Time Gentlemen, Please! is a fantastic, hilarious point-and-click adventure game released in 2009 for PC. It’s as indie as indie gets, made almost entirely by two zany Englishmen, Ben Ward and Dan Marshall. Dan is the founder of Size Five Games, formerly known as Zombie-Cow and also handles the programming, while the pair shares writing duties. The two also star as themselves in this game and its predecessor, 2008’s freeware sensation, Ben There, Dan That. Time Gentlemen, crafted with the Adventure Game Studio for almost no budget, is a huge accomplishment, comparable in quality to the classic LucasArts games of the 1990s. You can purchase both games on Steam for the low, low price of US$4.99, and you should! But if you don’t believe me, which I don’t really blame you for, allow me to present the following review in an attempt to change your mind.
Time Gentlemen has the perfect level of challenge. It outright mocks the absurd difficulty of predecessors like King’s Quest; there is virtually no way to lose the game. You can’t accidentally destroy an item which is crucial to solving the game. You can’t die at all, no matter how hard you try.
Besides just not being annoying, the fellows at Size Five Games have managed to craft some excellent puzzles. While the solutions are often absurd, the game gives you plenty of prompting towards the solution. Once you acquire a magnet, for example, Ben and Dan will pointedly mention it whenever they spy metal in a room. Some of the item combinations can be a bit tricky and in defiance of logic, butthe creators have painstakingly written unique and helpful descriptive text for almost every investigative action, meaning that by looking at enough things, you can almost always find a hint towards the solution.
General Baffling Inventiveness
The game will have you jumping backwards and forwards in time, battling Evil Future Hitler (who is even more evil than regular 1940s Hitler), revisiting locations from Ben There, Dan That, and mucking about in a layer cake of dimensions within dimensions, such that the player never becomes bored with the affair. Some adventure games drag on and on, from one mundane location to the next, with little to hold my interest; Time Gentlemen thankfully does not have that problem.
Rarely have I seen the unbridled inspirado displayed in this game. My favorite level in the game, and probably in any game ever, involves playing a text-based adventure game. That’s right, a crude adventure game in the vein of Zork couched within another, slightly less crude adventure game. But it doesn’t stop there. When you hit an impasse, you actually manage to rend dimensions and travel into the game world, so that now you’re in some kind of trippy Inception-style Russian matryoshka doll situation. Absolutely brilliant.
It’s Just a Bit Crude
While Time Gentlemen has definitely improved leaps and bounds over Ben There, Dan That, it’s still very unsophisticated by modern standards. Still, I hesitate to even call this a con, because it actually works to the game’s advantage. Ben and Dan have deliberately crafted it as an homage to old Sierra and LucasArts adventure games, like Police Quest or Sam and Max. The art is vibrant and cartoonish, partially because Size Five Games simply couldn’t afford snazzy new 3D effects, but mostly because the ’90s adventure games looked that way too.
Time Gentlemen is a bit of a nostalgia trip in that way, but it shouldn’t put off those who are unfamiliar with the genre. The game, like a good episode of The Simpsons, works on a surface level for sheer entertainment, but hides surprising depth for those who look up all the references.
This section is also going to toe the line between pro and con, because the frequent and overwhelming vulgarity of the game is going to be really polarizing. Many f-bombs and ess-aitch-eye-tees are dropped throughout, and some of the puzzles require interacting with some seriously disgusting objects (soiled prophylactics — that’s all I’m sayin’). If you grew up with twisted shows like South Park and Mission Hill, like I did, this is business as usual and great fun. But for the more conservative types, the level of outrageous nastiness will be a turn off.
This review is bit dated, since Time Gentlemen came out in 2009, but Size Five Games is a young indie company that needs all the positive PR they can get. And just look at how cheap it is! It’s a must-buy for sure, especially since you can get Ben There, Dan That for free in the bundle. What are you waiting for! Stop reading!