Adventure Game Studio freeware game engine created the perfect opportunity for people who can draw even a little bit to create great adventure games. There are plenty of games using that engine which are truly wonderful and exciting. Not surprisingly though - with an easy to use, flexible tools at the disposal there is no limits but imagination. There are, of course, plenty of terrible games as well. What is astounding, at least for me, is that some of not so good AGS games are highly praised by the community.
I am going to talk about the first game in the Ben Jordan adventure game series, Ben Jordan Case 1: In Search of the Skunk-Ape. There are two versions of the game available at the moment, the original one and the Deluxe Edition. There are plenty of differences between the two of them, so I played them both in a row. Without a doubt I can say that this title is total crap, deluxe or not.
To explain my opinion better, I will have to mention the key plot elements (I giggled when I wrote this), so, if you have any interest in playing the game, go do it now. It won't take you more than 30 minutes to finish any of the two versions of the game without using any hints.
I am willing to close my eyes on a lot of flops in the plot, but there are still things which bother me a lot. For example, lets believe that no authorities got interested in the brutal murders of quite a few people in the Florida Everglades, and the National Park decided to turn to the amateur paranormal investigator.
During his short investigation, Ben Jordan reveals the secret of the Skunk-Ape. Yes, it comes out that there is really such a beast in existence, and it really was killing people, mutilating their bodies and taking their liver out (I really didn't get the liver touch, but it doesn't matter). The story twist is that the mythical ape was not committing those acts of violence out of its own will. No-no. It was controlled by some crook, who was using the Skunk-Ape's lair to hide his cocaine stash!!!
In the original version of the game, that crook was using an electrical collar to be able to submit the beast to his will, in the Deluxe Edition it was not only the collar, but also drugs. Yes, the bad guy was feeding poor animal cocaine in order to bend its will.
I mean, common, this must be the worst plot ever created. Some guy is hiding cocaine in the Skunk-Ape's cave, killing everyone who comes close to the place using the beast. Five people - three park rangers and two tourists - slain in a short period of time, all that goes public... doesn't that contradict the whole point of hiding something? The guy lives in a small cabin in the middle of nowhere... hiding the stash in that house of his would have been a much saner idea.
Just to compare. I've played plenty of Russian adventure games, they are very famous for having weird and illogical plots. Guess what? Ben Jordan's first case beats the hell out of those games. In Search of the Skunk-Ape is simply moronic! Even if we consider the game to be a crazy-ass comedy, it's still stupid over the top.
And to finish with my bashing, I would like to bring up one of the changes made in the Deluxe Edition of the game.
When Ben Jordan confronts Jed Johnson, the bad guy who controls the ape, they have the following conversation.
In original version.
BEN: "How were you able to tame the Skunk-Ape?"
JED: "Oh, that part was easy. You'd be surprised how complacent a vicious beast becomes when you give him an electronic collar."
In Deluxe Edition, which is advertised to have an improved storyline.
BEN: "So you've been using the Skunk-Ape to guard your drugs? How?"
JED: "It's pretty simple, really. I go into the city and steal the drugs for myself off the ships in the port..."
I bet you've noticed something weird about that answer of Jed's. Sure, in the end he gives an answer to the question asked, but, well, why not tell the story of his life while at it?
Also, in the original version Jed was depicted as a drug trafficker. The "improved" version shows that he was storing the drugs for himself. Which makes even less sense. I think I should tell those kids I know are smoking weed to find some mutant hippo to guard their stash too.
There are quite a few of plot "improvements", not going to mention them all, at least for now. The Deluxe Edition's only benefit is better graphics, otherwise it brought only more bizarre plot elements which made the game even worse than it was originally. Don't get me wrong though, both versions of the game are horrible.