Ben There, Dan That

By John Walker on July 17th, 2008 at 11:20 pm.

Excellent insulting, well done.

Looking at you, I’d say what you need just now is an adventure game to play. Too many E3 videos and arguing in comments threads about things that ultimately just don’t matter has left you gaunt and frightened. It’s okay. It’s oooookay. Get yourself some Ben There, Dan That. (I can’t bear that they put an exclamation mark at the end of the title, so I’m pretending they didn’t – Dan, you’re a writer for heaven’s sake).

Created by Dan Marshall and his best friend Ben Ward (Zombie Cow Studios), it’s an AGS adventure which features some stand-out writing. And some pretty nifty 2D old-timey animation too. The game features, well, Dan Marshall and his best friend Ben Ward, the two of them stuck on an alien vessel after a botched attempt to fix the television to watch Magnum PI.

Curse you Monkey Island references.

It’s a sharp and funny collection of knowing and sarcastic references to the cliches of old-school adventure gaming, which is actually a fairly impressive feat. Far too many games are now collections of eye-rolling references to how silly it is to pick up everything, and the ludicrous nature of clicking the bucket on the hedgehog to make a windmill or whatever – the biggest problem being: THE GAMES FROM THE EARLY NINETIES MADE THE SAME JOKES THEN! Lordy lawks, everyone thinks they’re being so terribly clever for pointing out that a ladder can’t fit in an inside pocket, as if Space Quest wasn’t already mocking itself for this twenty years ago (yes, twenty). Anyway, point being, BTDT makes all these jokes without being patronising, or acting as if it’s genius for having thought of them. If anything, it’s the post-ironic approach, celebrating what we all already acknowledge.

Perhaps it occasionally goes too far with the in-joke adventure references (seriously, that’s enough references to Monkey Island everybody), but thankfully it supports these by thinking of original puzzles of its own. The highlight for me is the enormous dedication to unnecessary gags, with lines written for the most ridiculous of things you might choose to do (like clicking Dan on the moon, for instance). There’s also a decent use of timing, with pauses before the written dialogue appears (although this is of course incredibly annoying when you accidentally trigger the same response a second time).

My favourite exchange comes when using Dan on himself:

Ben: There’s no way I’m allowing Dan to interact with himself. Who knows where it’d lead.

Dan: Wanking

Zombies: check

The game’s free, which is my favourite of the prices, but of course you’re welcome to donate if you enjoy it. However, as Zombie Cow point out, “We’ve had over 1300 downloads so far, and raised £10.” So bloody well give them some money, you tight-pocketed sods. How many games are you making for free, eh?

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70 Comments »

  1. Pace says:

    I could be absolutely wrong on this, but didn’t it used to be “Rock, Paper, Shotgun!” (exclamation point left carefully inside the quotation marks)?

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Never. And if it was, we’ll Stalinistically revise history until it wasn’t.

    The game also features friends-of-RPS The Triforce.

    I’m not sure what to say.

    KG

  3. Alex says:

    Didn’t they use to be “The Triforce!” ?

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    They used to be Three Guys Who Just Drank A Lot.

    KG

  5. Alex says:

    And “Three Guys Who Just Drank A Lot” with an exclamation point just doesn’t work. It just.. doesn’t.

  6. Pace! says:

    (I think this has a tad more life in it yet.)

  7. Kelduum says:

    It appears the RPS History Editors have got to the Wayback Machine already…

    All Hail Rock Paper Shotgun!

    And thats my exclaimation mark, by the way.

  8. ste says:

    We’re drinking a lot on Saturday! Everyone is welcome, even Kieron, who is busy.

  9. thezombiecow says:

    Thaaaanks John!

    We toiled over an exclamation mark, and as I recall Ben was dead against it and I had to talk him into it. I think my reasoning was that it gave the whole thing a slightly more farcical, show-tunes-esque ‘Oklahoma!’ sense of nonsense. If you like, I’ll do you a custom version without an exclamation mark.

    Apologies for any upset caused. :(

  10. cliffski says:

    I would have kept the ! and gone whole hog with some !!!!1111 or even a !!!111ONEONEONE.

    Cliffski!

