Dudes. I love Sherlock Holmes. Like, a lot.
If you pay attention to our podcast, you’ll hear me mention the Consulting Detective series of games every other episode. I made a video review that had me trying to do British accents (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well). It is a game that I believe is a near-perfect way to spend an evening with a loved one.
“Come Watson! The Game is Afoot!”
So what about the sequel? Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures not only has way too many words in its title, but also seeks to continue the fun of The Thames Murders & Other Cases while adding in some twists to keep things fresh. The cases from the game were released all the way back in the eighties, but Space Cowboys released a wonderfully edited and repackaged edition back in 2017.
But we all know the sequel is never as good as the original. And while there are moments when SHCD:JtR&WEA (even as an acronym it’s ridiculously long) outshines its predecessor, the game’s major selling point ends up being a pretty big letdown.
“There is Nothing so Unnatural as the Commonplace”
This version of Consulting Detective utilizes many of the beloved elements from the first game. You and your fellow players take on the role of some of Sherlock’s assistants, seeking to solve the mysteries which are presented to you. The game is broken down into ten cases, each with its own book and newspaper. Together with the map of the town and the directory, you dive into the most complex “Choose Your Own Adventure” you’ve ever seen. As you discover clues, you’ll “travel” to different areas of London, each of which is represented by an alphanumeric code. You’ll find this code within the case book and read its corresponding passage to continue your investigation. You and the other players will work until you feel that you have solved the case, at which point you’ll turn to the back of the book and attempt to answer the questions presented to you.
So how do you win? Well, your competition in the game is Sherlock himself. He, of course, solves the case as efficiently as possible, usually visiting five or six leads. You will gain points for questions that you answer correctly (including some bonus points for those meticulous sleuths), but you’ll lose points for each location you visited beyond the number Sherlock needed. Sherlock always scores a hundred points, but don’t get your feelings hurt if you don’t hit that mark yourself. We usually feel pretty accomplished if we pull down a solid 30.
For the most part, the Jack the Ripper edition of the game follows this same pattern with six out of the ten cases. And the cases that follow this pattern are very, very good, and I would say that most are markedly superior to the cases in the first game. The storytelling just seems to be so much better in these cases. It could be that they have made some changes for the newer edition, but I just found myself much more engrossed in the cases this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the first game. But there is a connection to the characters and the events in the story here that I just didn’t feel with The Thames Murders.
“You would Certainly Have Been Burned”
But as good as those six cases are, the other four cases fall a little flat. These cases focus on Sherlock attempting to hunt down and capture Jack the Ripper. These four cases stand apart from the others and are meant to be played together as a mini-series. The game’s atmosphere is a little bit different here, and that’s because the creators have worked tirelessly to make the game accurate.
The newspapers include articles that were actually written in London during that time period. Some of the responses of the ‘characters’ are actual responses that were recorded by police from those involved in the cases. All of these elements make for a particularly haunting experience, as the text is often much darker and sinister than in the other cases. I was downright disturbed by some of the scenes that were set as we were playing. These cases also don’t have a solution at the end, but instead, each one moves you closer and closer to tracking down the killer.
While I do appreciate the creativity shown in this more episodic approach to the game, I must admit that I wasn’t a fan. It was a bit frustrating after diving into the case for three hours or more to have to walk away without much of a resolution. When you’re “solving” the case, you’re not really doing anything. And by the very nature of the case (ICYM: Jack the Ripper was never caught), you aren’t going to really find a resolution in the way that you do for other cases. It’s like you all just look at each other, say “Time for a break!”, and move on. The ending is also very underwhelming. After all the time and effort you put into those four cases, you’ll likely be disappointed with how the end goes.
“Holmes, You Have an Answer to Everything”
So while four of the cases weren’t all that great, I will say that my love for the Consulting Detective series hasn’t faltered much. I believe the six other cases are an incredible gaming experience and one I would recommend to almost everyone. The game works well for a couple looking for a date night activity or for a group of 7 or 8 people looking for an alternative to an escape room (or escape room board game). Sure, the replayability is nonexistent, but if you think about spending $5 to entertain yourself and your friends for a few hours, it’s a really good deal. And there are very few like it out there, and nothing that does it as well as Sherlock. So go ahead, go grab your own copy, and get to work on that London accent.
You can find a copy of SHCD: Jack the Ripper and its other versions on Amazon or at your FLGS.
- Just a wonderful gameplay experience that works in several settings
- Great narratives presented in enthralling ways
- Some of the cases here are stronger than what’s found in the original
- The Jack the Ripper cases don’t have the same feeling of success as the others