#992 Time Gentlemen, Please!

Posted: 13th December 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

201st played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Zombie Cow Studios

Here’s a difference: We pretty much stopped this time not because we were done with the game, but because we wanted to play it seperately. We got a good idea of what the game was like… but are excited to play on. The whole reason I wanted to play this was because the picture of the game in the book showed a number of deceased dinosaurs in what appeared to be Nazi uniforms (turns out it was) and it looked so wacky that I wanted to give it a try.

Time Gentlemen, Please! is a point and click adventure in the style of Sam & Max Hit the Road, Monkey Island, Grim Fandango and other games we haven’t played yet. By different people though – this is as much an homage as a game in the series. It is also a sequel to the freeware game Ben There, Dan That… which neither of us have played.

Our Thoughts

While the subject comes up on this blog occasionally, we don’t often talk about the issues with the list on this blog – in general we accept it and go along with it. This, however, is a game where I feel it’s sort of waved in my face.

We’ll get to quality in a bit, but don’t worry – this is a good game. It’s fun. That’s not the problem. The issue why it feels… odd is due to the group who compiled the list.

While there were many people creating point and click adventures in the 1980s and 1990s, two of them grew above it and became the big household names that are seen as the pinnacle of the genre. One of them is LucasArts, who’ve been discussed before and will be coming back plenty, as the majority of their adventure games is on the list. The other is Sierra, whose output was larger than LucasArts but whose contributions to the book, in the genre, consists of one game… and that’s one that doesn’t come to mind when you think about the series. King’s Quest was a major release, three years before Lucasarts started in the genre. They’ve had accurate police procedure in Police Quest. There’s not a single old-time gamer who hasn’t heard of Larry of Leisure Suit Larry fame (the line of ‘old time’ must be between 1984 and 1989 because the reason I had heard of Leisure Suit Larry was the poorly received Xbox 360 game… then again I was always more of a console gamer). Quest for Glory is a brilliant fusion of adventure and RPG – and one of the first that allowed you to import characters from previous save games, with small bits and pieces of later games not being accessible if you haven’t finished the first. There is not a single mention of any of that in the book. Sure, LucasArts is influential, and they’ve made some brilliant games, but it feels like it misses out.

The reason I bring up that lengthy point is that the person who compiled the list seems to have a love affair with LucasArts, one shared with the creators of this game.

That’s not the fault of Zombie Cow Studios. They created a game in the style they loved, something apparent, aside from anything else, from the large number of references to their games they added in. While I’m sure there are ones to the other series too (some of which I’m sure I have missed), its game mechanics – always a solution, no way to really die or permanently lose – clearly comes from LucasArts. I just hope that it wasn’t the main motivation this game was included.

With that said, the game does live up to its heritage. While its graphics don’t live up to the LucasArts standard, they’re mostly unambiguous enough and, well… charming seems the best word (I think the word you are going for is ‘indie’). It’s clear it’s not the priority when creating the game, and they’re functional enough that it doesn’t matter much. When it comes to sound, they do so even less. I noticed exactly one sound clip, beyond that they’re mostly fairly simple music and sound effects. Suitable, yeah, for the early 1990s we discussed earlier (I reiterate… indie).

No, the real star here is the writing. The plot is insane – in a good way – featuring lots of actually quite complicated (and seemingly researched) time travel and more important, cloned dinosaurs under the command of Hitler searching for a golden coathanger. The reason our heroes are in this predicament leads on directly from the previous game which is handily recapped at the beginning of the game… needless to say their plan of saving the world by preventing the invention of the coathanger… and somehow they end up messing with the fabric of space-time and causing the early invention of robots because they traded a Tamagotchi for a beer in the 1600s.

More important, though, there’s the dialogue. The banter between our main character – Ben and Dan, named after (and quite possibly representing) the creators of the game – is amazing and incredibly extensive, making it so much more fun to try everything and observe every option. There’s a few stock responses, but they’re actually surprisingly rare. In many ways the relationship between these two is modelled on the dynamic of Sam & Max, to the point where there is the opportunity to ‘use Dan’ as a possible interaction alongside the traditional observe, speak, walk and interact.

The puzzles are quite possible. They’re quite simple at the start (though with unexpected outcomes even early on) and stay quite possible – not always obvious (although the solution to making a corkscrew is incredibly abstract), but still playable. Pretty much the right amount of challenge for a game like this to keep it fun… with the occasional bit of frustration that’s always your own fault. Very little unclear guesswork here. This is a great thing because my patience for the adventure game puzzles is not as much as it really should be…

For an indie point-and-clicker this game had it’s fair share of controversy due to the inclusion of Hitler as a comic villain. Then again this is a game where the Nazi army is a bunch of cloned dinosaurs that execute prisoners by shooting them in the crotch… creative licence an’ all. Still,  there is the feeling that they could have made him a generic German villain or (heaven forfend) an American villain? Come on guys you’re British… why do the stereotypical villain!

Final Thoughts

As games go this is not an entirely original one but it goes to prove that the art of the point-and-click adventure game is nowhere near dead. The secret now is really to put your own spin on it whether is be with surrealist humour or unique story. One thing is that in terms of pricing these can never contend with the major releases… which is a shame since games like Time Gentlemen, Please end up getting unfairly overlooked.

  1. […] to point to a real standout game for me. Looking for my pick, I go back to my adventure game roots. Time Gentlemen, Please fits in the line of the lovely Lucasarts adventures like Sam and Max Hit the Road, telling a lovely […]