bendanRFreelance adventurers Ben & Dan don’t have any extravagant goals in life. A nice, meaty session sat in front of the telly watching Magnum P.I is usually all they wish for. Unfortunately, it’s not the safest possible way of spending one’s time. In the award-winning game Ben There, Dan That it has caused our heroes to be teleported on an alien spaceship filled with gates to alternate versions of Great Britain –  from one where UK is ruled by the USA, to one where dinosaurs remain the dominant species and evolved to the point of producing electronic entertainment.

Now, in the sequel Time Gentlemen, Please! a careless Magnum P.I. marathon results in all mankind dying out of hunger. All but for our two intrepid heroes. So they decide to GO BACK TO THE PAST to stop coat-hangers from ever being invented and thus stop the chain of events which has led the world into this pitiful state. Ben & Dan are not aware, however, that through their careless meddling with time’s structure they will inadvertently make Hitler harness the power of The Golden Coat-hanger of Doom creating an army of Nazi clone dinosaurs and thus winning the war. Which potentially may bring upon them a completely new set of problems. And so the newest production of Zombie Cow Studios begins

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Time Gentlemen, Please! was created by Ben Ward and Dan Marshall (who we interviewed recently here) and continues from where Ben There, Dan That left off – opening with a brilliant recap of events from the first game. “Brilliant” in the sense it is a super-funny reinterpretation/synopsis of what happened, but it still may leave people who didn’t play the freeware original game slightly puzzled. Especially those not adept at recognizing loving jabs at popular fiction cliches. Overall, Time Gentlemen, Please! contains quite a lot of references to its prequel throughout  and, while the main storyline is pretty much self-contained, going through the games in chronological order offers a much smoother introduction to the two main characters and their world.

And what a world it is indeed! A world painted by a mad artist through the use of dirty language, references to pop culture, and evil raunchy humor. A world where you travel through the strangest possible renditions of the main heroes’ neighborhood in different periods of history and alternative dimensions. All of it done in a 100% British style. Consequently, while you’ll find lots of things here that can trick you to think you’re playing a sequel to Day of The Tentacle or Sam & Max Hit The Road, somewhere between realizing just how innocent the main heroes manage to appear during all the accidental nasty killings they do, and how cute (in a male bonding sort of way) Ben’s constant worries are about whether his partner remembered to go to the toilet, you’ll know you’re playing something one of a kind.

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There’s a a certain unique, deliberate sketchiness about the Ben & Dan games’ graphics. They are rather carefully done actually, taking every possible advantage of the chosen style. The creators claim the visuals were inspired by shows like Southpark and this is definitely noticeable at least in the animation department. TGP! looks perfectly consistent with BTDT, but this time around there are heaps of neat SFX effects as well: shading, blurrs, rain, electricity etc. The music adds to the fun and drama as well, but to be honest none of the tunes remained in my head after finishing TGP!.

Every great adventure game needs a bunch of solid puzzles for the gameplay. And this is an area TGP! excels in. It’s all quite reminiscent of the classy LucasArts classics. Only a tiny bit easier. Especially at the beginning where you progress in a very linear fashion and the game seems to want to hold you by the hand a bit too much. Nevertheless, when all the major areas finally opened up (easily traveled through the use of an excellent map), I almost regretted ever wishing for the difficulty level to go up as a couple of challenges truly stumped me. Special recognition should go to several puzzles that play around with classic adventure games interfaces and mechanics. The interactive fiction bit was especially cool – it reminded me of the superb virtual reality puzzles from Frederick Pohl’s Gateway by Legend Entertainment.

Despite a plethora of locations becoming available, the order of solving puzzles remains quite linear till the very end. However, you get the choice of three paths within the path: Wits, Fists and Team Stealth (for all you Fate of Atlantis lovers). Not to mention that almost every possible interaction, every possible object combination comes with always well-written, always fun dialogues from our two heroes. This great attention to detail on the game designers part makes you all the more involved in the game.

I have a couple of complaints about the interface. One of the two alternative systems of choosing actions from BTDT is sorely missing here. You are left with cycling between cursors, which is something I personally very much dislike as in haste I always keep clicking one time to many and everything starts from the beginning. In the end I reluctantly decided to use the keyboard shortcuts, which as everyone knows goes against the very principle of point & click and left me feeling ashamed of myself. In addition, I found the inventory window a bit difficult to operate – I kept closing it by accident a lot. I mastered it finally after a couple of hours.

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Besides the gameplay, the humor, and the parodying, the appeal of Time Gentlemen, Please! comes very much from its two protagonists, their quirks, foibles and hidden passions. The development of Dan’s character from a sidekick that is incompetent even at the most basic physical actions to a more independent adventurer is one of the most fun elements of the story. It’s also a very uplifting (if a bit mushy) tale of an underdog.

To sum it all up, Time Gentlemen Please! is a genetically superior indie adventure game tyrant. It’s difficult to find a match for TGP!‘s humor among the current bunch of wacky adventure games, despite lots of them having bigger budgets and being made by genre veterans. The only thing the game is missing are some good voice-overs. Thankfully, one is allowed to read aloud while playing. I must say especially the lines of Hitler sound terrific when spoken.

Igor’s Score: 4 of 5 starks

Note: On some computer configurations the game refuses to properly handle the switch to full screen mode, spitting errors and curses instead. On my own machine I had  to manually change the resolution to 800×600 for the full screen option to start working.

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