Time Gentlemen, Please!
Zombie Cow has just unleashed upon the world a sequel to their award-winning point-and-click adventure, Ben There, Dan That, called Time Gentlemen, Please! If you haven't yet played BTDT, you might want to stop here and start there first, because plot spoilers are below.
It feels like an eternity has passed since Ben and Dan embarked on their great journey to fix their television, escape from evil aliens, and make it back home in time to catch Magnum PI. Can you believe it's really only been a year? And, by a year, of course I mean two weeks. Confused yet? Oh, you just wait.
At the conclusion of Ben There, Dan That!, it turns out that the evil aliens were in fact Ben and Dan, albeit older, evil, future versions of the duo. Thanks to an obsolete timeline, however, the evil Ben and Dan disappear, but this does not produce the obligatory happy ending. After a mandatory comprehensive Magnum PI marathon (including the Murder, She Wrote crossover), the entire population of the world has died because supreme world leaders Ben and Dan forgot to tell them they could take breaks to eat and handle other biological functions. Now, in order to save the world, Ben and Dan have to go back in time and prevent the invention of coat hangers (which started this whole mess in a roundabout way if your way of thinking is just twisted enough) in their second major point-and-click adventure.
Oh, you thought the plot summary was done? Ha-ha! We haven't even made it to the opening credits yet! You see, Ben and Dan manage to stop the invention of the coat hanger well enough. Only, somehow, this has paved the way for Adolf Hitler to take over the world with a giant mech-suit and an army of robo-zombie-dinosaur clones. Now your goal is to stop yourselves from stopping the invention of the coat hanger so that Hitler doesn't end up taking over the world with his dinosaur clone army. If you manage to harm or kill the dictator in the process, that'd be a happy bonus.
Confused? Good, you're ready to play. Time Gentlemen, Please! is controlled with the mouse, just like your standard old-school adventure game. Right click to cycle through a host of different cursors, each allowing you to perform a different function such as walk, talk, use, and look. Guiding your mouse up to the top of the screen will bring up a control panel that will allow you to save, load, quit, and access your inventory (here depicted as a nice home made bindle).
Collect items, search for clues, and solve a plethora of puzzles to stop Hitler. Wait, no, you're trying to stop yourselves. Well, okay, you're trying to stop yourselves and Hitler. Well, wait, you're really supposed to undo all the bad things that resulted from time travel, but before that you have to, um, do a little time traveling. Now are you confused? Don't worry, there's no cause for alarm. This kind of thing is bound to happen whenever Ben and Dan get near time travel equipment. Hmm. Okay, maybe there's cause for a wee bit of alarm.
Analysis: Ben There, Dan That! took both the staff and audience prize for our Best of 2008 freeware adventure award for good reason. From its irreverent humor to its innovative item based puzzles, BTDT captured the heart of many gamers (those that weren't outright offended by it, anyway). Though it's not free (just really, really close to being free), Time Gentlemen, Please! manages to meet or exceed the high standards set by its predecessor in all other areas with ease.
The Ben and Dan adventures are intentionally designed to act as one part homage, one part parody of the old Lucasarts games such as Sam and Max and Maniac Mansion. As such, the artistry does a great job of paying its respect to the era with its cheerily angular cartoon lines and brilliant crayon box colors. In this adventure, though, the folks at Zombie Cow decided to put some special effects in which come off looking particularly snazzy.
The similarities only start at the aesthetics, though. TGP is heavily laden with item based puzzles, many of which are of the variety that make you feel as though your skull is about to crack open. Great care was taken to make seemingly unsolvable puzzles doable, however. Hints are embedded all around you, and particularly thorough adventurers will find themselves rewarded with enough information to make the seemingly impossible possible.
To tell the truth, while the Ben and Dan adventure games trade on their comedic value, I found the puzzles to be the most enjoyable part of the game. Sure, the solutions are often times absurd, but in this game everything is absurd. Further, the Zombie Cow team did a marvelous job of creating puzzles where the solution always feels like a gentle nudge away ultimately creating lots and lots of those "ah-ha!" moments that adventure game enthusiasts live for.
Part of what makes the puzzles so great is the innovative usage of time as a commodity that can be manipulated. Time travel in Time Gentlemen, Please! is possible on both an external and internal level. What this means is that through your adventures you will travel backward and forward in time (external), but also you will have the ability to age and de-age specific items (internal). What results is a myriad of puzzles that challenge your ability to think in a way in which time is both non-linear and malleable. Pretty deep, right?
Those who fear deep philosophical thought, fret not. Despite the time mechanics, Time Gentlemen, Please! is a playground for just about every type of humor that is likely to get you ousted from civil society. This is not a game for the easily offended, the squeamish, people with a heart condition, or pregnant women. Ben and Dan break nearly every social taboo with crude abandon, and they are hilarious as they do it. The writing is simply wonderful, but what really delivers the punch are all the tiny little details. Facial expressions and body language are used with surgery like precision to drive the laughs home.
If you liked Ben There, Dan That!, you'll love Time Gentlemen, Please! It's bigger, better, harder, and raunchier than the original by a mile. If you haven't delved into the adventures of Ben and Dan, what are you waiting for?
Note: Time Gentlemen, Please! is an adventure game for adults. This game contains foul language, scatological humor, mature humor, and humor about Nazis. If there are five minutes that could possibly be deemed appropriate for humans, I haven't found it yet. You have been warned.