Genre:   puzzle adventure

Developer:  mif2000

Publisher:    Alawar and Big Fish

Released:  April 2010

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista, Pentium 4 1.0 GHz or 100% compatible CPU 512 MB RAM, 93 MB available hard disk space , DirectX 9,0c 



by Becky


Hamlet opens with graphic novel style panels introducing the story. By panel number three, however, there has been a change from the traditional Shakespearean story of betrayal and perfidy -- Hamlet is squashed by a space ship. The space ship contains a character from the future, robed in purple with a lightbulb on his head. Since Hamlet is now lying there, unconscious, it's up to the humble "new Hero" to take over, wreak vengeance on the villains and rescue Ophelia from her watery plight. If our Hero fails, the consequences for history will be dire.

The graphics are cartoon style and quaint, with an unusual color palette. Structures sprout from the landscape at odd, impossible angles. Architectural details have unexpected textures and shapes, and sometimes seem stuck on randomly. The game has a quirky ambiance and tons of charm. Each level consists of only one screen, and each features animations and ambient sound. Sometimes jazzy music plays in the background. A few of the levels are in silhouette style, with black foregrounds and the characters in black, and these provide equally pleasant viewing.

'Tis not so Deep as a Well, nor so Wide as a Church-door; but 'tis Enough

Straddling the fence between adventure and casual adventure, Hamlet's story is (very loosely) based on Shakespeare's play. The game is puzzle-driven and told in five acts. It has no large environments to explore; the gamer's focus will be almost entirely on the puzzle presented in each level. Exploring each screen visually is important, however, in order to look for clues and to watch for slight changes in the animations. Hamlet contains a brief tutorial, an autosave function, and a hint system. The interface is point-and-click. If you leave a level before finishing, you will start at the beginning of that level when returning.

The game employs a third person perspective, as you see the Hero as he moves around the screen. However, you don't limit yourself to actions that the Hero could likely perform, and you (usually) don't control him. Instead, you are an omniscient being, observing what's occurring on screen, and trying to change the environment to help the Hero progress. The game does not have a "smart" cursor, so you'll do a lot of clicking to see what parts are interactive.

The Weakest Kind of Fruit Drops Earliest to the Ground

I found this game delightful until I encountered the more difficult puzzles. Hamlet discards many adventure game conventions, and I failed miserably while trying to solve the more unconventional levels. Confession: when it comes to puzzles like those in Hamlet, I am the weak fruit.

Items don't always give consistent responses -- a few have to be clicked on repeatedly. In the hardest non-timed puzzle, a marker doesn't mark what it stops on, it marks something else in the sequence. At unexpected times, dialog becomes more than just dialog and text becomes more than just text.

Hamlet's hint system (to which I resorted scandalously often) is on a timer -- you can't access it until several minutes have elapsed. It provides visual clues only, one hint per level. This undoubtedly cut down on the need for translation into various languages, but the result is that sometimes deciphering the hint is its own challenge. A couple of the hints actually increased the difficulty factor. After solving these levels, I could not determine how the corresponding hint was designed to help.

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Many of the puzzles in Hamlet involve clicking in a sequence. The most difficult sequences are timed and require precise, rapid mousing. Some of the environments contain red herrings, adding further to the difficulty. By mid-game, I found that the levels contained quite a bit of puzzle variety, and some were fairly easy. But others were so frustrating that I would quit immediately after solving them and pace around the room to calm down.

I played the game twice. I got through the playing cards challenge the first time using a theory that did not work at all the second time. I got through the second time using a theory that was completely at odds with my first theory. (To be honest: the second time through, I chose what seemed to be the least likely solution each time.) After checking a walkthrough, I now realize that I had no idea at all how the system was supposed to work. Persistence and dumb luck pay dividends. More good fortune!

Out Vile Jelly! Where is thy Lustre Now?

Fairly early in the game I encountered the Claudius guitar level. This is a timed sequence that I found impossible to complete. Two others in my family (one an action gamer) attempted it and failed. Soon after, a version of the game was released that slows down the sequence -- otherwise I would never have made it through the game.

Two of the levels pit the Hero against a giant octopus. The first time through, I manhandled the octopus with aplomb (rapid random clicking), though I had no idea how I'd managed it. I decided that the octopus was cute, in addition to being pleasantly purple/pink.

The second time through the game I could not disable the octopus. When I finally checked back into the game, enlightened by knowledge from a walkthrough, I still couldn't beat him. Prolonged, rapid clicking on the poor creature, while muttering certain words under my breath, finally ended the level. I concluded that the octopus was a demon in disguise and regretted leaving him with arms intact.

Then will He Strip his Sleeve and Show his Scars

This is a game for gamers who have a zeal for difficult puzzles, who want to think (way) outside of the box, and who have quick reflexes. Like Gobliiins 4, I imagine that Hamlet is more enjoyable if played with a partner who can help the gamer see things differently and think about patterns and animations creatively. A shoulder to cry on is also comforting.

Never has such a brave, charming Hero caused me such anguish.

Hamlet -- I surrender!

Final Grade: A white flag

Hamlet can be purchased via download at the Alawar Games website or on Big Fish Games.

What I played it on: 

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

*Section headings are quotations from Shakespeare's plays.

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