Loaded has a good ol’ laugh about those wacky prostitute murders
Posted by Richie on June 20, 2007
This week’s sign that the world has gone horribly wrong:
Courtesy of Loaded, who don’t seem to know the correct definition of “pea souper”, but never mind.
This isn’t actually the first game in which you can play as Jack the Ripper, as anybody who remembers the borderline-unplayable old arcade game World Heroes can tell you. For those of you unfamiliar with it – and, really, what have you been doing with your lives? – World Heroes was a shitty Street Fighter II ripoff in which a scientist used a time machine to capture history’s greatest warriors and forced them to defend Earth from alien invasion. As it was developed in Japan, they’re represented by folk heroes like Hattori Hanzou, but the characters chosen to represent the other countries are… interesting. America is represented by Joe Montana and Hulk Hogan (renamed “Johnny Maximum” and “Muscle Power”), Germany by a robot dressed in a Nazi uniform, “The Seven Seas” by Captain Kidd, China by Bruce Lee (sorry, “Kim Dragon”), South America by a guy in a giant green mask called “Mudman”, and the UK by…
Despite its questionable choice in characters and the fact it was just rubbish in general, World Heroes was able to finally provide an answer to that most ubiquitous of playground arguments, “Who would win: Joan of Arc, or Rasputin?”.
The answer? Everybody.
This Jack the Ripper game is, incredibly, both less playable and less historically accurate than World Heroes. Now, I don’t subscribe to the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” times to say and do things; the reason so many of the jokes about (say) Space Shuttle Columbia are crass and insensitive isn’t that they were told too soon after the actual event, but that they were directly inspired by the event, and thus rely on us pointing and laughing at people because they burned to death, which isn’t ever going to be funny. So the idea of turning Jack the Ripper into a prostitute-killing superhero is always going to be a pile of misogynist shit, whether it’s 1888 or 2007. That said, something to bear in mind about this game: It was released on the 8th of January 2007. That’s a really, really short time the Ipswich murders. The game can’t have taken long to develop, since it’s incredibly simple and made in Flash. Obviously we don’t know that this game was directly inspired by the Ipswich murders, but it’s not as if using them as an excuse to invoke Jack was rare; Steven Wright was variously dubbed “The Ipswich Ripper”, “The Suffolk Ripper”, “The East Anglia Ripper” and “The Red Light Ripper” by the media. Make of this what you will.
The game involves walking from left to right until you encounter prostitutes, then murdering them without drawing the attention of passers-by, who you also have to murder if they catch you. This is a bad move, because the objective is to kill prostitutes, not real people (The idea that prostitutes are a sub-species of human who hatch from special eggs, don’t have lives or families of their own and by definition deserve whatever happens to them may also have been inspired by the media’s coverage of the Ipswich murders, but could easily have come from pretty much anywhere).
Yeah. They scream loudly when you kill them. Occasionally you score a critical hit and rip their heads off. They have no means of defense.
Here, Jack walks past the Ten Bells. The Ten Bells is a real pub, still standing, which has connections to the ripper. Christ, I’ve started writing “The Ripper”. We don’t know who it was, and we won’t ever, so it’s difficult not to – but, of course, “The Ripper” just feeds the idea that he was some sort of supervillain with magic powers. Speaking of which, here’s an extract about the Ten Bells from Harbottle’s Pub Guide that sums up everything I hate about the pop-culture obsession with Jack the Ripper:
The pub has a board which shows there were six victims of Jack The Ripper, whilst most Ripper fans think the true number was five. Two of the Ripper victims were seen in the pub close to the times of their murders and all five victims lived in close proximity to the pub. The most famous Ripper victim Mary Kelly was said to have plied her trade outside the pub, so maybe the Ripper drank in this pub or waited nearby and used it to select his victims. The name Martha Tabrum (Turner) is listed as the first victim on the board and this fits in with the theory that the murders were a black magic ritual. The pub itself is known to date from at least 1752. From 1976 it was known as The Jack the Ripper but reverted to its original name in 1988 when people complained that the name glorified violence to women.
Look, given that every other serial killer who’s gone to out to gut prostitutes has been a sad little man with a bad haircut rather than some kind of Masonic necromancer, it’s unlikely that Jack the Ripper was the exception to the rule. Moving on.
It’s at this point that the outright hatred of women takes leave and is replaced by sheer lunacy, as Jack takes on Holmes and Watson. This isn’t entirely without precedent, since there have been multiple Holmes / Ripper stories written, but that doesn’t stop it being a stupid idea, and none of them are by Conan Doyle anyway. What we haven’t seen before, though, is Doctor Watson’s special attack, in which he rolls up into a ball and charges at you while screaming “YAAARGH!”. In any other game, this might almost have been entertaining.
Also, because my job is to educate as well as entertain, Holmes never wore a hat like that or said “Elementary, my dear Watson”. They’re entirely cinematic inventions, along with Frankenstein’s monster being brought to life by lightning, and sunlight killing vampires.
After stabbing Holmes and Watson to death, Holmes is eaten by the Hound of Baskervilles. I… I don’t know where to begin.
The next two levels are identical to the first, but with more police, and aren’t worth discussing. The bosses, however…
Yyyyyyes… Actually, as anybody stupid enough to turn on Van Helsing: The London Assignment and not turn it off thirty seconds later will recall, Jekyll/Hyde and Jack the Ripper are the same person, using the captured souls of the murder victims to restore the youth of Queen Victoria, before they escape together in a balloon. Can I just say how woeful Van Helsing‘s handling of Jekyll and Hyde was? The whole point is that Jekyll is a slave to Hyde and slowly being consumed by him, but in Stephen Sommers’ adolescent wank-fantasy universe, turning into Hyde is the equivalent of going Super Saiyan. The conflict between outward Victorian respectability and repressed primal urges is OVER NINE THOUSAAAAND!!! Also, apparently there’s a Van Helsing comic based on The Murders in the Rue Morgue. I really, really don’t want to know, but I’m guessing the orangutan turns out to be a werewolf under the psychic control of the Phantom of the Opera. God, I wish I hadn’t thought of that.
After stabbing Mister Hyde to death, the prostitute he was going to murder throws her hands up in the air and congratulates you. I was assuming that Jack was going to gut her as well, but he doesn’t, because Jack’s mission has changed, and now he’s going to take down the British Empire. So now Jack the Ripper is a revolutionary figure trying to liberate society from an oppressive regime. By murdering prostitutes. There really are no words for the crushing wrongness of this.
Now, blank your mind completely and try to suspend normal brain function as much as possible. When you hear that the mission is to “take on the Victorian empire”, who do you expect to the boss to be?
No, stupider than that.
Albert floats around in a balloon (possibly the one Doctor Jekyll used) throwing children at you, like Bowser in Super Mario World. I’ve no idea why he throws children; are they illegitimate ones that he’s trying to cover up? I’m quite serious here. If anybody knows why Prince Albert is throwing children, please tell me, because it’s going to eat me up inside otherwise. Victoria, meanwhile, chases you and tries to hit you with her scepter. And I know she was getting on a bit by this point, but drawing her as Hazel the witch from Bugs Bunny seems a tad excessive.
After stabbing the Queen to death, the game is over.
Yes, “Whore Count”.
If anybody reading this knows Flash or Java and wants to write a game where you run around castrating defenseless men, now’s as good a time as any.
UPDATE 21 June: