Greg Hunter

Great Games You Can Play For Free: Ben There, Dan That!

In Games on September 9, 2009 at 5:27 AM

Ben There Dan That 1It’s no coincidence that the second installment in GGYCPFF is, like the first, a send-up to a bygone age of gaming. For the past few years, nostalgia has fueled a lot of young developers’ early projects. Necessity is no doubt an inspiration for these kinds of projects–“retro” is cheaper and easier to code–but a deep, abiding love for the games of the past resides at the heart of all of them, good or bad.

Unlike games like Cave Story, whose retro facades cover more sophisticated designs, Ben There, Dan That! wears its heart on its sleeve. It is, unabashedly, little more than a LucasArts adventure game tribute. And that’s totally okay, because at its best, it’s every bit as novel and entertaining as classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle.

In keeping with these classics, the games’s premise is casually absurd. After being struck by lighting trying to tune into the latest rerun of Magnum P.I., Ben and Dan (avatars for the game’s real-life designers, Ben and Dan), are abducted by aliens and imprisoned in a hallway full of doors to other dimensions. Much adventuring ensues.

The puzzles are pretty hit or miss. While a few, like an early puzzle involving some close reading of Bible Verses, live up to the greatness of their predecessors, most involve little more than finding the right item and then using that item on another item. These kinds of puzzles are, admittedly, the essence of all the classic LucasArts adventures, but those games were large enough, and functioned on twisted enough logic, that these item combinations were often anything but obvious. BTDT!, on the other hand, is small, and most of its puzzles are relatively simple. You only have a few items to use in a  small area, so it’s pretty easy to figure out what you’re supposed to do.

Ben There, Dan That!This isn’t really a problem, though; BTDT! is funny enough that you’ll want to keep playing, anyway. While the lampoons of the gaming industry and obscure game references might not appeal to everyone, much of the game’s humor–a more profane, cynical update of typical LucasArts fare–is broad-based enough that anyone can enjoy it. Ben and Dan have the kind of in-game chemistry that can only come from being roommates in real life, and the game’s many self-aware moments (Ben’s “greatest talent” is “picking up objects without properly examining them”) are all pretty hilarious. Since writing about humor rarely lives up to the thing itself, I guess you’ll just have to trust me. on this: it’s really funny.

I’m finding hard to write about BTDT! as a game, because more than a great game, Ben There, Dan That is a very well-written game–well-written enough that the game’s bland mechanics fade into the background. In a world full of games that come out the other way around, that’s something special. Give it a try. Here’s how:

1. Download the insaller here. (Sorry, Mac users. No dice. Pirate a copy of Windows XP, already!)

2. Um, run the installer.

3. Play! (instructions here)

p.s. Adventure game converts, if you’d like to play the games that inspired BTDT!, let me know! I’ll help you get ahold of them.

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  1. I’ll be honest. I quit reading when I read “Lucas Arts adventure game.” Totally overrated! Jeez. comeon. Grow up! bewitchment of Ape peninsula more like it. Yeah I went there.

  2. Thanks for the support, Alex. I look forward to your next bravely mature article on Legos.

  3. What!? As a man named Robert, I support Alex Sciuto’s position. He makes sense and it feels right to me.

  4. You got some brass balls there Rob

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