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Video Game / Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator

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Ben Jordan: Paranormal Investigator is a series of eight freeware point'n'click adventures by Francisco "Grundislav" Gonzalez. It details the adventures of the eponymous hero, a young man from Philadelphia, as he travels around the world solving supernatural crimes, each part being a separate case.

Along the way he meets Simon Booth — a British ghost hunter — and Alice Wilkins — a parapsychology student from California — who accompany him on his later cases.

After a while, though, it becomes apparent that it is not just a coincidence that Ben has been getting so many cases during his short career…

The eight games are:

  • Case 1: In Search of the Skunk-Ape
  • Case 2: The Lost Galleon of the Salton Sea
  • Case 3: The Sorceress of Smailholm
  • Case 4: Horror at Number 50
  • Case 5: Land of the Rising Dead
  • Case 6: Scourge of the Sea People
  • Case 7: The Cardinal Sins
  • Case 8: Relics of the Past

Grundislav's original website is now defunct, but the entire series can be downloaded from his page.

There is also a short film based on the series called Ben Jordan: Le Château Macabre (revealed to have taken place after one of Case 8's possible endings), starring Francisco Gonzalez himself as Ben Jordan. Another film, Ben Jordan Must Die, is in production from the same cast and crew.

See also Gonzalez's other Adventure Games, Shardlight, Lamplight City, and A Golden Wake.

