Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures is a standalone SHCD expansion. It contains six cases based on the classic West End Adventures expansion, and a four case Jack the Ripper campaign.
I’ve only played the Jack campaign, and it’s not good.
The writing is just terrible. The authors weren’t out to write a good yarn, but to make the point that Victorian London was actually a pretty shitty place to live and not worth romanticizing. Visit a place that really should be very relevant to the investigation, and you’ll probably get half a page of turgid exposition on just how a Victorian laundry functioned and how horribly exploited the workers were, followed by a paragraph on the actual character you came to see. Toward the end of the campaign we started just summarizing the bullshit flavor text rather than reading it out loud.
A second problem with the writing is that the descriptions of the crime scenes are gruesome as hell. Lovingly written descriptions on exactly how the victim was cut up, which body parts were cut off, the exact state of various organs, etc. And unlike the blah-blah-blah on Victorian social issues, you actually do need to read through this to solve the cases. It’s of course realistic, but it’s also actively unpleasant.
So, very little of the charm of Consulting Detective is there. What about the actual gameplay?
On that side Jack has two large structural issues. One is that in the three first cases you don’t really have a mystery to solve. Like, any attempt to actually investigate the whole crime will fail and the game pretty much even says that up front. Instead you’re supposed to be investigating some fairly arbitrary aspect of the crime for each case. Since the real world is messy and ambiguous and your goals are so vague, it’s hard to do well on these. It feels like half the job is deciding arbitrarily which bits of evidence to ignore totally.
And then in the fourth case you get another arbitrary task. After coming back with the answer, you’re told that it was critical for figuring out the case, and are thrown back into the game to consider all five murders (one case has two murders) as a single unit. The intended solution depends on leaps of intuition that are totally absurd even by the standards of Holmes, basically pattern matching from a single example. I think it’s genuinely unsolvable the way they intended, though brute forcing would have been an option.
But the most inexcusable thing is that we actually would have solved the crime in an earlier case using another approach, and tried to do it, but the game just outright shut the door on following that thread.
I don’t think the designers were at fault here though, other than the choice of subject matter. This was supposed to reflect a complex and ultimately unsolved real-world crime. That’s not at all compatible with making a whodunit that’s solvable by normal people.
I honestly don’t think the Jack campaign is worth playing, no matter how much you like the genre. The only value is in seeing just how badly things can go wrong when following the normal Consulting Detective template. The other cases should be known quantities, except that apparently the rewrites broke one of the cases again.