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The Ben There, Dan That! Saga

posted by Darth Marsden on - last edited - Viewed by 522 users

BIG post follows. Be warned.

-x-

Ok. So I write stuff, and in recent months I've been writing reviews of various games. After some effort, I wrote a combined review of Ben There, Dan That! and its sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please!. Figuring that writers need to start somewhere, I submitted it to be used as a Featured Review on The Escapist, a gaming website that I occasionally posted reviews in the forums of.

After a few days I got an e-mail back, suggesting I split the review in two and develop it into two seperete reviews. I did so, and decided to focus on the first game, Ben There, Dan That!. Eventually, I came up the following review:[Quote=Darth Marsden]I first heard about Ben There, Dan That! in an article in PCGamer UK, where one of the game's authors wrote an interesting article about its creation. I never bothered to actually try the game, but after playing MI:SE recently, I developed a taste for classic adventure gaming, and during my searches for good free games, stumbled upon Ben There, Dan That! by Zombie Cow Studios. Once I'd finished that, I immediately went and bought its sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please!. If this were a just and righteous universe, you would all do the same.

Ben There, Dan That!, like the recent Tales of Monkey Island, opens at the tail-end of an adventure staring the two title characters, Ben and Dan. Tragically, Dan has managed to end up deadified, and having completed a whole load of off-screen adventures, the player-controlled Ben has finally gotten him all ready for resurrection. All that remains is to stick a firework up Dan's bumhole and shoot him along an incredibly long piece of twine over a bottomless gorge and into a shack full of corpse-reanimating equipment. But that's not the end of their adventures - oh no.

Upon returning home after a funky title sequence, the pair settle in to watch Magnum PI. Or they would, had Ben not been forced to use the aerial in his attempt to bring Dan back from the dead. A makeshift antenna to stick out the window is hastily made, and the pair are promptly zapped aboard an alien ship full of doorways leading to parallel universes. In order to return home, the two have to venture forth into these alternate worlds and find the two pieces of a yin-yang, which will open up the door back to their own world. Along the way you'll kill a Priest, cause a miniature Death Star to fry a dinosaur, travel through the rear end of a cow and absorb a man with a sponge.

If any of this sounds offensive to you, chances are that this series are not for you. Which is a real shame, as it's brilliant. The sheer amount of charm the central characters exude more then compensates for any distasteful actions they, and by extension you, take. These may be some of the most offensive adult games you'll have played, but they're also absolutely hilarious, far more so then many other so-called 'comedy' titles released in the last few years.

One of the major factors crucial to this is the writing. Having to get past a Priest by killing him would seem cruel, even offensive if taken straight. Doing so by not only whacking him over the head with his own bible, but then expressing a forlorn hope that he's just sleeping (when really, you're not fooling anyone, not even yourself), and then developing that action even further, turning the act of inadvertently killing people while trying to get things from them into a running joke, takes a LOT of balls. Thankfully the writers manage it with aplomb, and that's not even the worst they have to throw at us. The darkest side of humour is evident throughout the game, but because everything is played for laughs, it's actually surprisingly difficult to become offended at the actions taken by Ben and Dan. The blank expressions permanently worn by the pair, coupled with the dry comments offered by the two really endear them to you, and it's hard to hate such a pair of lovable scamps, even if they do swear a tad too often.

Also taking a large amount of the edge off of things are the graphics. While you'll inevitably think the two leads seem incredibly basic, they quickly grow on you, and you'll find that their oddly distinct animations make them hard to hate, even as they inadvertently kill someone via the gift of toilet cakes. And while the characters may not be particular highlights, the backgrounds are the real stars of the show. The parallel universe angle means that there are several different versions of the London skyline, all lovingly rendered with jaded angles and straight lines. It's a wonderful throwback to classic LucasArts games without being generic, as other games made in the same vein can end up being.

I mention LucasArts adventures for a reason. One of the highlights of those games were the puzzles, something Ben There, Dan That! does relatively well with. The tried-and-tested 'pick up everything not bolted down and combine it all with everything else' technique will show just how much care has gone into the game, as almost every combination possible has a custom response. Trying to use a crowbar with a dinosaur will warrant a 'I'm not Gordon Freeman!' comment, while trying it on a PC will warrant a concern that that'll crash the computer. Unfortunately while these responses are funny, there's no real hints or tips as to what to do in any given situation, and it can be a bit hard to get into the frame of mind the designers had while making the game. Once you do stumble upon the answer though, it all makes a wonderous kind of sense.

Another point against Ben There, Dan That! is the music. Or, rather, the lack thereof. While the theme tune is certainly funky, it's also pretty much the only piece of music you'll hear throughout the game, aside from the lift music that crops up in a horrifically long elevator sequence. There's background ambience in certain places, such as keyboard tapping in a software development office or the blurred-out commentary of the big game in a pub (or, rather, bar), and you'll get a little musical flourish whenever you unlock a new universe to explore, but that's about as sophisticated as it gets. The developers weren't able to afford to have someone score the game, which is a shame, as it really could have enhanced the game a great deal.

Overall though, these two minor issues can't detract from what is, at heart, a thoroughly enjoyable slice of retro gaming. The adult humour ensures that it doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter clone of other games, and the high level of polish makes you feel like is 1995 all over again. Factor in the fact that it's free, and you've got an excellent way to spend a weekend.

Recommendation: There's a few minor issues, but overall Ben There, Dan That! is a very entertaining game, and if you're at all interested in adventures (and either don't mind or revel in adult humour), then you'll have hours of fun with it.

Bottom Line: It's free, so what are you waiting for? Go download it already.

Chris Marsden just can't seem to stop killing people. And in the game, obviously.[/Quote]I thought this was an excellent review, and so did the Escapist, who, after leaving me hanging for a week and a half, decided to publish it as a Featured Review. Unfortunately, it wasn't exactly the same as the version I'd given them:[Quote=The Escapist]I first heard about Ben There, Dan That! in an article in PCGamer UK, where one of the game's authors wrote an interesting article about its creation. I hadn't bothered to try the game until I developed a taste for classic adventure gaming, thanks to MI-SE. During my searches for good free games, I stumbled upon Ben There, Dan That! from Zombie Cow Studios. Once I'd finished that, I immediately bought its sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please! If this were a just and righteous universe, you would all do the same.

Ben There, Dan That!, like the recent Tales of Monkey Island, opens at the tail-end of an adventure staring the two title characters, Ben and Dan. Tragically, Dan is dead, and Ben has finally made preparations for his resurrection. All that is left to do is to stick a firework up Dan's bumhole and shoot him along an incredibly long piece of twine over a bottomless gorge and into a shack full of corpse-reanimating equipment. Simple, right?

Upon returning home, Ben and the freshly resurrected Dan settle in to watch Magnum PI. Or they would, had Ben not been forced to use the TV antenna in order to bring Dan back from the dead. A makeshift antenna is hastily made, bits of it poking out of the an open window, which draws the attention of, of course, an alien ship. The hapless pair are immediately zapped aboard an alien ship full of doorways that lead to parallel universes. In order to return home, the two have to venture into alternate worlds and find the two pieces of a yin-yang, which will allow them to open the door back to their own world.

Along the way, they'll kill a priest, cause a mini-Death Star to fry a dinosaur, travel through the rear end of a cow and absorb a man with a sponge.

If any of this sounds offensive, this series is not for you -which is a real shame, as it's brilliant. The sheer amount of charm exuded by the pair more then compensates for any distasteful actions they, and by extension you, take. This may be one of the most offensive adult games you'll have played, but it's still absolutely hilarious, far more so then many other so-called 'comedy' titles released in the last few years.

One of the major factors crucial to the comedy is the writing. Having to get past a priest by killing him may seem cruel, even borderline offensive. Doing so by whacking him over the head with his own bible, and then expressing a forlorn hope that he's just sleeping takes a lot of balls. Thankfully, the writers manage it with aplomb, and that's not even the worst they throw at us. The darkest side of humor is evident throughout the game, but because everything is played for laughs, it's actually surprisingly difficult to become offended by Ben and Dan.

