Tag Archives: Review

Ben There, Dan That

Ben There, Dan That is and old school point-and-click adventure, similar to Lucasarts’ SCUMM based games from the 90s. For those too young to remember, SCUMM was the engine used to develop such classics as The Secret of Monkey Island, Sam & Max Hit the Road, and Day of the Tentacle. For those too young to remember those games, this could well be your gateway into a wealth of great and almost timeless games.


The posters on the wall in the screenshot above are telling references to the inspiration for Ben There, Dan That. The focus here is heavily on the humour, but it has a strong character of its own courtesy of the game’s titular characters, Ben and Dan. Much of the dialogue in the game is between the duo, a witty back and forth falling generally into the well tread comedy trope of straight man and funny man. The British developers upon whom the game’s characters are based also bring a dry slant to the comedy which is somewhat unique among its peers. That could well be a matter of taste, but it hit the right notes for me.

There’s more to a point-and-click than jokes though. Puzzles form the main challenge, and for the most part the desired result is well communicated. It isn’t flawless in that respect – I had to resort to an online guide on a couple of occasions – but for the most part the difficulty is in working out how to do something rather than what it was I needed to do. Those familiar with the genre will have undoubtedly reached a point in other games where you, in desperation, use each item in your inventory on the others in an attempt to find out some obscure combination. I won’t claim I didn’t to that here also, but I can declare that it didn’t work.


The story centres around Dan and Ben trying to get home after being abducted by aliens, which takes them through various alternate dimensions, each a warped version of Earth. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, with alternatives such as a world where Britain is ruled by America, one where dinosaurs are still the dominant race, or the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. All of this is rendered in low-fi 2D, and if beautifully painted mattes or complex 3D models are your thing then the doodle-esque art style may not be for you. The style fits the tone though, and while I expect something more detailed could well have added some nice incidental detail to the benefit of the game, the lack of it doesn’t detract. The sound is similarly basic but fitting, with cheerful and unintrusive chip music plinking away in the background.


Ben There, Dan That is the funniest point-and-click I’ve played since the early 90s. It’s not particularly long or difficult, and other modern adventures (Machinarium for example) can provide prettier backdrops and cleverer puzzles, but if you like your games with a sense of humour then this is the one to choose. And if you haven’t played those games I mentioned in the introduction, and you do play this and enjoy it, get yourself ScummVM and have a go at some of the old classics.

Warlock 2: The Exiled

It’s difficult to judge Warlock 2 on its own merits. Obviously as the sequel to 2012’s Warlock: Master of the Arcane it will draw close comparison, but even a cursory glance at the screenshots will put many in mind of Civilization V too. Before weighing it up against the competition though, we should examine the game on what it presents.

Starting units are weaker than they look

Starting units are weaker than they look

The meat of Warlock 2 is a turn based strategy game where you build cities in order to dominate the land and produce units with which to explore and conquer. This is no simple task – the world is full of unpleasant monsters which must be cleared out first, and many of them will be more than a match for your troops. Fortunately city buildings and experience will allow you to empower your units with skills and upgrades which can balance the odds for a while, but the whole game will be an arms race against the monsters. On top of the fauna, there are a number of other mages – the off-map overseers of each empire – making their own designs on the world.

The world itself is divided into shards of various sizes and environments, linked by portals. The variety is impressive, ranging from the mundane but productive pastures and tundra, to the more spectacular death or elemental lands. Each has its own flavour of hostile creatures and useful resources. The type of terrain isn’t quite as important as it might be in a more conventional setting – among your book of spells, containing the usual damage, healing and buffs, are terraforming spells that allow you to pretty much configure each city as you like given enough time and resources.

Even for late game armies, there's always something bigger than you

Even with late game armies, there’s always something bigger than you

The option of tailoring your cities is essential to the running of your empire, due to one of Warlock 2’s most interesting departures from the strategy norm: Your empire has a maximum limit to how many cities you can have at any given time. At first this is frustrating, but once you abandon the mindset of conquest through unfettered growth it becomes liberating. That isn’t to say you can’t dominate the map with cities though, the limit only applies to those under your direct control. Other cities captured or settled can be assigned to specialist roles and do not contribute to the cap, although they don’t expand or produce units. The limit isn’t a hard ceiling either, you can go over that limit at the expense of population happiness. This allows you to capture cities and take the happiness hit while you re-purpose them. The most significant impact on the game, though, is that it forces you to consider exactly where to position each one you do maintain, what strategic resources it will give you, what units it will produce. Decisions must be made whether to abandon a potentially valuable resource to an automated city, or abandon an established city and take the production hit while you build up the new one. In the later stages of the game it isn’t as simple a choice as it may sound, because to survive against the more powerful roaming monsters you will need those resources and advanced troops.

