Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator - Case 3: The Sorceress of Smailholm review
Your trustful heart will hurt you someday
Your trustful heart will hurt you someday. Mary Blaine to Ben Jordan, day one.
Ben Jordan is called in Scotland, in a small village called Smailholm, following the murders of two little girls. Villagers think that witches are behind this. They found a young woman, Mary Blaine, sleeping next to the bodies and was taken into custody. She's claiming her innocence. Ben will try to prove it but seems that the only one who agreed to help is an old lady, considered like a witch. Even the other investigator, Percival Quentin Jones, doesn't want to help. Well, he doesn't believe in paranormal, so, you can guess that he doesn't carry Ben in his heart... or the villagers, believing into witchcraft. Will Ben solve the mystery or will he be the next victim?
BJ: Sorceress of Smailholm is the third case for our favorite paranormal investigator. And as stated by the main developer, this case will throwing Ben in the main plot written for the rest of the series. Storyline is coherent and I wasn't really expecting the truth behind Smailholm.
Another good sign concerns the lifetime of the game. It's longer because you have two endings. You have a choice to make at the end of Day Two. The result is a longer game with more puzzles if you choose to resist one of the villagers, leading to the "canon" ending or if you choose not to resist, the game will be shorter with a non-canon ending. Ben Jordan is improving on this point but despite complaining about two hours maximum for lifetime, I wouldn't want it otherwise. Ben Jordan can lose its magic touch if it becomes a long game of five hours.
Gameplay doesn't change a bit. 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. Note that you have to decipher a coded message thanks to a page in your inventory and the handbook provided by the creator in the package. And it introduced the "typing" gameplay: write the message for progressing. Still, it happens only once (and in the canon path) but it's refreshing. Seeing such new features can only make you hope to a real use in the next game. The only complaint I have is that the keyboard configuration is QWERTY and being in Europe, where AZERTY is the standard, it was frustrating to find the right keys, watching your tool because you can't write instinctively.
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 Smailholm. And, well, soundtrack is really something that Grundislav Games doesn't want to neglect. You're immersed into a medieval tune, fitting to the story. Even in the graveyard, the soundtrack played a major part for setting the ambiance.
You have a new friend: Percival Quentin Jones, from Oxford. Criminologist in the old fashion way, not a paranormal geek. You can guess that Ben will not really like him and each encounter is really electric. Even if Percy will be more friendly at the end, he got on my nerves. Being such a close-minded and arrogant makes him a character you want to kill but you can't do it. Reminds me of Jar-Jar Binks, annoying thing - well, he didn't bother me but I can understand that his behaviour can be annoying - from Star Wars. You want him to be killed but you know that would never happen. It's the same here. You know that Percy will not be killed.
In conclusion, this third case is really a great surprise with the introduction of the typing gameplay and its two endings. I knew what happened in the case before playing it but I wasn't aware of all the truth and it was shocking for me to see that indeed, his trustful heart will hurt Ben (in the two endings). Even if Percy is a annoying character, he is needed for showing how Ben is a caring person... and a naive one. I recommend strongly this game.
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