The blank expressions permanently worn by the pair, coupled with their dry comments are quite endearing. It's hard to hate such a pair of lovable scamps, even if they do swear a tad too often. You'll find that Ben and Dan's oddly distinct yet basic animations make them difficult to hate, even as they inadvertently kill someone via the gift of toilet cakes.

The environments of the game are the real stars of the show. While traveling through the parallel universes, Dan and Ben experience several different versions of the London skyline, all lovingly rendered with jaded angles and straight lines. It's a wonderful throwback to classic LucasArts games, without being generic.

I mention LucasArts adventures for a reason. One of the highlights of those games were the puzzles, something Ben There, Dan That! mimics relatively well. The tried-and-true method of 'pick up everything not bolted down and combine it all with everything else' will showcase just how much forethought has gone into the game. Nearly every possible combination of items has a custom snarky response.

Trying to use a crowbar with a dinosaur will warrant a 'I'm not Gordon Freeman!' comment, while trying it on a PC will issue a concern that it will crash the computer. Unfortunately, while these responses are funny, they don't dole any hints or tips to the player. It can be difficult to get into the exact frame of mind the designers had while making the game, but once you do stumble upon the perfect combination of items, it will make a wondrous kind of sense.

The only thing lacking from Ben There, Dan That! is the music, mostly because it's missing from the game. Though the theme tune is certainly funky, it's also the only piece of music you'll hear throughout the entire game, aside from the lift music that crops up in a horrifically long elevator sequence. Background ambiance emerges in certain places, such as the quiet tapping of keyboards in a software development office or blurred-out commentary of the big game in a pub and you'll get a little musical flourish whenever you unlock a new universe to explore, but that's about as sophisticated as the score gets.

However, these minor issues can't detract from what is, at heart, a thoroughly enjoyable slice of retro gaming. The adult humor ensures that it doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter clone of other games, and the high level of polish makes you feel like is 1995 all over again. Factor in the fact that it's free, and you've got an excellent way to spend a weekend.

Recommendation: There's a few minor issues, but overall Ben There, Dan That! is a very entertaining game, and if you're at all interested in adventures (and either don't mind or revel in adult humor), then you'll have hours of fun with it.

Bottom Line: It's free, so what are you waiting for? Go download it already.

Chris Marsden just can't seem to stop killing people. In the game, obviously.[/Quote]There is one immediate alteration which most of you will have spotted - the link at the end of the review. In a shocking oversight, they failed to include the link to the game's website where I had originally done so, meaning that if my review inspired people to give the game a go, they had no idea of how to get it! Thankfully I was able to get this particular error fixed, but it did cause me to go through the rest of the text with a fine tooth comb.

At first glance the changes just seem like the standard editing any article might go through, and to be honest, one or two sections do benefit from this. If you go through the whole thing carefully though, you'll notice several glaring errors that the editing process has introduced. It's these errors that have gotten me so riled up. If you've got about 15 free minutes, feel free to go through and count how many problem sections you can find before continuing with the rest of the post.

Finished? I counted eight that really mattered. Read on to see them.

I sent the editor an e-mail with a list of these errors, asking them to change them, and giving them reasons as to why. I stopped short of reposting the entire review again, but if I had, my 'fixed' version (with the proposed alterations I gave highlighted in bold) would have read like this:
[Quote]I first heard about Ben There, Dan That! in an article in PCGamer UK, where one of the game's authors wrote an interesting article about its creation. I hadn't bothered to try the game until I developed a taste for classic adventure gaming, thanks to MI-SE. During my searches for good free games, I stumbled upon Ben There, Dan That! from Zombie Cow Studios. Once I'd finished that, I immediately bought its sequel, Time Gentlemen, Please! If this were a just and righteous universe, you would all do the same.

Ben There, Dan That!, like the recent Tales of Monkey Island, opens at the tail-end of an adventure staring the two title characters, Ben and Dan. Tragically, Dan is dead, and Ben has finally made preparations for his resurrection. All that is left to do is to stick a firework up Dan's bumhole and shoot him along an incredibly long piece of twine over a bottomless gorge and into a shack full of corpse-reanimating equipment. Simple, right?

