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Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator

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Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator is the main title of a planned series of eight amateur adventure games made by Francisco "Grundislav" Gonzalez with freeware adventure game engine Adventure Game Studio. To date, there have been seven games released in the series, each game being a separate "case" investigated by Ben Jordan, the protagonist and player character. Each game features the main title and a subtitle, usually relating to the plot of the case. The series distinguishes itself from other games about paranormal investigation in that many of the paranormal phenomena are taken from real-life legends and folklore.

There were originally nine games planned, but one was dropped because of a weak plot.

Characters

The Ben Jordan games have been praised for having strong character development, even in the earlier, shorter episodes. As of the third and fourth games, there have been several characters who have become important to the series.

The Ben Jordan series is one of the relatively few AGS games that uses Sierra-style speech (speech includes close-up portraits of the characters faces), compared to the majority of AGS games that use LucasArts-style speech (text above characters). Most of the characters portraits used for dialog were redrawn in Case 5 to have a more serious disposition and will presumably be used in all games following it.

Ben Jordan
Ben Jordan is the main character of the series, a young man from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in his early twenties who has recently graduated college with a degree in International Relations. However, his dream is to be a paranormal investigator. Ben is curious, brave, and altogether likeable, but unfortunately for him, seems to suffer from the bad luck of losing people he becomes close to. As a result, he has become wary of getting too attached to people, and becomes angry more easily than before. At the end of Case 6, Alice and Ben realize they have feelings for each other and share a kiss. It is presumed they are now a couple. At the end of Case 7, Jordan is knocked out by Percival Quentin Jones, his fate unknown.
Percival Quentin Jones
A professor of Criminology at Oxford University, Percival Quentin Jones met Ben Jordan in Smailholm, Scotland, where he was investigating the murder of the two children there. At the time he was rude and condescending towards Ben, but his attitude quickly changed after the case was solved, and he was quite helpful during Ben's investigation of the Horror at Number 50. Not much is known about Percy, but his final comment at the end of Case 4 would suggest that there is more to him than he lets on. In Case 6, it is revealed that he may not work at Oxford at all due to a statement spoken by Professor Quincy Sanbourne. At the end of Case 7 it is revealed that Jones has been a villain throughout the series and is a member of an evil religious order known as the Knights of St. Anthony.
Mary Blaine
A young Scottish lady, living in the village of Smailholm. Ben met her while she was in jail on the accusation of being a witch and having murdered the two McBee children. In reality, this was all an elaborate setup by the entire village who were witches, and wanted to lure Ben in to be their sacrifice. Following the "good" ending of Case 3 as canon, Mary found herself falling in love with Ben because of the kindness and compassion he showed her, and Ben fell for her as well. Unfortunately, she was killed by Zortherus, which upset Ben greatly.
Zortherus
The leader of the Dark Witch Cult of Smailholm. He has been around since colonial times. He was presumably killed when Ben Jordan put a stake through his heart.
Simon Booth
An English ghost hunter from Birmingham, Simon is an outgoing, likable guy. He and Ben met outside Number 50, Berkeley Square, and the two quickly became friends. He was nearly killed by a phorcyde in Case 6, but he was quickly saved with the help of Alice and Ben. He is presumably killed at the end of Case 7 by members of the Knights of St. Anthony.
Alice Wilkins
A young lady from Sacramento, California, studying parapsychology at Harvard. Oddly, her name also appears on a tombstone in Ben Jordan 3. But this was answered in Case 7: Alice Wilkins, the oldest resident of Smailholm, was the great great grandmother of Alice, Ben's friend. She was also present at Number 50, and took a liking to both Ben and Simon. At the end of Case 6, Alice and Ben finally realize that they have feelings for each other and share a kiss. It is presumed this means they are now a couple. At the end of Case 7 she is missing.
Cardinal Genovese
The leader of the Knights of St Anthony. At first, he is friendly (he listens to Ben's confessions), but he later captures Ben, Alice, and Simon.
Vincenzo Bianchi
The most faithful follower of the Knights of St Anthony. He lives in an apartment in Via Casimiro Gennari. His apartment is raided by Ben, who steals the key to his secret room. He is killed when Ben breaks Jesus' excorcism locket in front of him, releasing a demon.

Plot

While each case in the series features a self-contained plot relating to the current investigation, the author has hinted that there is an overall story arc linking all the games together. Observant players may be able to pick out plot elements which play key roles in later games from the cases currently available.

