Friday, November 2, 2012

Ben Jordan: Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea Review

In The Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea, the paranormal investigator's second case, Grundislav Games takes every thing that worked well in the first case and expands on it, making a much bigger adventure for Ben Jordan to experience than before.

The case takes place less than a week after the last one.  Ben Jordan receives a call from a woman in California. She informs Ben that her husband went missing when looking for the Lost Galleon, a Spanish treasure ship that was fabled to be at the bottom of the Salton Sea.  The game takes place in and around a small desert town.  There are shops for Ben to visit, items that he can purchase, and employees and customers to whom he can talk.  There are also surrounding areas he can visit. Some are nearly ghost towns, and others have their own set of colorful characters.

As with the previous case, the people that Ben will meet are quite an interesting sort.  They are once again voiced well for a free adventure game, with no real standouts as being overly irritating.  The voice of the old prospector is close, but his voice grew on me with time.  There is no voice for the narrator this time.  Descriptions of objects are now presented in plain text in a black box in the center of the screen.  The music is also well done, with a nice set of songs that fit each of the game's locations.

Once again, there is no way to get voices and subtitles on the screen at the same time.  The only way to get subtitles on the screen is to turn off the voice pack in the setup program.  There are no overly quiet characters this time, so it shouldn't be an issue for most, but for those who have a hard time hearing or those where English isn't their first language, it will likely be necessary.  Like the last game, however, the story is interesting enough to hold your interest even without voice over work.

The game uses the same visual style as the last, with realistic backgrounds that look nice despite their early 1990's era resolution, and pixelated character sprites that are evened out by detailed character portraits that are a mix of cartoon style and realistic.  The game uses the same Sierra style interface as the last, with the actions selected by the top menu bar or by cycling through icons with your right mouse button.  The top menu inventory and helpful notebook icon where you can check Ben's current task return as well.  The game does make an improvement on the map over the last.  Instead of having to select the map from your inventory, you simply leave the area.  This is more in line with most adventure games with map-based travel, and is a much easier way to navigate.

The puzzles inventory based puzzles are just as interesting as the last game.  There are some new styles of puzzles here, and once again the puzzles that go outside the box were my favorite.  There is one puzzle that goes beyond real world logic, but as this is a series featuring the paranormal, it works well when you put your mindset in the game's world.  There is a puzzle that I quite enjoyed that is reminiscent of a puzzle in Telltale's second Bone game, which would be released a few years after this case.

The second case of Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator is an improvement over the already impressive first case. The deluxe version is definitely the version to get, as it adds several things to the overall experience.  There is more area to explore, the voices are performed slightly better this time, the inventory-based map is replaced with a much easier to use system, and there is more music since there are more locations.  The puzzles are fun once again, with the puzzles that think outside the box being the standouts.  The game's only real flaw is the same as the first, in that there is no way to have subtitles and voices on screen at the same time.  However, the game's intriguing story is enough to keep interest even without voice work.  Like the first case, Ben Jordan: Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea is one of the best free adventure games that I have played.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

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