This month, a popular series of adventures for a paranormal investigator reaches its long-awaited climax. A young man also starts his law-enforcement career in a fantasy city, while an alien finds his wild tales earning him an unwelcome return to Earth. Elsewhere, you could investigate a haunted house with the US President, maintain a lighthouse as a young girl or simply take the role of a young man trying to claim his inheritance. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator - Case 8: Relics of the Past
Over a few short months of his life, Ben Jordan’s foray into paranormal investigation has taken him around the world. It has also brought a lot of pain and misery into his life, with good friends dying and Ben himself put in mortal danger on more than one occasion. Then, as a prisoner of the Knights of St. Anthony, he was rendered unconscious by a man he thought he could trust. With the grand scheme of the Knights reaching its climax, will he be able to thwart them before it’s too late?
With this final chapter, Grundislav’s epic saga finally comes to a conclusion. The graphics are done in the same '90s-era realistic style of previous episodes, and are nicely animated. Conversations also continue to have well-rendered portraits with expressions matching the mood of the character speaking. Ben visits two new destinations in this instalment, starting in the rain-washed streets of London and finishing up amongst the grand architecture of Paris. As well as the fine surface buildings, players are treated to a view of the catacombs as well. The game is fully voiced to a good standard, with both new and recurring characters quickly recognisable from their voices. With a particularly dramatic piece playing over the opening credits, the game is backed by a fine orchestral soundtrack, which is also included as a folder of MP3s in the download files. There is a good use of sound effects as well, such as the constant rain of London.
Being the last game in the series, Case 8 will not make much sense to those who haven’t played the previous episodes, but existing fans will find lots of references to the earlier games here. The opening credits provide a visual summary of past games, and you will meet several characters from previous episodes, including one particularly surprising return. There are also two flashback segments where you get to play the man who inspired Ben to his career. The game suffers somewhat from excessive linearity, but this allows the same attention to storytelling as in the previous episodes, the narrative coming round to a satisfying conclusion. Inventory use, code-solving and a cleverly designed maze form the obstacles to your goals. There are also some timed sequences that can result in death, but an auto-save is provided for these. The game also features five possible endings and two commentary tracks, giving plenty of reason to replay.
Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator - Case 8: Relics of the Past can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
The Visitor 2
When a saucer carrying five of his scouts is shot down on Earth, one agent was the obvious choice for the rescue mission. After all, when his ship crashed on the same planet, didn’t Agent Moss singlehandedly defeat the dastardly humans and their vicious beasts? At least, that was the story he told on his return. The truth is not quite as heroic, as his new partner, Agent Scar, will soon discover. Now using a two-pronged approach, these two agents must infiltrate a NASA base to rescue their comrades. Hopefully Agent Moss will experience more of the luck that allowed him to survive last time.
Nicky Nyce’s tale of a hapless alien gains a second chapter, with some new features added to the mix. The graphics are displayed in the same slightly cartoonish style of the original, the aliens once again rendered as the classic big-eyed little green men. The animation is also well done, from a simple walking motion to a less savoury activity Moss engages in when he thinks no-one is looking. There are also background animations like a squirrel in one of the trees. You will start off in a saucer that is slightly more grandiose than the one Moss flew in the first game. Once down on the ground, you will travel through the woods surrounding the NASA base, as well as the laboratories and offices of the interior. On the saucer, Moss’s stereo belts out techno music, though you can turn this off. On the planet, sound is limited to effects for actions like being beamed or suitable background noise such as night birds in the woods.
This game carries on the dark comedy of the original. The aliens have a very low opinion of human beings, and there are some places in the game where harming humans is vital to the plot. There is also a horror element, as human experimentation with the scouts appears to have created a new creature. In the opening section you solely control Moss, but a short time after beaming down to the planet you gain the ability to switch to Scar, and you will subsequently need to alternate between the two characters from time to time in order to advance. Agent Moss shows his incompetence early on, inadvertently rendering a vital mission tool ineffective. His scared half-wit personality is a sharp contrast to Scar’s confident veteran, contemptuous of Moss and sceptical about his stories. As you switch between them, you will use and combine inventory, as well as locate passcodes and operate machinery.
The Visitor 2 can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Obama in the Dark
When paranormal activity is detected at a 19th century mansion south of Washington DC, a SWAT team is sent in to investigate. What they find is a foe too terrifying even for these hardened men to deal with. Once more the President must step in personally to deal with the crisis. But even this brave man finds himself unnerved by the supernatural goings-on at the house. When the gate slams shut behind him, he has no choice but to try to solve the mystery. Perhaps coming here unaccompanied in the night wasn’t such a good idea after all.
Inkagames's latest tale of the American leader’s heroic exploits takes inspiration from a classic game series. The graphics feature the same bright cartoon style of their previous offerings, with oversized character heads allowing for exaggerated expressions. The game is also smoothly animated, with both the President himself and his supernatural adversaries moving fluidly. Locations will feel familiar to fans of the Alone in the Dark series. The exterior of the mansion, with its small hedge maze, copies One-Eyed Jack’s home from the second game, while many of the interior rooms echo the Derceto mansion from the original. A creepy background musical piece plays outside the mansion, with a more dramatic score taking over inside.
The point-and-click gameplay is also the same as previous inkagames productions. Prominent red arrows indicate available locations and there are plentiful objects for collection. Whilst the inspiration was a horror series, the tone here is lightly humorous, though this doesn’t prevent the supernatural forces ranged against you from being a threat. As in previous offerings, there are numerous ways to bring a premature end to your adventure, with a failure screen showing your fate. But once again, these screens include a clue to avoid this event and an option to undo the fatal action. The abundant inventory sees extensive use, though you will need to pay close attention to clues scattered about to use it properly. Some puzzles also pay homage to actions in the Alone in the Dark games.
Obama in the Dark can be played online at the developer’s website.Continued on the next page...