Case 1 - In Search of the Skunk-Ape

Ben's first case begins with him speaking on the phone to his disappointed mother about his recent decision to become a paranormal investigator. He is just about to give up his dream when he receives a phone call from a park ranger in the Florida Everglades, who tells him that a sasquatch-like creature known as the Skunk-Ape is suspected of causing several disappearances and murders. Desperate for a case, Ben agrees to go to the Everglades and investigate.

Upon arriving, a ranger named Ernie informs Ben that the ranger who called him has become the Skunk-Ape's most recent victim. After some initial interrogations and investigating, Ben meets a ranger named Rick who agrees to go out into the forest and camp out to see if they can find the Skunk-Ape. Ben finds the beast's lair and discovers several packets of cocaine hidden in a deep hole. He concludes that someone must be controlling the Skunk-Ape to guard their secret stash.

That night, Ben and Rick talk over the campfire and become friends. However, later on in the night Ben and Rick go off to find the Skunk-Ape, and after being caught by surprise by the beast, Rick decides to shoot it. Rick reveals that he only wanted to find the Skunk-Ape for his own financial gain, and is promptly killed by the monster. Ben runs away, and eventually finds himself outside a cabin owned by a man named Jed. Upon entering the cabin, Jed reveals that he is using the Skunk-Ape to guard his stash of drugs. Ben manages to interfere with the Ape's control mechanism, causing Jed to be killed and the Skunk-Ape to return to the forest.

Case 1 Deluxe

The Deluxe Edition presents a slightly different, more thorough version of these events.

The game begins from Ben Jordan's point of view, telling the player his life story and revealing that he is recounting the series while unconscious in the back seat of a car belonging to someone he thought he could trust but betrayed him. We then see Ben talking on the phone with his mother.

The rest of the game's story is similar to the original version, except rather than blacking out at the Skunk-Ape's lair and being dragged to Jed's cabin, Ben runs away and happens upon the cabin by chance, at first thinking Jed is friendly, but soon finding out that he is in fact behind the Skunk Ape's rampage.

There is also an extra scene after the credits, in which we see a moustached old man talking to a man dressed as a monk in Rome, Italy. The moustached man (later revealed to be Vincenzo Bianchi in Case 7) says "Signore, I have good news. We've found another one." The other, a hooded Cardinal Genovese (revealed later) replies "Excellent."

Case 2 - The Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea

In Ben's second case, he is called out to Dunesberg, California, a small town in the middle of the desert. A woman named Annie Roberts tells Ben that her husband George has gone off searching for something known as the Lost Galleon, and has not returned after two weeks. Ben sets out to find out more about the Lost Galleon and George.

Driving out to the Salton Sea, Ben finds several treasure hunters already there. Through his resourcefulness, Ben manages to locate the galleon and dives in to explore, but something in the water causes him to black out. When he wakes up, he finds himself in a cell with George Roberts, who tells him that the ghost of the captain is the one holding them captive. Ben and George manage to escape, then meet the ghost, who tells them they are trapped in the Galleon as his prisoners. However, Ben manages to create a "Spirit Box" which traps the ghost and forces it to transport them back to Dunesberg, where George is reunited with his wife.

Case 2 Deluxe

A Deluxe version of Ben Jordan 2 was released on March 26, 2010 featuring enhanced graphics, new music and voiceovers.

As with Case 1, Case 2 Deluxe is faithful to the original with some slight changes in the execution of puzzles and in the plot itself. Three new characters are introduced towards the game's end, as well as a new subplot to explore in the game as well.

There is also an extra scene at the end with Percival Quentin Jones in his office, reading a newspaper presumably about the Lost Galleon. Surprised at Ben's success, Jones remarks "I think it's time to finally meet Mr. Jordan".

Case 3 - The Sorceress of Smailholm

Ben's third case sees him going to Smailholm, Scotland, to investigate the murder of two little girls. The people in the town suspect that it was the work of local witches, and have imprisoned a young woman named Mary Blaine, who is accused of consorting with a local suspected witch and was found at the scene of the crime.

This game marks a turning point in the series, as it introduces a rival investigator, Percival Quentin Jones, who challenges Ben every step of the way, as well as Mary Blaine, Ben's love interest. The game is different in that it features a branch in the story. Depending on whether or not the player performs a key action, the game will end differently.

In the more obvious ending, Ben is captured by the local constable, but manages to escape. Mary reveals that she and the whole town are actually all witches, and their leader is a vampire-witch named Zortherus. In the end, Percival Jones rescues Ben from being sacrificed, and Ben kills Zortherus, causing the rest of the witch cult to age rapidly and die. In this ending, many plot points are left unanswered.

