It's Christmas Eve, and our hero, Ben Jordan, is enjoying a nice, family dinner. Well... trying to enjoy a nice family dinner. His family don't approve of his choice of career as a Paranormal Investigator, and think it is a waste of time. After yet another argument, Ben stomps off up to his room, where he receives a mysterious phone call. A man called Allessandro Renzi has called Ben, to ask for help. Renzi is in a jail in Rome (far from Ben's home in Philadelphia), accused of murder, and he wants Ben to prove his innocence. This could be a chance for Ben to finally prove himself to his family. So he calls his friends, Simon and Alice, and then heads off to Rome.
A few days later, Ben arrives in Rome, not quite sure what to expect. Simon is already at the hotel, but Alice hasn't arrived yet. The first order of business is to go and visit Renzi in jail, and hear the full story of what really happened that night. Apparently, Renzi is accused of murdering a priest, and was found afterwards, speaking in tongues. Renzi admits to Ben that he remembers committing the crime, but that he was possessed by a demon at the time, and he wasn't in control of his actions. So now it's up to Ben to prove that Renzi is really innocent.
As Ben's investigation progresses, things get stranger and stranger. Things from his previous cases finally begin to make sense. But he is also faced with a whole new set of questions. Why does the victim's church deny knowledge of his existence? Was Renzi really possessed? What is Percival Quenton Jones doing in Rome? All these questions, and more, are buzzing round Ben's head. And then... tragedy strikes!
Ben Jordan Case 7: The Cardinal Sins is the seventh game in the series, and is also the penultimate game. It takes place in Rome, and so religion plays a large part. A point-and-click interface is used, which makes the game easy to play. There are icons along the top of the screen (just move your mouse up there) that you click on to move, talk, ask, use, and see your inventory etc. To move, just click on an area of the screen and Ben will move there. You can also load, and save your game. Your score is also shown at the top of the screen.
You gain points when you learn a valuable piece of information, or perform a certain action. You are also rewarded by the sound of a church bell ringing. There are 2 different icons for Talking, which can be a bit confusing. 'Talk' (exclamation mark) is generally used for small talk, or chit-chat. 'Ask' (question mark) is used to question people about various things. If you don't get any result from one Talk icon, you can always try the other icon. Grundislav (the creator) has gone one step further with this game, and gives you several options that you can adjust to suit your preferences. You can choose to play the game with 'Text Only', 'Voice Only', or 'Text & Voice'. There is also a special feature, in which you can hear commentary throughout the game. Grundislav talks about various aspects of the game, such as casting voices for the characters. drawing backgrounds, etc, which you can turn on and off at any time. The dialogue is brilliant, and Ben has some hilarious lines. But we are left with such a cliff-hanger, you will be sitting at the edge of your seats, eager to find out what happens in the next part.
Backgrounds are rich and lavish, and are hand drawn. I am particularly impressed with the church at the start - we see top of the church, then it gradually pans down, and we see two priests talking. Very effective! Lights are reflected on the walls and ceilings to show that they are turned on. Snow falling at the crime scene is beautiful to see. Even smoke from the smoking man's cigarette is very effective. When someone is talking, you can see a close-up of their face, and they are fully lip-synched to what they are saying (clever). The characters also display different expressions as they talk. There is a lot of 'extra' things to see - things like rug on the hotel floor, signs in the theatre, statues in the Vatican etc. It all adds to make the game richer.
MUSIC AND SOUND EFFECTS
Grundislav has done a fantastic job here. The whole game is fully voiced, and lip-synched, and it is fun to hear what the characters we know and love actually sound like. Music is used effectively, to indicate different areas in the game. For example, short, sharp, staccato-type music is played in the police station, organ music is played in the church, etc. In the opera theatre, you can even hear muffled classical music playing in the background. Even the map screen has lots of traffic noises, as you are travelling around. There are some impressive sound effects in the game, such as doors opening and closing, and phone ringing, etc.
As well as the three main characters (Ben, Simon and Alice), you get to meet some very interesting people in this game. It was nice to finally meet Ben's family at start of the game, and Professor Percival Quentin Jones also makes an interesting return. Father McNamara is an essential character, who gives you a lot of important information. And who could fail to like kindly old Cardinal Genovese? Let's not forget about Vincenzo Bianchi - what a nasty piece of work he is.
Most of the puzzles in Ben Jordan 7 are quite straight forward and logical. They are fun to solve, and help to carry the story forward. However, I did have some difficulty with one of the puzzles, and that was the Strange Box puzzle in Bianchi's apartment. You have to push certain buttons on the box, but it wasn't very clear which buttons to push. But I probably just missed the clues.
This is definitely one of the better Ben Jordan games, and it was interesting to see how the relationship between Ben, Simon and Alice develop. The story is very well written, with lots of excellent dialogue. But that cliff-hanger... oh, what a cliff-hanger. I'm dying to know what happens next. Backgrounds are gorgeous to see - very lavish and colourful. There are some interesting characters in Ben Jordan 7, which you will enjoy talking to. Puzzles are nice and logical and a pleasure to solve. I am very impressed with the lip-synching. It was interesting to hear the characters talk, and they sound pretty much like I imagined them to. Adding optional commentary was a nice touch, and hearing Grundy's thought's about the game was interesting. My hat goes off to Grundislav for pulling it off. An excellent game that I highly recommend.
Review by: Frodo