Mucking up History,
One Laugh at a Time
Time and technology work in mysterious ways. It wasn’t so long ago that adventure games were decried as a dead form of gaming much to the chagrin of gamers who still harbored fond memories of the classics from LucasArts and Sierra.
Now the landscape seems to be changing; electronic distribution allows indie game makers to create and market games as a labor of love and distribute on their own terms. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that adventure games would eventually make a comeback, created by those that grew up on the originals. Time Gentlemen, Please! is a brilliant example of these hypotheticals turned reality in a fun, zany, and decidedly British package. And while it’s only on PC, it’s at the wallet-friendly price tag of five dollars.
Ben and Dan, otherwise normal guys with an unhealthy obsession for Magnum P.I., are our protagonists who have set in motion an absurdly complicated chain of events stemming back to their previous outing in Ben There, Dan That!. I’d make an attempt at setting the scene and plot if I were not so certain of my inability to do it justice. It’s best to just say that it involves time travel, Hitler, a talking dinosaur army, coat hangers, and a deeply depressed robot. Any more than that may spoil the beautiful ridiculousness of the adventure. While much of the game’s spot-on humor comes from ludicrous situations, the self-aware nature of Ben and Dan to the mechanics of an adventure game lend particularly well to the inane nature of the genre. Both will chime in on the otherwise accepted mechanic to pick up anything and everything under the assumption that it will be of use later. Because really, who hasn’t seen an old saw in the corner of some dingy worksite and known that it is something you must have in your possession?
Time Gentlemen, Please! (TGP) is from top to bottom presented as a classic adventure game circa 1993. Gameplay is overwhelmingly reminiscent of the era. The left mouse button causes Ben and Dan (ironically also the names of the creators of TGP) to interact with the environment in various ways, while the right mouse button toggles between the available actions and items at your disposal. It’s a simple system that can feel slightly cumbersome at times, but never more than a minor or passive annoyance.
Puzzles range from a few of the overtly obvious (I suspect placed simply as self-esteem boosters) to the utterly eccentric and bizarre. Many puzzles require more than frantic attempts to combine inventory items, and must instead pull from the elusive spot in the brain that combines logical reasoning with the peculiar. It’s particularly satisfying when you stumble across the solution to an exceptionally convoluted puzzle. I soon found myself simultaneously cursing the developers while tipping my hat to their creativity.
In a time when the newest and best graphics and effects are at the top of the list for bragging rights and selling points, TGP is decidedly simple. Gamers aren’t going to see screenshots from the game and be blown away. While art and animation is reminiscent of the classics in adventure gaming, in style it’s generally a few notches below in quality, yet therein lies much of the charm.
The same can be said for the music and sound effects. There is no voice dialogue and the background music and sound effects are minimal. In a “normal” game, this would cause a good amount complaining and disparaging remarks, but it just works here.
Particularly, old-school gamers will enjoy the homage given to even earlier forms of adventure gaming, including a text adventure within the game reminiscent of Zork. I was perhaps unduly excited when presented with an opportunity to play a text-based game within TGP. My only disappointment was the lack of a “rod” in my inventory to shake. Still, including a brief text adventure should bring a grin to many faces and provides another challenging puzzle to conquer.
It may be easy to look at the “negatives” pointed out in the review and feel that Time Gentlemen, Please! is lacking in most of the major areas by which a game is rated. Yet that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The final product put together by the folks at Zombie Cow Studios is the definition of a game that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Pick it apart and you have subpar graphics and minimal sound. Put it together and you have something completely different: a charming, fun, and comical adventure wrapped with loads of nostalgia that was obviously created by a team with a passion for what they do. It’s easily worth the five dollar price tag, and hopefully we’ll see more adventures from Ben and Dan in the near future.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.8 Graphics
While technically subpar, gamers of this genre will be hard-pressed to care. 3.6 Control
A bit clunky at times but otherwise overwhelmingly simple and easy to navigate. 2.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Stays out of the way of the story in a “less is more” approach. Thankfully avoids grating, repetitive background music. 4.7 Play Value
Just what starving adventure gamers have ordered to sate their appetite. Funny, likable, and extremely creative. 4.3 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.