Upon returning home, Ben and the freshly resurrected Dan settle in to watch Magnum PI. Or they would, had Ben not been forced to use the TV antenna in order to bring Dan back from the dead. A makeshift antenna is hastily made, bits of it poking out of an open window, which draws the attention of an alien ship. The hapless pair are immediately zapped aboard the ship, which is full of doorways leading to parallel universes. In order to return home, the two have to venture into these alternate worlds and find the two pieces of a yin-yang, which will allow them to open the door back to their own world.

Along the way, they'll kill a priest, cause a mini-Death Star to fry a dinosaur, travel through the rear end of a cow and absorb a man with a sponge.

If any of this sounds offensive, then this series is probably not for you. Which is a real shame, because it's brilliant. The sheer amount of charm exuded by the pair more then compensates for any distasteful actions they, and by extension you, take. This may be one of the most offensive adult games you'll have played, but it's still absolutely hilarious, far more so then many other so-called 'comedy' titles released in the last few years.

One of the major factors crucial to the comedy is the writing. Having to get past a priest by killing him may seem cruel, even borderline offensive. Doing so by whacking him over the head with his own bible, and then expressing a forlorn hope that he's just sleeping takes a lot of balls. Thankfully, the writers manage it with aplomb, and that's not even the worst they throw at us. The darkest side of humor is evident throughout the game, but because everything is played for laughs, it's actually surprisingly difficult to become offended by Ben and Dan.

The blank expressions and dry comments offered by the two leads are oddly endearing, and it's hard to hate such a lovable pair of scamps, even if they do have a tendency to swear a tad too often. You'll find that Ben and Dan's oddly distinct yet basic animations make them difficult to hate, even as they inadvertently kill someone via the gift of toilet cakes.

The environments of the game are the real stars of the show. While travelling through the parallel universes, Dan and Ben experience several different versions of the London skyline, all lovingly rendered with jaded angles and straight lines. It's a wonderful throwback to classic LucasArts games, without being generic.

I mention LucasArts adventures for a reason. One of the highlights of those games were the puzzles, something Ben There, Dan That! mimics relatively well. The tried-and-true method of 'pick up everything not bolted down and combine it all with everything else' will showcase just how much forethought has gone into the game. Nearly every possible combination of items has a custom snarky response.

Trying to use a crowbar with a dinosaur, for example, will warrant a 'I'm not Gordon Freeman!' comment, while trying it on a PC will issue a concern that it will crash the computer. Unfortunately, while these responses are funny, they don't dole any hints or tips to the player. It can be difficult to get into the exact frame of mind the designers had while making the game, but once you do stumble upon the perfect combination of items, it will make a wondrous kind of sense.

The only thing lacking from Ben There, Dan That! is the music, mostly because it's missing from the game. Though the theme tune is certainly funky, it's also the only piece of music you'll hear throughout the entire game, aside from the lift music that crops up in a horrifically long elevator sequence. Background ambiance emerges in certain places, such as the quiet tapping of keyboards in a software development office or blurred-out commentary of the big game in a pub, and you'll get a little musical flourish whenever you unlock a new universe to explore, but that's about as sophisticated as the score gets.

However, these minor issues can't detract from what is, at heart, a thoroughly enjoyable slice of retro gaming. The adult humor ensures that it doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter clone of other games, and the high level of polish makes you feel like is 1995 all over again. Factor in the fact that it's free, and you've got an excellent way to spend a weekend.

Recommendation: There's a few minor issues, but overall Ben There, Dan That! is a very entertaining game, and if you're at all interested in adventures (and either don't mind or revel in adult humor), then you'll have hours of fun with it.

Bottom Line: It's free, so what are you waiting for? Go download it already.

Chris Marsden just can't seem to stop killing people. In the game, obviously.[/Quote]
I've yet to hear back from them, but they do have a habit of making me wait about a week for a response. I'm guessing they're pretty busy with other submissions and stuff.

My primary concern about this is that people will think the typos and errors are mine, which is simply not the case. I'm a much better writer then that, and I triple-check all my stuff for such problems before posting them, whether it's in a forum or an e-mail. It's the Escapist's fault that those errors are there, and I want them to fix them.

