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The Games Of Christmas: December 9th

Do you know what the one true leader of the Autobots is pointing at? You don’t, do you? But you must. Imagine if you never found out, perhaps dropped dead of a heart attack in the next fifteen seconds? Life would be meaningless. You must click, click now, to see what lies within the mighty seasonally festive advent-o-calendar.

Time Gentlemen, Please!

John: I am like a clanging cymbal, a resounding gong. I realise this. But when your first love is adventure games it’s hard not to a) spend most of your life screaming in frustration at the dreadful rubbish stupid idiots think are good adventures, and b) explode in excitement when a truly good adventure game comes along.

I reviewed TGP for PC Gamer in the same issue that I reviewed the Special Edition of the Secret of Monkey Island. And I gave TGP a higher score. Not just because SOMI SE was a poorly conceived update with horrible controls (and let’s be balanced, fantastic voice work and tremendous graphics) but because – and hold your breath, gather your weapons – Time Gentlemen, Please! is a better game than The Secret Of Monkey Island.

THERE.

In fact, it’s one of the funniest and most stupendously conceived comedy adventure games (I always slip in that “comedy” for the The Longest Journey Proviso) that’s been made. It falls short of the true majesty of a Day Of The Tentacle or Grim Fandango, but measured against all that makes adventure games great, it’s right up there. Sure, it’s made in AGS. Sure, it has scratchy graphics in a tiny window. Sure, it’s made by a couple of deviants who probably shouldn’t be allowed outside their houses without adult supervision. But it’s just good.

It also features a puzzle involving using a severed rotting arm to declog a toilet blocked with Hitler’s shit. See, the last few of you are now convinced.

The immaturity on display in this sequel to the completely free Ben There, Dan That! is remarkable. TGP is a game about travelling through time to prevent the prevention of the creation of the coathanger in order to stop Hitler’s army of robo-dinosaurs from winning the Second World War. Yeah, I know, another Second World War game. And there’s swears. Excellent swears.

It’s funny – extremely funny – likely the game that’s made me laugh out loud more than any other. The puzzles understand what makes inventory puzzles brilliant, and if that means sodomising a dead animal, then so be it. And those crude scratchy animations – they’re awesome too. In summary, it’s alright.

Alec: I suffered John and a couple of other chaps regularly harassing me to play this, to the point that their strident demands that I join their movement very nearly put me off trying it at all. But they were quite right to harangue me so. While Jim and Kieron are largely done with with traditional adventure games, I’m still prone to the occasional forlorn backwards glance at the rotting zombie carcass of something I once adored. TGP made that backwards glance entirely worthwhile – it made me feel as those ancient Lucasarts games that gentlemen of a certain age never stop talking about had once made me feel. It did this not by empty lip service and imitation, but being entirely modern of tone – a merry explosion of webmemes, tongue-in-cheek nostalgia and good-natured outragedness.

Y’know how the Simpsons stopped being funny and edgy, then Family Guy came along and injected what seemed like an exhausted formula with new pep’n’wildness? TGP’s that, basically. Not that I mean it’s particularly like Family Guy, just that it’s such a young, modern voice compared to its rut-stuck peers. It doesn’t do anything new (and, frankly, I do hope Zombie Cow turn their great skills towards something that isn’t about combining absurdist objects very soon), but it does it much, much better than anyone else: most especially than anyone who’d been making adventure games for years. It’s not got some existing line to tow or licenses to respect – as has hampered the Telltale adventures to some respect – so it can just get on with it. ‘It’ being necrophiliac transvestite mouse sex, Nazi dinosaurs and automatic wanking machines.

Sure, it’s very much tied to 21st century comedy ideals of the grotesque and the sexual, but that’s the charm of it. It doesn’t intend to offend or disgust anyone – it’s just off having a good time whether not anyone else shares its humour, and in doing that it’s a strangely innocent piece despite all the cock gags. It just wants to have a good time, and it’s done a pretty terrific job in building both its humour and its puzzles with such relaxed hedonism in mind.

There’s a risk that might change now it’s been a pretty decent success – with the upcoming Revenge of the Balloon-Headed Mexican, Zombie Cow do have something to live up to, and an audience full of expectancies. Second album syndrome, essentially. If I were them, I would have run a mile from doing another Ben & Dan game for fear of losing the free-wheeling freshness of TGP, but then again they’ve got an entire genre to save. And I, for one, can’t think of anyone else I’d rather entrust its fate to.

(I note I always seem to write with deadly seriousness when talking about comedy games. This is, of course, because my own jokes are so phenomenally funny that said comedy games would appear dreary and disastrous by comparison. Can’t think of any other reason for it.)

Kieron:

[13:28] John: Did you play Time Gentlemen Please?
[13:29] Kieron: nope
[13:29] Kieron: Not significantly
[13:30] John: Then you are relieved of advent duty.
[13:30] Kieron: I got to the warehouse door
[13:31] John: That’s the… first screen? Heh.
[13:34] Kieron: Yeah
[13:34] Kieron: I got to it
[13:34] Kieron: And thought “Fuck this”
[13:34] John: I bet you got to it better than anyone else though.
[13:34] Kieron: I went straight to the fucking door
[13:35] Kieron: I was in like flynn
[13:35] Kieron: No man could stop me
[13:35] John: Man, you’re amazing.
[13:35] Kieron: After a brief delay when I worked out how you moved the two fuckers
[13:35] Kieron: But bar that, I was a genius
[13:35] John: I’m pretty turned on right now.
[13:36] Kieron: Me too

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