and then go upstairs only to find a LONG ROPE. I don’t know if this was a complicated way to get at an object of there’s some other narrative purpose to the inn.

The other portion of the map has two residential streets, where you get pushed out if you try to enter any of the houses.

There are “side streets” which are interesting — if you wait enough turns, night falls, and if you go at night you can see a glimpse of someone who runs away. (After more waiting night turns back to day; I don’t know if there’s a time limit or anything changes across the days.) Again, my guess is: you disguise yourself enough to look like a potential victim, then go down the side alley and spring the trap. The problem is I’m out of resources for potential disguise creation.

The only other places I’ve been able to go are Scotland Yard, where a desk seargant asks me what I want, and no response I can come up with has been helpful (“Sorry, I can’t help you.”). I’ve tried WARRANT, MONEY, HANDCUFFS, HELP, PARTNER, and ARREST with no luck.

There’s also a nearby taxi who asks where I want to go, and no destination I’ve tried has worked (“Sorry, that’s not on my route”).

I get the impression the author had a “script” in mind for how the game ought to go and what each scene at each location would be like, and didn’t think about leading the player to the same place. (Another gameplay analogy is to when games try to put riddles, and the player is at a complete loss — the result is essentially a complete impasse where any interaction with the world universe grinds to a halt.) I managed to chance upon PLAY DARTS but I could easily see that being a stopping point along similar lines.

I’ll try a good-faith attempt to whack at the game a while longer. Maybe I can just pull up a list of every London location and try it until the taxi driver succumbs?

Posted January 28, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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4 responses to “Jack the Ripper (1981)

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  1. I peeked at Gaming after 40 and it looks like lbh ner univat n thrff gur gbcvp ceboyrz ng fpbgynaq lneq jurer lbh arrq gb gel n gjb jbeq nygreangvir gb bar bs gur jbeqf lbh unir hfrq.

  2. According to Gaming After 40, the child is still in the Atari version, but appears in a random location.

    • Yeah, one of my runs (no save game feature) it took a while for the child to show up anywhere, so it’s just random.

      (also, I finished, we’ll see if I have time for the writeup tonight. interesting game.)

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