The games use the following tropes:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: If the Osaka Police department worked the way a police department REALLY did, Ben would probably have not only been a) Probably turned away before he could do anything, b) have had a LOT harder time obtaining evidence if he wasn't turned away, and c) would have made for a boring game. This is later lampshaded and justified in Case 8 - apparently, Percy has the ability to sway people's wills and has been doing so to help Ben on his adventures.
  • Art Evolution: Most evident with the character portraits.
  • Babies Ever After: A possible ending to Case 8.
  • Big Bad: Kind of split between Cardinal Genovese, who is directly responsible for every paranormal danger Ben has had to confront, and Zortherus, a powerful strigoi with a close vendetta against Ben's family (though Ben only faces him once, and he mostly figures into the backstory).
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti: Case 1 has Ben searching for the Skunk-Ape in the Everglades.
  • Bigger on the Inside: "The Horror", in Case 4, traps Ben and Simon in a place like this. And it has no obvious exit.
  • Big Good: Percy turns out to be an angel-like entity tasked with protecting Ben.
  • Bilingual Bonus/Gratuitous Spanish: The ghost captain in the Case 2 remake speaks actual, proper Spanish, though it can be somewhat difficult to understand with the heavy reverb effect.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Case 3. Sure, Ben might have stopped the witches of Smailholm, but his love interest, Mary, is dead and is going to haunt him for many Dream Sequences to come.
    • If Ben kills Genovese in Case 8, Alice abandons him forever.
  • Brick Joke:
    • The prospector loans Ben his car near the end of Case 2, which winds up crashed. When it's all done, the prospector asks where his car is. Cue Oh, Crap! from Ben.
    • In the remake of Case 2 Ben gives the car to another person to give him the chance to escape from his former life, but the result is the same.
    • The person from "Bean There Done That" mentions that there are no other places hiring. Much later in Case 5, he shows up working for Yamamoto's corporation, and then shows up again as a receptionist for the TV station.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • Case 6 starts out as a vacation.
    • Likewise in the movie Ben's on vacation in France when someone tells him they've seen a ghost, and he decides to investigate.
  • Casting Gag: in Case 7 and 8, Percival Quentin Jones is voiced by Chris Jones, the creator of the Adventure Game Studio the series was made with.
  • Confessional: One appears in Case 7. Ben can confess to many silly "sins" he has committed over the course of the series.
  • Cliffhanger/Downer Ending: Case 7. Simon is killed, Ben is taken captive by Percy who turns out be The Mole, and Alice has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: To solve one of the early puzzles in Case 6, you have to get a guy arrested and steal his camera. Just so a local will tell you a good tourist destination.
  • Darker and Edgier: While first two episodes are pretty lighthearted, the series takes a slightly darker turn around Case 3. Case 1 and 2 has since then been remade to fit with the atmosphere of the later games.
  • Dead Guy Junior: In the Babies Ever After best ending.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • You actually get a lot of messages for touching things, such as if you use the "touch" icon on yourself Ben gussies himself up a bit.
    • You can actually tell Ben to eat a pufferfish that is obviously not safe in Case 5.
    • Use the "Touch" icon on a priest in Case 8, and you'll get a message saying "Shouldn't that be the other way around?"
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The literal version of this appears as a secret ending to Case 8.
  • Doing In the Wizard: Case 5 is presented as the only case without a supernatural element, with the main threat being Voodoo Zombies created through non-supernatural means. However, this is retroactively subverted in Case 8, where Percy tells Ben that there was some supernatural activity he just wasn't aware of - namely, the appearance of an Oni which helped Yamamoto put his evil plan together.
  • A Fęte Worse than Death: The whole endgame scenario of Case 3.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Skunk-apes, ghosts, witches, zombies, demons... Most obvious with Case 6, which introduces elements of Classical Mythology.
  • Fish People: The villains in Case 6. It turns out, however, that the real and benevolent Fish People had died out a long time ago, and the real monster is a creature of which even they were afraid.
  • Flat "What": When Ben tries to get into Bianchi's apartment by saying, "It's-a-Me! The pope!", Bianchi gives him one.
  • Game Show: Ben gets involved in one in Japan.
  • Godhood Seeker: The Big Bad's plan in Case 8.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • In Case 3, it's not immediately clear what to do to achieve the "best" ending, which is also considered the canon one right from the very next episode.
    • In Case 8, you could not guess that not doing a certain action at some point is needed to get two more possible endings. Although the game gives a subtle hint by autosaving at that point.
    • Good luck finding out how to access the secret ending of Case 8.
  • Idiot Ball: Ben picks up one in Case 8 when he hands a relic over to a member of the clergy. Ben, the Knights of St. Anthony are involved in the Clergy.... Slightly justified in that Ben didn't know that the crypts are normally not open to the public.
  • Improvised Weapon:
    • Ben's quite fond of these. Objects he has used to defeat his enemies include: a table with some cocaine on it, a crowbar, a sharp hook on a rope, part of a drain pipe, a camera, a customized vacuum cleaner, a rusty old trident, a 2000-year old amulet with a demon trapped in it, and a statue of Atlas. Oh, and a stolen gun.
    • In Case 8, Arthur and Percy use a piece of wood with some brambles on it, a fire poker and a fire extinguisher to put a few bad guys out of action.
  • Informed Flaw: In the Chateau Macabre, Ben thinks Percival's "really let himself go." He looks just as healthy and a good deal younger than he does in the games.
