Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator - Case 2: The Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea review
The work of a paranormal investigator is never done
Original Case: Menu Title - at that time, Grundislav was having another name
Ben Jordan is back!
"The work of a paranormal investigator is never done" is one of the introducing sentences of the game. Well, you can guess the hero's job. Ben Jordan is a paranormal investigator, graduated in International Relations. But not wanting to work at the local grocery, he decided to conduct investigations... involving paranormal - after all, it was his passion... Today, he's been called to Dunesberg by a woman whose husband has disappeared while searching for a mysterious galleon in the Salton Sea. Ben goes to California for his second case...
What's Ben Jordan again?
Ben Jordan is a free-download game, created with the AGS engine and with the spirit of old Sierra or LucasArt adventure games. Since 2004, players can follow his adventures in a 8 games series. Well, at the time of the writing, we're still waiting for the seventh one. The Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea is the second investigation, released in 2004.
Since 26th March 2010, Ben Jordan 2 has been revamped, with the same treatment as with Ben Jordan 1. So, Grundislav added the pages from the PI handbook concerning books, new elements to the story, changed the graphics for making them looking like in the latest case and added voices to the characters.
In other words, people are looking forward to a revamp of the other cases (I would say that at least, the cases 3 and 4 needs perhaps a little revamp but cases 5 and 6 are looking like the 7, just missing voices).
Still the same gameplay, right?
Gameplay hasn't improved, it's still the old school one: use your mouse to select an action like "observe", "take", "talk" or "walk". About this latter, you can't walk if you don't select walk; that's a bit disappointing for people used to walking with just clicking on a place with the mouse. You can pick objects with the finger icon ("take"). For using them, you need to go into your inventory, select the one you want to use and click on the character or object you want to interact with. With the eye icon ("observe") you can observe your environment. Ben will always say something that you read in a box as the game isn't voiced at all.
Now, that was for the version for the masochists as you would say Grundislav (check the Case 2 page!). With the actual gameplay, you can play easily to Ben Jordan: despite the fact you still have the basic actions, the talk action is split in two: the exclamation point who is just a random talk and the question mark which is the real talk action. But well, now, you have a map for moving around, which is perhaps better (apart when you're at Bombay Beach but it's normal).
You have now a minigame in the game: during your investigation out of Dunesberg (in the middle of the game), you have to complete a song for getting an important item. So how to complete when the first three choices are clearly out of question? Just be sure to look at everything. It's only like that you'll get the right wording.
If the structure of the story is basically the same (you still have to do Moonshine, you still have to save George and to capture the ghost), the new puzzles are more interesting: how to make the queue in the cafe disappear? Or how to make sure that Mama is going away in order to make possible his son escape?
Which such new places and puzzle, you get new characters at Dunesberg while you're loosing the treasure hunters and the souvenirs sellers in the Deluxe Edition. That disappearance is kinda compensed by the three persons at Bombay Beach.
Original Case: In this picture, something belonging to a previous case is hiding. Can you find it?
Graphics are correct for a game without great expectations, just wanting to entertain players. But contrary to the first case, you can enjoy more the graphic engine with Dunesberg, Medicine Man Shop or the galleon itself. Landscape is more detailed for example.
Original Case: Ben is old enough for going in such places
With the Deluxe Version, characters are well-detailed, the new graphics for Dunesberg are better and mainly, the new galion is really kick-ass. The only little minor thing is Bombay Beach, too grey for me. Anyway, now, you really have a Case 2 who isn't behind the others, like it was before, after the release in 2006 of the Deluxe Edition of Case 1.
As for the soundtrack, it has also improved from the first case. Yep, you still have the annoying sound indicating that you have acquired points but music is so "Far West" that you forget it's just a little game of 8,9 Mb.
Original Case: Ben in modern Far West
If the Deluxe Soundtrack is still the same as the original case, which is great, some new tracks were added for the supermarket and for the new places. I must say that the track at Radley House is in total contrast with the rest of the story.
Also, the Deluxe version is having a speech pack, which means that you can choose Voiced only, Subtitles only or both (which is my favorite option - I read better English than listening only to it). So, true, that's why I would like Grundislav to finish his last case and to add voices for the other cases.
Lifetime and replay
As for the lifetime of the game, it has increased from 30 min to more or less 1h30 maximum. Well, it's perfect for relaxing if you work too hard for example. But still, being a gamer used to long games, I always have the feeling of "too fast". But I think that makes Ben Jordan really enjoyable. Being able to finish a case without having an headache after searching a solution to a problem is really something that a player needs. Knowing that you have also a challenge to have a perfect score (205/205), you can see that you'll have more enigmas to solve and more talking to do in order to have the final word of the story.
Original Case: The Salton Sea
With the arrival of the Deluxe Edition, I must say that I found BJ 2 longer than the original one. But the rest of my paragraph above is still applying to the Deluxe Edition: you may want all the points if you want the extra scene after credits.
Let's conclude here
If I must describe the game in three words, it would be: fun, free and simply (to download, to install and to play). Trying Ben Jordan is something to have on your "to do" list. Playing his second adventure makes you pleased with the direction taken by the series. Well, if you're not an English-speaking native, you can't find the game in your language unless you propose your help into translating it. But the game is easy to understand, so, go for it.
If I were you, I would go for the Deluxe Edition. Better gameplay, better graphics, better story, everything is better. But if you still want to compare, no harm can be done by downloading a free game, who is not an heavy file...
And as Ben Jordan had put it, the work of a paranormal investigator is never done.
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