  11. Kieron Gillen says:

    I think it was Orwell who described exclamation marks are like laughing at your own joke.

    Alternatively, I’ll quote one of my first production editors: Exclamation Marks Are For Wankers.

    Be careful with ‘em. The Irony shield needs to be strong.

    KG

  12. Caiman says:

    Here at the Society for the Prevention of Extinction of Exclamation Marks! (SPEEM!) we deplore this continual dissing of the humble exclamation mark! It’s a perfectly legitimate piece of punctuation, and is no less worthy of being ignored than the diaeresis, the macron, or the pilcrow! Or even the period.

  13. Jochen Scheisse says:

    The exclamation point was introduced into English printing in the 1400, and was known as the “note of admiration” until the mid 1600s. In German orthography, the sign made its first appearance in the Luther Bible in 179.

    The mark was not featured on standard manual typewriters before the 1970s. Instead, one typed a full stop, backspaced, and then typed an apostrophe.

    In typesetting or printing (and therefore when spelling text out orally), the exclamation mark is called a screamer or a bang. “Bang” is also common in computer programming slang. Less common names in publishing include “gasper” and “startler”.

  14. John Walker says:

    Let me give everyone the Official Rules For Exclamation Mark Usage:

    They are for when you are exclaiming something.

    Those were the Official Rules For Exclamation Mark Usage.

  15. Chris Evans says:

    I once tried to use an exclamation mark….I got my arse kicked for it =[

    Ben There, Dan That is a great game nevertheless =]

  16. Ian says:

    The exclamation mark is worst when being preceded by the word “zany”.

  17. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Trouble is, around my friends, lack of exclams is often taken as being a sign that you’re taking life far too seriously. For instance, a traditional email to my tutor “Dear Claudia, I hope you’re having fun in Australia! Just to let you know bla bla bla bla bla what do you of so and so *Tens pages later* will that be okay do you reckon?”

    “Dear John. Yes.”

    See, that’s just mean! (there I go again). What was wrong with, “Dear John, totally!!!”.

    Exclams have their place (yes, yes, when exclaiming something ;). Okay just for you guys i’ll experiment with being totally down to earth this week and see how I do.

  18. cliffski says:

    Best thread evar!!

  19. Fazer says:

    BTDT has a truely remarkable writing… Pitty I failed to solve the very first puzzle and am still looking for any kind of walkthrough or clues.

  20. Chris Evans says:

    Must admit I am stuck with the TV puzzle…phail…!

  21. Fazer says:

    I eventually read on some forum you have to use a… well, that you have that object in your inventory… wait, you have an inventory?! Why the game didn’t tell me about it?!

    Remember, kids – always show me the menu when I press Esc. Show me the inventory, when I press “i” or “Tab” (“i” does nothing, “Tab” is bugged). If you design a new form of interface – frickin’ show me how i works.

    Thank you for helping us help you help us all.

    (Hint: Move your mouse to the upper part of the screen.)

  22. thezombiecow says:

    There’s an instruction manual here: http://www.zombie-cow.com/?page_id=21

  23. Alec Meer says:

    (testing a thing. Ignore me)

  24. Alec says:

    (also testing)

  25. Vasara says:

    Protip: read the “how to play” page on the site if you’re not familiar with adventure games.

    Excellent game, very entertaining. The writing is excellent.

  26. Fazer says:

    I am familiar with adventures, I’ve beaten all Monkey Islands, The Longest Journey and some other. And I don’t wanna read no manual outside of any game.

    Right now I already solved telly situation. I must say the writing is brilliant. The death of adventures joke is a stroke of genius!

  27. Smee says:

    How do I get the spanner. How do I get the Yin.

    I just know there’s a Sam and Max-style Jesse James’ Hand puzzle around here somewhere. I just need to find a broken golf ball retriever.

  28. Mark says:

    Really enjoying this so far.

    @Smee: It sounds like you’re just about where I am. I haven’t got either of them yet, but I was stumped at that point for a while before noticing something new in the hub. I had to stop playing shortly after, so don’t know how much help that’ll be…

  29. JohnG says:

    I’m stuck :/ Got a few of the doors open on the alien ship, but I’ve got to a point where I don’t seem to be able to open any new doors, or do anything in any of the open ones :/

    Last one I opened was the volcano one, got some laav, but don’t seem to be able to do anything with it anywhere. Got a dead dino, one playing a video game, and a side quest to make one work harder.. but I dunno which one that one is, or how to do it.