My list of suggested alterations wasn't an attempt to drastically change the published review. If I'd wanted to do that, I'd have re-written the whole thing (a third time), or I'd have just told the Escapist to publish the review that I submitted without any alterations whatsoever. I didn't feel that such a request (or demand, as it may be seen by them) would have been taken very well.

Instead, I basically said 'Ok, you changed the review, but you left a few mistakes in there - would you mind fixing them?', which I felt was a much more reasonable request. This way, they get to keep the review essentially as is, with one or two (alright - half a dozen) minor alterations, and I get a review I'm much happier with. It's not perfect, but at least both sides feel satisfied with the outcome.

I'll let you know how I get on.

9 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
  • As somebody who has been on both sides of the equation, I can tell you that a simple e-mail to the editor containing the article in its entirety, with revisions already in place, works a lot better than a long grammar lesson, explaining each "mistake" point-by-point. The editor can take it or leave it, as it is his or her prerogative to do so.

    You were self-aware enough to realize you sounded "a bit like a prima donna." It was at that point you should have reconsidered the direction you were taking.

    Re-posting a supposedly private e-mail, as you have done, opens the possibility of having follow-up submissions to The Escapist binned immediately.

    All this being said, the article (both versions) is quite good.

  • It seems to me that the article was streamlined, a couple of errors made. An editor is only human, and no human is perfect.

  • @Darth Marsden said: I'm a much better writer then that

    O rly?

    :p

  • These things can happen. As an editor myself I've introduced new errors when rewriting something. Clearly in this case there were too many and it's a problem, but it's not a crazy unusual thing. Just send a correction and be understanding.

  • @Frogacuda said: These things can happen. As an editor myself I've introduced new errors when rewriting something. Clearly in this case there were too many and it's a problem, but it's not a crazy unusual thing. Just send a correction and be understanding.

    I thought that's what I was doing.

    As quickfics pointed out, I may have gone about this the wrong way and should instead have just reposted the entire review, errors fixed. I'll bear that in mind for future reference. The editor I've been in contact with seems pretty cool though, so I'm hoping a brief explanation of why I'm suggesting the changes I've made will be alright. Hopefully.

    Aside from my criminally ignored bloggy site thing, this is the most public place I've shared this whole tale. It's not as if I'm telling the entire world about it, just a relatively small collection of people who enjoy games. And it was an awfully long collection of words to read through, so that'll reduce the number of people who know the story even further.

    Thanks for your comment about the review being good. It has had a positive response, even with the errors.

    Pale Man: I always get those two mixed up. One of my (precious few) flaws.

    EDIT: Having thought about it, quickfics made a good point about including the e-mail I sent. As such, I've changed the initial post and replaced the e-mail to an altered version of the Escapist's published review which includes my suggested changes. I think you'll agree that it reads better as a result of the changes.

  • That'll be my next review. I having a little trouble writing the opening paragraph, but once I crack that, I should find the rest much easier.

  • Oh dear, I don't think you should have posted this on a public forum. You may jeopardise your chances of being included on that website if they happen upon the post - especially considering you actually named the website!

  • Bit of a bump, but I finally got a response to the e-mail I sent, and it literally made me squeal. My current state of alcoholic inebriation may have contributed to that slightly, but even so, I'm absolutely ecstatic about the whole thing.
    [Quote=The Escapist]Hey Chris,

    I appreciate the e-mail pointing out the errors made in the article. It was my error to not send the re-edited version back to you for confirmation, and I apologize for that. Honestly, I’m glad that you show such passion for your work, as many that I work with seem to care less and just want someone to edit their work for them and publish it. I’ve made the changes to the review that you have suggested, but please let me know if you find any others that you’d like changed. Of course, it’s easy to revisit a piece over and over and find a million things you’d like to change, so I’d appreciate it if any further suggestions continue to be just for editing errors and not changes in ideas or basic structure. Feel free to send us more reviews – especially the Time Gentleman, Please review. I’d be excited to work with someone who’s clearly passionate about their articles and be sure to send any re-edits to you before publication.[/Quote]Can you see why I'm so happy? 'Passionate about their articles'! Glee!

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