In the less obvious (but preferred by fans) ending, Ben releases Mary from jail and the two fall in love. Ben discovers that the girls who were murdered never really existed, and the whole story of the murders was just a hoax to lure him to Smailholm and be sacrificed. This time, it is Mary who comes to Ben's rescue, but she is killed by Zortherus in front of Ben. Ben, in a rage, manages to escape and kill Zortherus. Percy Jones finds him and Ben shows him the bodies of the witch cult.

Case 3 contains several Easter Eggs. One involves the gnarled old tree outside the village, and the other requires your computer's date to be set to a particular date.

Case 4 - Horror at Number 50

Back in London, Ben is at Percy Jones's office, when a man named Randolph Miggs comes in and tells Ben he is looking for him. He tells Ben the story of Number 50, Berkeley Square, a building with a haunted past which Miggs now owns and has converted into a rare bookshop. He says that there is a ghost known only as "The Horror" which has been dormant for as long as he can remember, but has recently begun making its presence known again. Ben agrees to investigate.

Upon arriving at Number 50, Ben discovers that he will not be investigating alone, as Miggs has called on four other paranormal investigators, including Simon Booth, an English ghost-hunter, Alice Wilkins, an American major in parapsychology, Otto Schneider, a mysterious German ghost-hunter, and Madame Tilly Rosenquist, an over-the-top English medium.

The five investigators collaborate and finally hold a séance to make contact with the spirits. This causes Madame Tilly to go into a comatose state. Simon discovers a door that leads to a series of rooms that are inexplicably larger than the entire house, and ends up vanishing without a trace. Finally, Ben is able to get into a locked room at the top of the stairs, and he, Otto, and Alice are able to banish The Horror, which has possessed Madame Tilly, back into the spirit world. In the end, it is revealed that Simon survived and is alive and well.

Case 4 was the first in the series to use the technique known as rotoscoping, also used in many of the early '90s Sierra games. This game is also important to the series as it introduces the characters of Alice Wilkins and Simon Booth, both of whom play large supporting roles in the rest of the series.

The real house at number 50, Berkeley Square, is the most infamous haunted house in London. As in Case 4, it is currently occupied by a dealer of antique books.[1]

Case 5 - Land Of The Rising Dead

After the events of Number 50 in London, Ben Jordan goes home, only to begin having nightmares about Mary Blaine.

One morning he gets a phone call from his friends, Simon Booth and Alice Wilkins. Simon has heard of a series of murders in Osaka, Japan, labelled "The Ghost Murders" by the police. The group decide to go investigate.

Arriving in Japan, it becomes apparent that something more is going on than just some random murders. Ben befriends Inspector Yoshi, lead detective on the case, and is granted a surprisingly hands-on run of the police station. Eventually he finds that the murder victims are all prominent businessmen in the city. Throughout the course of the game, Ben investigates some mysterious deaths in a nearby village, goes on a crazy Japanese game show, and eventually solves The Ghost Murders.

However, the game ends on a somewhat sad note, with Alice in a coma after being poisoned, and Ben struggling with his feelings for Mary and Simon's constant suggesting that he and Alice should be a couple.

This game is different from others since the suspected paranormal phenomenon is proven false.

Case 6 - Scourge Of The Sea People

Ben, Alice, and Simon decide to go on vacation in Greece. Originally planning to stay in Athens, they find their way is blocked due to a student holiday, so they decide to go to a smaller village called Agia Anna, in Evia.

Once there, Ben investigates an underwater civilization of humanoid creatures, called Sea People. In order to go out to the sea to do work for this case, he gets the help of a fisherman who lives in a tiny house near the water. He also meets Professor Quincy Sanbourne, author of the Paranormal Investigator's Handbook and a professor at Oxford University. Sanbourne reveals that he has many friends in the Criminology department at Oxford, and has never heard of anyone named Percival Quentin Jones working there.

While in Agia Anna, Simon finds out that Ben has been working on a case during their vacation and is angered that he would do such a thing. They have an argument and Simon goes off on a date with a local girl. Simon soon realizes that this case is legitimate after two campers disappear from the beach in the middle of the night with drag marks leading into the water. Ben gets the help of an oracle to make a potion that allows him to breathe underwater for a period of time.

