December 14, 2004
Release Date: 2004
One of the newest addictions to strike the independent developer’s market is the chronicled adventures of teen paranormal investigator Benjamin Jordan. Created by Francisco “Grundislav” Gonzalez earlier this year, the young detective has already successfully introduced us to two exciting cases and a third is promised for the future. While the game is no more than 20-30 minutes in length, it is well worth the playing time and I recommend it to anyone who has a bit of free time on their hands.
Ben Jordan, who has just decided to jumpstart a career as a paranormal detective (much to the disapproval of his parents) is summoned to the Florida Everglades to investigate a recent rash of murders, supposedly the doings of the legendary skunk ape – a smelly, dangerous beast. Ben agrees to take the case but winds up with more than he bargained for.
The interface is like that of the old Sierra games – the upper toolbar has icons suitable for walking, looking, touching, talking, and accessing inventory. It is very easy to use – even if you are not familiar with Sierra games – and provides a simple way to navigate throughout. Your notebook keeps track of any information that may be of use later on, and your trusty rifle is always at hand in case danger comes knocking at your door.
The graphics vary in style and design. They depict each scene nicely, but are nothing to drool over. Some are fairly simple images created with the limited magic of Paint but serve their respective scenes well. The pixilated characters certainly look better than Laura Bow once did and animate with ease. A bit more detail in some scenes would have helped bring them more to life.
Dialogues contain no voice acting, but instead you must read the conversations with character close-ups as we’ve seen in the more recent Jack Orlando: Director’s Cut, among some other old Sierra games. The voices do not match the written words but I did not find this very important. (After all, your focus should be on the words during dialogue.) There is some wry humor in the game that some gamers might enjoy, as well.
As you proceed through the game, certain actions reward you with points – i.e., taking an inventory item is 3 points, triggering an important even might be 6. The points are kept track of in the upper right corner of the screen. There is a total of 100 points in the game, and they should all be obtained upon completion of the game. This is a helpful way to record progress and lets you know when you are getting close to the mystery’s end.
Given the game’s length, puzzles are few and far between. Most of them involve thinking critically about how to make something or perform a certain action (i.e. look into a dark room or distract an unhelpful suspect). They are very easy given the limited area to explore, although some involve an assumption that gamers will think in the same way Gonzalez did.
Music is mostly a running soundtrack (with a good beat, I might add!) that is great to listen to and provides a nice atmosphere. There are a few solo bits made to create certain moods and do just that (i.e. a spooky cave).
My only minor trivial objection is that you have to keep in mind Ben Jordan is a paranormal investigator, and thus the solution to the mystery would probably not be to Agatha Christie’s liking, so mystery fans may be a bit disappointed. It was also a bit hard to swallow, especially the reaction from one of the characters that expresses little sympathy for the paranormal horror you experienced. There were no technical problems with the game for me, however, so everything ran smoothly!
This is a game that continues to attract more and more pleased gamers, and is well worth a look even if mysteries are not to your liking. The dialogue is kept to a minimum, the puzzles are fun, and the idea is simply exceptional.
Final Grade: B+