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
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
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
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
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
6GB DDR3 SDRAM
1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220
*Section headings are quotations from Shakespeare's plays.
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