Once Ben locates the Sea People's lair, he takes the potion and dives in. He finds the throne of the King of the Sea People, and it turns out that the murders are not the doing of the Sea People, but rather of evil creatures called Phorcydes. Ben, Alice, and Simon wait on the beach at night. As they're talking, a phorcyde emerges from the sea and attempts to kill Simon and drag him into the water. Alice distracts the phorcyde and Ben kills it with a trident given to him by the King of the Sea People.

In the end, Ben and Alice have a conversation on the beach and share a kiss, after which Simon appears and states that it's about time they finally acknowledged their feelings for each other.

Case 7 - The Cardinal Sins

It is Christmas Eve. A priest called Thomas Ryan is murdered in Rome. Back home, Ben's family criticizes him for his 'career', leaving Ben angry. When a phone call from a prisoner, Alessandro Renzi comes, he decides to show his family what he can do. Along with Simon and Alice, he visits Rome. Alessandro Renzi denies having killed the priest, saying that he was possessed by a demon.

In the church of Thomas Ryan, the priest Eamon McNamara denies having heard of him. However, when Alessandro Renzi hangs himself the next day, he confesses that Vincenzo Bianchi, a priest of St. Peter's Basilica, threatened him with dire consequences if he told the truth. On sneaking into Bianchi's office, Ben finds a hexagonal stand with a hole, and a notepad. He finds that the mark on Renzi's suicide note and a symbol on the notepad is exactly similar. Percival Quentin Jones visits Rome on a holiday, meets Ben and tells him that the symbol is of The Knights of Saint Anthony. He says that he never met Sandbourne due to having taken a sabbatical shortly after Sandbourne took employment.

Ben suspects Bianchi of being a part of this society. Using Alice and Simon, he sneaks into Bianchi's apartment and steals a cross with a hexagonal imprint at the bottom. In Bianchi's office, he uses the cross on the hole to reveal a passage. Inside, he finds relics taken from each of the places he has visited. Bianchi enters the room and says that these relics will be used for the Great Task, and, at gunpoint, forces him to obtain the exorcism locket of Jesus, which he himself had tried, but ended up releasing a demon, which then possessed Renzi. Ben discovers a Latin inscription, saying that the locket is not to be taken by bare hands. Taking the cue, he uses an opera glove to take it. Bianchi says he will kill him anyway, on which Ben breaks the locket, freeing another demon, who vanishes with Bianchi, presumably after killing him.

At night, Alice, Simon, and Ben are kidnapped by Cardinal Genovese, the head of the St. Peter's Basilica and another member of the Knights of St. Anthony. Alice presumably escapes, and her fate is unknown. Simon is killed by a henchman of the Cardinal, who then pushes Ben into a wine cellar.

In the wine cellar, Ben discovers a directory containing data about the Knights. He discovers that Percival Quentin Jones is also a member. Before he can express his shock, the man himself comes and knocks him out from behind.

N.B. - Bianchi had been shown in the end of Case 1 Deluxe, speaking to a hooded man. In the mentioned geme, Ben talks about how he is lying unconscious at the back of a car belonging to a man he thought he could trust. It is strongly suggested that this is Percival Q. Jones, but this could prove to be a red herring.

Case 8 - Relics of the Past

This will be the final game in the Ben Jordan series, still in development. The release date is not known yet. Case 8 will be the first and only game in the series to have two alternating playable characters: Ben Jordan and a mystery character. Francisco Gonzalez stated in a blog on his site that his earlier goal to release the game at Christmas 2009 was not met. Instead, he worked on the Deluxe Edition of Ben Jordan 2, and put Case 8 on hiatus. Since the release of Ben Jordan 2: Deluxe Edition, production on Case 8 has presumably resumed.

Ben Jordan Unofficial Movie

Shortly after the creation of case 7, Grundislav teamed up with filmmaker Mark Lovegrove at the AGS meeting known as Mittens to make a Ben Jordan film called Le Chateaux Macabre. Although the pattern of paranormal investigation follows suit, the movie was much more bleak than the original Ben Jordan games. It is unofficial and able to be watched on Youtube.

The Plot:

Ben Jordan is in France, after the events of the series. By chance, he meets a man staying in a hotel haunted by a ghost that makes people commit suicide (falling into the swamp, falling off a balcony, etc.). He decides to investigate it and has a few suspects, like the Janitor, the Manager, and several people who die throughout the film.

Trivia:

There was a reference to AGS Forums, referring to the program that designed the games, but AGS in the movie stood for American Ghost Society.

Critical reception

Games of the series have been reviewed by specialized websites[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] as well as a mainstream magazine.[9]

It was a runner up in the adventuregamers.com 2004 underground awards.[10]

References

External links

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