Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator - Case 5: Land of the Rising Dead review
Fugu, Sumo, Dinner
Fugu, Sumo, Dinner '" Words found on a paper, Day Five
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... He's contacted by Simon, a fellow ghost hunter met in London (see case 4), for investigating a murder case in Japan, called the Ghost Murders. Along with another friend, Alice, Ben and Simon travel to the Rising Sun Empire for solving this mystery.
BJ: Land of the Rising Dead is the fifth case of the BJ series, released since 2004 by Grundislav Games and is an independent game made with the AGS engine, with the spirit of the old-school adventure games. Case 5 was released in 2006, the same year as the Case 1 Deluxe Edition.
Gameplay hasn't improved since the last case besides the disappearance of the mobile phone and the reappearance of the typing gameplay for one moment (and only if you choose the right path for it). So basically, everything is the same. You have still the five icons for walking, interacting with your environment, talking with people about everything and nothing (the !), interrogating people, included your friends (the ?) and observing your environment. About the latter, you'll use it more than in the previous cases or you won't progress. As for walking, if you're not used to being obliged to choose the action, you'll be confused except if you play the previous cases... And like in the Deluxe Case, you'll have a map to go from a location to another. You're in Osaka, you don't think that every place you'll visit will be on the area of your hotel, do you? Well, in the previous cases, Ben was investigating in a small area (if you remember for the case 2, Ben didn't need to go back to Dunesberg after his arrival near the Salton Sea and for the case 3, Smailholm was a small village as case 4 was happening inside a house). Now, he's in a big city he's never been before. So, it's normal to use a map for moving.
Graphics are enhanced, meaning that every known character have had a lifting when their portrait is appearing. Only Alice seems to be the same. Well, that's not really a problem for Ben. This case seems to be more colorful with the Sushi Bar, Noboru's house and the TV Show. I didn't have such a feeling since the Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea and the town of Dunesberg. The only little complaint I have is that Japanese people in this game weren't so Japanese except for Yamamoto, Noboru's mother and the Sushi Chief. Yoshi, the lead inspector on the case, hadn't any Japanese feature, he was rather odd. Oh and also, the Hotel Street was strange comparing to the rest of the landscape. Well, perhaps, it was the view chosen for showing it.
I was fearing that the game will follow the path of the previous case, with more ambient sound than music. Well, I was wrong. Ongoing music is coming back and is really adapted to the spirit. Whether you're in Yoshi's office, Sushi Bar or your hotel room, you'll constantly reminded that you're in Asia. Special mention for the TV show, it was hilarious and so out of place.
Also, this case makes references to past cases. If you remember, the Medicine Man from the second case said that his brother was Ranger Ernie you've met in your first case (and if you looked closely to the shop, you'll find a odd skeleton, similar to a Skunk-Ape). In Case 3, it's the wooden stick that makes reference to the one used in the first case as the one given by the old prospector in the second case, without forgetting to mention that Ben shouted Skunk-Ape, hoping to distract Percy. In the fourth case, it was normal for Ben to remember Mary from Case 3 as it's directly following the events in Smailholm, even Percy is there for remind you of it. Well, in the fifth case, aside from Simon and Alice met during the fourth one, you'll plenty of references of previous investigations (or previous Grundislav Games like GrannyKiller). Ben is dreaming of Smailholm and Mary, he has still Percy's visit card, Simon invented the DoorSucked 2000 following what happened in the fourth case and Ben makes reference to Madame Tilly, the True Seer from London, in the police lab.
What must I say about this new investigation? Well, the idea of making two paths for reaching the same ending is a good idea. I was missing this kind of choice in the fourth case. Another thing is that you take control of Alice when talking to Japanese persons. But as usual, the game takes 2 hours to be completed... 3 if you're unlucky. It's enough to make this case very interesting.
I love this game. It's rather simple, funny and relaxing. It's free and downloadable. It's also refreshing to see Simon teasing Ben about Alice. And it's still freaking to see one of them in danger. Alice was the one who had a close call. After flying through a window last time, now, she's been poisoned. And Simon, well, Simon had his close call in the previous case. Ben had it in Smailholm (and when facing the Skunk-Ape). So, what will happen in the sixth game and last one to be released?
That's why I can only recommend you to play this game even if you're a young player who couldn't have known the time of the old-school adventure game like Monkey Island, Indiana Jones, Woodruff or Maniac Mansion. Ben Jordan doesn't want to be the greatest game. No, Grunduslav Games is only doing it because, well, the team is deep involved in it and because it's just for entertaining people with a simple gameplay, a good storyline and with good music.
Time is just an illusion? Well, I don't know if the young Noboru is right or not. But if Ben Jordan can send me back to my childhood, I want this illusion going on, not forever, but as long as it can go.
So, Fugu, Sumo, Dinner anyone?