Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ben Jordan: Land of the Rising Dead Review

Ben's cases begin to get more dangerous as he teams up with the friends he met in London.  Luckily, the rising of the stakes also goes along with the rising of quality, as the Ben Jordan series continues to get better as it goes on.

At home after his experience at the Number 50 in London, Ben receives a conference call from the two people he got along best with on that trip.  Simon and Alice invite Ben to Osaka, Japan to investigate a series of murders that have been labeled the "ghost killings".  As he arrives, however, signs point to zombies being the culprit, and the case finds itself headed in directions that none of the three had expected.

The graphics are more refined here, and more closely resemble the deluxe editions of the first two cases.  It's still presented in a 320x240 resolution pixelated format, reminiscent of the Sierra and LucasArts games that inspired it, but everything is nicely detailed.  The portraits look more realistic than the last few cases, and the backgrounds are lovely, capturing the look of Japan quite well.  The music is also really nice, with a nice blend of spooky and Japanese inspired music that fits the atmosphere perfectly.  There is still no voice work, but the game's dialog makes up for it.  This is Ben Jordan's most intriguing case yet, which is saying something in a career that has seen him go up against skunkapes, witches, and ghosts.  There are many twists and turns in the plot here, as well as multiple paths to the ending.

As usual in this series, the puzzles are done quite well here.  Alice is the only one of her companions to speak Japanese, so there are instances where Alice must conduct the investigation while Ben looks on, in a situation reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  The Gabriel Knight influence also shows heavily here, as Ben finds himself reading the daily newspaper to find clues for the day's investigation, as five days pass on their visit to Japan.  As usual, it is possible to die, but the danger is obvious when it comes, so it gives you plenty of time to save before hand (and, luckily time freezes once in the inventory, so you'll have plenty of leeway to think your way out of the situation).  There is one puzzle where the answers aren't given to you by the game, and only relies on your own knowledge (or luck).  However, even if you lose, you don't die, you just don't get as many of the game's arbitrary points, which shouldn't be a big deal for most gamers.

The Ben Jordan cases continue to improve as the series goes on.  As this case was released in the same year of the first deluxe edition, the graphics more closely resemble those versions, so there isn't as much of a clash for those who experienced first experienced the deluxe editions as there was the last two cases.  There still isn't voice over work, but the game's intriguing storyline, interesting characters, and excellent music make up for it.  Like the other cases, Land of the Rising Dead is one of the best freeware adventure games available.

Final Verdict:

4½ out of 5

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