Time Gentlemen, Please! (2009)

Time Gentlemen, Please!, the sequel to Ben There, Dan That!, continues right where the previous game left off (so, spoiler alert for BTDT, I guess): protagonists Ben and Dan have somehow managed to become the rulers of Earth, and of course they promptly screw it up, effectively wiping out the human species. To undo their mistake, they travel back in time, but end up making things worse: their lackadaisical approach to disturbing the timeline leaves them stuck in a 1945 in which Hitler has conquered Britain with the help of what-should-be 21st century technology and an army of cloned dinosaurs.

While it’s possible to play the game without having played its predecessor first, I wouldn’t recommend it; numerous gags make reference to the older game and would probably sail over people’s heads otherwise. If you have played the game before, what awaits you is more of the same: the game mechanics, the lack of voice-acting, a somewhat low-budget visual look, the meta humour, the lack of action scenes, the wild tangents the plot takes, even the gratuitous punctuation in a punny title is carried over.

But there are differences. The most obvious one is the game’s length; at about five-and-a-half hours, it is almost twice as long as the original. Where the first game’s plot seemed very improvisational, this time the story has clearly been mapped out more diligently ahead of time. There are far more moving pieces that fit together quite well, and there are also far more objects for Ben and Dan to “thieve” and/or interact with. The puzzles aren’t particularly difficult – Ben and Dan’s outspoken genre-savviness makes sure of that –, but they are more intricate and a little more challenging than in the earlier game. Thankfully, action scenes, mazes and logic puzzles are nowhere to be found; the game designers, I suppose, share my distaste for these often-misused components of adventure games. There are two minigames (of sorts), but they’re integrated well into the world the story takes place in, which is after all a world in which the main characters are more or less aware they’re the protagonists of an adventure game.

Much like its predecessor, Time Gentlemen, Please! is not a great or (I’m going to assume) particularly memorable game, but it is an enjoyable one. The humour, as should be obvious from the premise, is more than a little of the wall and crass, much more so than Ben There, Dan That!; it may even cross the line into offensive for some. But the game really doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and pairing an over-the-top Hitler with campy dinosaur soldiers and an absurd quest for the “Golden Coathanger” (a consequence of Dan and Ben’s timeline-tampering) completely takes off the edge any invocation of the Second World War would otherwise have. It’s not tasteless, it’s beyond taste, in a post-modern way. The game is funny, and that’s the main thing.

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