Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please! (Review)

Another review, this time of two games. As the first paragraph says, I was craving more adventure-game goodness after the slight disappointment of The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition (which, again, was severly hampered by the poor control scheme), and I somehow stumbled upon Ben There, Dan That!, which I loved.

As the games
are made by a small indie developer, they ask people to spread the word. I decided to do so by writing a review which I submitted to be a featured review on The Escapist. I haven't heard back, so I don't think it'll actually amount to anything, but the Ben from 'Dan and Ben' was thankful nonetheless. Nice to be appreciated, even if it's just for praising something awesome.

I first heard about Ben There, Done That in an article in PCGamer UK, where one of the game's authors wrote an interesting article about its creation. I never bothered to actually try the game, but after playing the recent Monkey Island remake, I developed a taste for classic adventure gaming, and during my searches for good free games, stumbled upon Zombie Cow Studios and their two adventure titles, Ben There, Done That and it's sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please!

The games follow the escapades of two characters, paradoxically called Ben and Dan after the pair primarily responsible for making the games, and details their various misadventures through time, space and parallel dimensions, all with a very twisted sense of style and humour along the way. Not only do they alter the very fabric of reality, they also reboot a robot, stuff a kitten down an exhaust tube, cause a miniature Death Star to fry a dinosaur, help a videogame Hitler to escape a prison cell, travel through the rear end of a cow and cause a man to be repeatedly shot... in the cock.

If any of this sounds offensive to you, chances are that these games are not for you. Which is a real shame, as they're brilliant. The sheer amount of charm the central characters exude more then compensates for any distasteful actions they, and by extension you, take. These may be some of the most offensive adult games you'll have played, but they're also absolutely hilarious, far more so then many other so-called 'comedy' titles released in the last few years.

One of the major factors crucial to this is the writing. Having to get past a Priest by killing him would seem cruel, even offensive if taken straight. Doing so by not only whacking him over the head with his own bible, but then expressing a forlorn hope that he's just sleeping (when really, you're not fooling anyone, not even yourself), and then developing that action even further by turning the act of inadvertently killing people while trying to get things from them into a running joke takes a LOT of balls. Thankfully the writers manage it with aplomb, and that's not even the worst they have to throw at us. The darkest side of humour is evident throughout the game, but because everything is played for laughs, it's actually surprisingly difficult to become offended at the actions taken by Ben and Dan. The cheeky grins and dry comments offered by the two really endear them to you, and it's hard to hate a pair of lovable scamps, even if they do swear a tad too often.

Also taking a large amount of the edge off of things are the graphics. While the two leads both starts as something seeming incredibly basic, they very quickly grow on you, and you'll find that their oddly distinct animations make them hard to hate, even as they inadvertently poison someone via the gift of toilet cakes. While the characters may look basic though, the backgrounds are almost works of art, featuring the most insane images being lovingly rendered at jaded angles and straight lines. It's a wonderful throwback to games such as Day of the Tentacle, though with the additional of new-fangled flashy effects, TGP! frequently manages to look even better. A great example of this is the opening sequence - the rain coming down over a now devastated London (accidentally brought about by the lead character's actions, naturally) looks absolutely stunning, and really push the AGS engine used by both games to new limits.

One of the other aspects of the games is the puzzles, often the make-or-break factor of adventure games. Fortunately they have a twisted sense of logic behind them, even if they are deliciously freakish at times. BTDT is a tad hard in places, but given enough time, even the most obscure barriers can be overcome, if only through the time old method of 'pick up everything not bolted down and combine it all with everything else'. TGP! features similar puzzles, but the dialogue from the lead characters will often nudge you in the right direction, drawing your attention to items that can be picked up or nudging you about certain things you should try. It's a sort of in-game hint system that you can't turn off, and though you'll occasionally know that you should do something, more often then not you'll appreciate being told to try a different inventory item instead of the one you're currently attempting to use, or that the other character is capable of doing something that the current one is not.

Musically the games both feature a surprisingly rich score, featuring an appropriately rocking theme tune. The majority of the music is upbeat and, while not exactly memorably, certainly fitting with the locations. Again, it's better in the second game then the first, but only just. Both titles have an impressive amount of mileage to them, which is especially surprising given that most AGS games are relatively simple, featuring rather basic tunes or stuff ripped from different sources. The music here is all new, all fresh and all awesome.

These games really do push the boundaries of adventure games, both in content and in style. They're ludicrously adult, frequently absurd and gleefully over-the-top. And they're both some of the best games I've played in years. I cannot recommend them enough. Go and play them, you simple-minded fools. Where else will you see a battle-mech striding Hitler in command of an army of cloned dinosaurs? Nowhere, that's where.

The first game, Been There, Dan That, is absolutely free, so you've got no excuses WHATSOEVER. The second game, Time Gentlemen, Please!, is not, but it's only £2.99 (£3.35 including VAT, which the boys shockingly didn't mention you'd need to pay..!), which is around $5ish. If you do the math, that's WAY less then the Monkey Island remake, and at about 3-5 hours each, they'll last you as long, if not longer then LucasArt's effort. Go and get them already, I want to see a third one.

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