Ben There, Dan That! review
I’m finally playing again! I was on a self-prescribed hold because I needed to make time to read all of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books without distraction. It was a great experience and I recommend you read them if you haven’t, but I missed gaming nonetheless.
And now I’m at it again.
I’ve been amassing a PC game collection for the past two gameless months (The Dark Tower is a long, long story) and started off by firing up Ben There, Dan That!, an indie point-and-click adventure by Zombie Cow Studios.
Read on for my full review.
Back in the day, I loved a good point-and-click title and with the genre having some sort of a revival lately, I was hopeful to begin with. In the event, Ben There, Dan That! did not disappoint me, but neither did it amaze me and leave me gasping for more.
I was not particularly impressed by the story, which contributed nothing on its own to the overall experience, but merely served as a vehicle to get you from one puzzle to the next. However, it wasn’t horrible and I was not put off by it.
The dialogue was mostly amusing, though it never prompted me to produce anything more audible than a slight snorting noise. The humour was not bad. I found a couple of jokes tasteless (stereotypical and/or sexist), but tasteful jokes rarely result in great comedy. Then again, neither do constant self-references and breaking-the-fourth-wall moments, with which Ben There, Dan That! is chock-full, in a proclaimed attempt to emulate the Lucas Arts classics of old.
The game, then, relies heavily on its puzzles for entertainment value and those are very competent indeed. There are no far-fetched solutions and the overall difficulty is rather medium. In fact, I only had trouble finding the solution twice and both times the culprit was poor design rather than a travesty of logic. On both occasions I had to consult a walkthrough (and was delighted to discover that Zombie Cow Studios hosts a spoiler-light guide on its website), for it only to confirm that I’ve been doing the right things. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say by way of example that there is a lava river one has to interact with and although it flows across the entire monitor, there is one specific, unmarked place you have to click in order to trigger the solution. Click anywhere else on the river and you will be left wondering whether the guide is quite correct.
Ben There, Dan That!’s controls could have used some more polishing, but are intuitive and easy to learn and, though there is no tutorial, I didn’t have to refer to the manual.
The art style in this game is the usual indie oddity, depending heavily on charm, rather than real good looks. It works very well and is one of the strongest features of the title.
I completed Ben There, Dan That! in three hours and would have taken even less if it weren’t for the two botched puzzles. As it was, I thought the game was about half an hour longer than necessary.
Ben There, Dan That! is a competent indie point-and-click affair, which is as good a distraction on a lazy Sunday afternoon as a comedy flick of similar length. Fortunately it will probably cost you much less than a movie, because, as of writing this, the game can be downloaded free form Zombie Cow Studios’ website. Point-and-click adventure buffs will definitely enjoy it, but newcomers to the genre may be left cold.
I got the game on Steam where it’s bundled with another Zombie Cow Studios game, Time Gentlemen, Please! The experience I had with Ben There, Dan That! makes me hopeful that I will give that title a try as well.