  • Karma Houdini: Max, the Knight of St. Anthony responsible for killing Simon, walks away scot-free in the Case 8 finale, albeit after Ben convinces him to give up his life of thuggery. Actually subverted: a comment left by Francisco Gonzalez on the last video of hercrabbiness's LP series of the games reveals that there was a scrapped part of the Where Are They Now ending that revealed he was hit by a car as he walked away from Notre Dame.
  • The Many Deaths of You: There are very few ways to actually die in the series, but at least the deaths make sense.
  • The Movie: The Fan Film Le Chateau Macabre, to be joined by Ben Jordan Must Die in the future.
  • Multiple Endings: Case 3 has two, although only one is canon. Case 8 has four plus a silly secret one.
  • Mystical 108: Conveniently, Case 5 is set in Japan... and the most points you can get? 108. Coincidence?
  • Myth Arc: Though you won't notice that there is one until Case 7 unless you pick up on the hints.
  • Never Accepted in His Hometown: Ben's family not understanding his job is somewhere between a Running Gag and a Running Pain In The Ass.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Sighisoara, the village of Vlad the Impaler made popular by Bram Stoker's novel, has some problems with vampires - it's just that they are a bit different from your usual Dracula.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The murdering zombies in Case 5 turns out to be people who have been poisoned by tetrodotoxin from blowfish sushi, just enough for them to appear dead for a couple of days and still be confused enough to be receptive to orders when they awoke.
  • Predatory Business: "Bean There, Done that".
  • The Remake: Case 1 was later remade into the Deluxe Edition, which has better graphics, more puzzles, an extended storyline and voice acting. Done again with Case 2, whose second act (the locations around the Salton Sea) has completely different locales, characters and puzzles compared to the original.
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Simon describes Sirens as taking the form of a beautiful maiden and causing sailors to go mad with desire, jumping off their ships to get to them. When they got close, the Sirens would reveal their true form and eat them. In Simon's version, Odysseus tied himself to the mast and plugged his ears with wax, but he's wee bit off: in The Odyssey, it was the rest of the crew who plugged their ear with wax, while Odysseus tripped out on the Siren's songs, after they'd tied him to said mast. Not to mention, Sirens didn't eat sailors, they just lured them to the rocks.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Turns out Ben shouldn’t have bothered with his last two cases.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When they confront the ghost in Case 4 Ben says he was half-expecting a skeleton with an apron and machete.
    • In Case 1 (Deluxe maybe), there's a reference to Laura Bow with picking stuff up and "putting it in your purse". The music that plays when examining a victim of the skunk-ape is also the same as in the second Laura Bow game.
    • Also in Case 4, one of the books on the bookshelf in the lobby is House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Later, a door appears upstairs where there was no door before...
    • When Ben meets someone standing outside an apartment building in Case 7, he asks if there's been a doorman strike.
    • One of the office doors in the Basilica in Case 7 is labeled "U. Eco".
    • The maze on Minotaur Island in Case 6 is almost blatantly inspired by the minotaur's maze in King's Quest VI. Biggest difference is that this time the minotaur's been quite dead for a while.
    • Try touching people for no reason in Case 8, and in one out of three possible messages the game will chastise you for acting like Hercrabbiness, who whenever she plays these games, uses the "touch" icon on everything.
    • The humorous secret ending of Case 8 is lifted straight from Silent Hill 2, precisely the dog ending.
    • Two to Homestar Runner:
      • The computer in the original version of Case 1 is labelled "Compy 386".
      • In Case 3, Wilma's house is described as being "a thatched-roof cottage, suitable for burnination".
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Case 5 features zombies who leave fingerprints at the scene of their crimes. When Ben asks the detective if they can find anyone linked to the fingerprints, he mentions that unless they match someone who is already in the database, they can't include them as a suspect, or pin them to the crime. Forensics aren't magic, after all.
    • Also in Case 5, the zombies are people poisoned to a near death-like state and made open to suggestion. As it turns out, this actually happened to Clairvius Narcisse in Haiti.
    • Even though the details about the siren are a bit wrong, the mermaid-like figure is actually quite a common interpretation.
  • Sinister Minister: Cardinal Genovese and many of the Knights of St. Anthony are members of the clergy.
  • Thriving Ghost Town: Many of the towns Ben visits are practically ghost towns. Several of them are pretty much meant to be small towns. Even lampshaded in 2, where the person working at "Bean There Done That" says that there really aren't that many other jobs. (Medicine Man, Grocer, and Bartender are all taken.)
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Smailholm. All of its inhabitants are witches.
  • Trouser Space: "You pick up the chain and somehow manage to fit the entire thing into your pants."
  • The Un-Favourite: Even though it's not really that bad, Ben's relationship with his parents still has strong vibes of this.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment:
    • Hey Ben, eat that blowfish. Yeah, we're told it's extremely poisonous! Do it! Game over!
    • Say Ben, try touching that Siren...
    • Yes Ben, by Case 8 you've been through a lot. Drink a little something to drown your sorrows for a little while, you have earned it! And while you are at it, why don't you have another one for the other leg? And how about one more for the road? And then one more...
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Case 3.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: At the end of Case 8.

Alternative Title(s): Ben Jordan