In contrast to the grand strategy of the core game, there is a light element of RPG to it. At various points you will be able to recruit hero units, powerful (but not invincible) individuals who can be equipped with magic items and will likely form the core of your armies. The main campaign is quest based, setting you objectives with the ultimate goal to overthrow the United One and his henchmen. It’s an interesting journey – each of the bad guys will interfere with you in different ways by casting spells or summoning monsters until you complete the quest to stop them. This interference swings between interesting diversion to irritatingly distracting, but in either case it breaks up the constant push of conquest.

Cities have to pull their weight or be cut, even your capital

Cities have to pull their weight or be cut, even your capital

So how does it compare to its contemporaries? Warlock 2 may have some longetivity issues when compared to Civ V. The game isn’t as complex and suffers from a lack of victory conditions, and while it isn’t designed to be an empire builder the wargame focus doesn’t quite fill the gap. Compared to Warlock it improves in almost every way, but loses the grand wargame feel due to late game being deadly to all but a handful of the highest powered units. The improvements aren’t huge or significant though, and owners of the first game could be forgiven for feeling like Warlock 2 is a full priced expansion, but anyone who played Civ V and wanted more war, or anyone who’s been hankering for a new Master of Magic, could do far worse than to take a look.

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

In writing a review of Chivalry: Modern Warfare I have a few issues to deal with. It raises the question of what makes a game good versus what makes it enjoyable. Surely they’re the same thing, some may say. Well okay, ‘good’ is a subjective word so maybe they’re right, but in terms of quality they don’t necessarily sit hand in hand, and this is especially true. When it comes to the games 5punkers like this is even more true. Allow me to explain.


Chivalry is a fairly simple first person, round-based, multiplayer combat game. That’s nothing unusual, and it follows in the footsteps of many greats like Team Fortress 2 with various game modes and no particular overall metagame. Of course there are many not-so-greats in this somewhat oversubscribed genre too.

So why am I reviewing Chivalry and not one of the many others? To begin with, it narrows down its field of competitors by being all about melee combat. There is a ranged class, but combat is centred around swinging heavy and often sharp pieces of metal at your opponent. There aren’t too many multiplayer games around for that, and before I fall into the trap of trying to make comparisons I’ll admit that I’ve not played any of the others. Something I have noticed about the odd single player game I’ve played which tries to handle this subject though is that the controls are usually akin to jousting with fork-lifts.

We love Chiv.

The rounds come as the usual fare: free-for-all, team deathmatch, capture the flag. There’s also a popular objective mode based on medieval sieges, which is quite good. It doesn’t add up to a huge amount of game though. The variety of classes and weapons, along with even more class-specific weapons via unlocks, is good, and each weapon has a slightly different feel, but it all pretty much boils down to hitting the other guy with something.

The actual act of doing that is a pretty tactile experience. This is in part from the very intuitive controls which map both mouse buttons and scroll wheel to different ways of swinging the weapon. They vary in the specifics, but always come down to a compromise of speed, range and power.It might not sound a lot but it really makes if feel like you’re handling a weapon rather than just clicking to poke a stick.

On top of that, parrying will slow your opponent’s next attack and leave you with a slight speed advantage, so every combat is a little tactical exchange of blows, and every blow counts when it only takes two or three for a kill. Visually too, the combat will jar your view and disorientate you. Your weapon will connect satisfyingly with the enemy, and if you get a kill there’s a fair chance the limb you hit could come off or shatter in a spray of gore and bone.

Look at little Pnut there, getting all lairy.

The combination of a creative game mode and a fun combat system isn’t quite enough to make a great game. This is where the 5punky review deviates from what I would write were it a straight review for Joe Average Gamer. There are extra little touches added to Chivalry which bump it from a brief distraction to a 5punky classic.

The brutal combat and slightly silly physics is satisfying but also very amusing. You can’t fail to grin and the goofy flopping corpse of your opponent when you get a kill. There’s also a key bound to scream a war-cry, which adds another layer of ridiculous to the whole thing as knights charge and clash to the constant backdrop of “YEEEEEAAAAAAARGH!”


The real deal breaker for us though is the discovery of low gravity servers. I don’t know if it’s a mod or a mutator, but either way it is howlingly funny. The game automatically plays a terrified scream if you fall a certain distance, but in low gravity this happens every time you jump. The effect is that you find yourself in the middle of an acrobatic ballet of screaming, flailing knights. Limbs arc away trailing bloody sprays and people jab desperately at each others’ crotches. It turns the ridiculous into the sublime, and for that it won 5punk’s Game of the Year 2013.

It might not be a game that gets played every week, and when it does we might not play it for more than an hour or so, but Chivalry is so side-splittingly funny to play that it will be a 5punky classic for years to come, up there in the hall of fame along with Call of Duty: United Offensive and Burnout Paradise.

Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol

2K and Firaxis a recently started releasing games on tablets, and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol caught my eye for its pedigree and interesting subject. So I picked it up for my iPad, for free and apparently identical to the PC version, to see if it was worth buying.



Continue reading