  30. thezombiecow says:

    JohnG/ Smee: There’s something new in the alien ship once you come out of the Dinomension…

  31. Duoae says:

    @John:

    Should those words be capitalised? :)

  32. Smee says:

    Well, I’m stuck again, on the Yin and Yang. I’m not sure if I should have been able to pick up the Yin by now and use it to get the Yang – if so, I appear to be missing something. Are there any useful lengths of rope hiding anywhere? I’ve done the lamp post, the camera…

    JohnG, have you searched the male toilets thoroughly? There’s an item you need to finish Dinoland. The one who has the x-wing is the lazy one you need to distract. Now, what do x-wings fight?

  33. JohnG says:

    Finished it now.. it was fun, except the (rot13)(frperg ebbz) which was just out of place.. the whole game is about finding the right thing/use, yet there’s one place where you have to almost know in advance there’s something to look for to find it.. kind of breaks the flow.

  34. Gap Gen says:

    Sometimes I use exclamation marks in e-mails to people I don’t know that well or if English isn’t their first language when the context is unclear, say (so something ironic might just seem like you’re a raging idiot). But yeah, it does kinda kill the humour.

  35. JohnG says:

    Looks like I solved the dino puzzle before finding out what it was.. I just wanted the x-wing and clicked on stuff.

  36. Vasara says:

    I just finished it. In addition to the quality writing, it’s also a very good adventure game. The puzzles were logical but challenging enough, I never had to resort to trying random objects to see if anything works. The ending was… surprising.

  37. thezombiecow says:

    What’s a (rot13)(frperg ebbz)?

  38. Smee says:

    Just finished it, I am invincible. Thanks for the tips, all.

    I was sad that the Yin didn’t destroy the cow universe. The force field puzzle was also a bit obtuse. Anyway, great writing.

  39. Vasara says:

    thezombiecow: rot13 is a cypher. Put (frperg ebbz) through a rot13 decryptor, such as http://www.rot13.com.

  40. thezombiecow says:

    Thanks Vasara. And to think I’m ‘reading’ Cryptonomicon.

    I say reading, I mean ‘waiting for it to not be shit and get to a good bit’.

    We thought the frperg ebbz was fairly obvious. At very least, not annoyingly impossible to find. But I guess it’s the break-neck pace at which people seem to play through pointy-clickies these days.

  41. Radiant says:

    Something new in the hub?
    Are you talking about the pir ni eht llaw?
    What do i do with the loo cakes?

  42. Radiant says:

    ok right invis doors done Got the yang but wtf am I to do with the lamp post to get the yin?

  43. Okami says:

    The moment I realized what it was that I needed the sponge for,I had to laugh just a little bit. And I usually don’t laugh when gaming.

    Well done. Well done indeed.

  44. Okami says:

    V’ir tbg gur Lnat. Naq V’ir tbg gur Mbzovr Unaq pbirerq jvgu tyhr. Ohg jung qb V fgvpx gb gur unaq?

  45. Radiant says:

    Gurer’f n ebcr va gur vpr jbeyq juvpu jnf ubyqvat hc gur snyyra fvta.
    Gnxr vg naq gunj vg bhg [phaavat phaavat] naq lbhe tbbq gb tb onfu lbhe urnq ba guvf tbq sbefnxra ynzc cbfg.

  46. Radiant says:

    Fcbatr jnf uvynevbhf.

  47. Okami says:

    Thanks Radiant. Though I was able to figure it out myself in the end, by sheer coincidence.

    And I’m now merrily bashing my head in, just as you predicted :)

  48. MisterBritish says:

    The forcefield, it defeats me!

    Brilliant so far though.

  49. Okami says:

    @Mister British:

    What kind of stuff that’s vaguely sugar lump sized do you not want to touch, let alone have in your drink?

    Hope that helps..

  50. MisterBritish says:

    haha, finished, that was superb.