Hans Christian Andersen: The Ugly Prince Duckling




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Guppyworks

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  March 2007

PC Requirements:   OS: Windows® XP/2000 CPU: 1.6 GHz Pentium® 4 Processor or AMD Sempron 2800+, RAM: 512 MB, Disk Space: 1.4 GB Available,CD/DVD-ROM: 8x or Higher, DirectX®: Version 9.0c Required (Included), Video Card: 128 MB RAM Compatible Video Card,Sound: 16-bit DirectX® 9.0c Compatible Sound Card, Input: Keyboard, Mouse


Additional Screenshots






by nickie


“I will leave this prince-forsaken palace to explore the world,” pouts the Princess on her fifteenth birthday. And she proceeds to do just that. Along her way to romance, she also manages to throw a magical gift into the dirt. This act of distain sets off a chain of events that will leave the townspeople running for their lives from goblins, and she the prey of the Master of Darkness.

It is clear we need a hero, and along comes the ungainly, unattractive Hans Andersen without a penny to his name. Hans yearns for a career in theater and he harbors a naiveté about Princesses and the likelihood of a romance with one. He will quickly have to find employment, improve his social status by dressing well, and of course, keep the spoiled Princess and the rest of the town from a drastic end.

In this game from the developer Guppyworks, the story does not follow the classic fairy tale of The Ugly Duckling, but rather shows bits and pieces of the life of the famed Danish author and poet Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen is the Ugly Prince Duckling. It is Andersen who does not look like a Prince, with his unattractive features and ragged clothing. But underneath the illusory trappings, it is Andersen who has the courage and imagination to save the Princess and the world.

I think the developers do this rather well -- depicting this strange parallel between Andersen the writer and the younger fairy tale Andersen who is the game’s protagonist. It is said that, as a small boy, Andersen made a puppet theater and played for long hours with his characters. Being very poor, he was forced to seek employment at an early age. He worked for a tailor prior to his short stint in the theater. He soon found that was not his forte, but writing was his strength. He caught the attention of the King, who sent him to school. He had unrequited loves. From poverty he rose to great acclaim as an author of fairy tales.

Playing the Game:

“Fetch me a dead crow, some snail slime and some snake juice.” (HCA: The Ugly Prince Duckling)

Playing from a third person perspective, we begin as Andersen enters the town from the hills of nowhere. It is here that I think the developers make their first mistake. Before you are engaged in the story line, your character is repeatedly thrown out of town by the police because he has no money or employment. Although it is clear that you must obtain those two things to progress, it is disconcerting to begin a game in this manner. No matter how cleverly you move your character or how quickly, the game forces this action to occur. After this false start (or several), the police will pay less attention, and unless you run right into them you can begin your investigation of the town.

It is unfortunate that game play begins in this manner, as the town is full of delights to discover. The winding cobblestone streets and pastel buildings of the 1800s hold many interesting characters, some of whom you will recognize from fairy tales. A mermaid, a shepherdess, a swineherd, a little girl selling matches -- all go about their business with the other characters, and all are available for interaction with you. Engaging each will provide a one-way conversation, as Andersen never speaks. Some of what is said will give clues for progress in the game. At other times these characters will set you off on a quest of a seek-and-fetch variety or assign to you a simple task, such as walking the pig.

There are also several other characters who will indicate their displeasure with Andersen, either calling for the police to escort him out of town, making fun of his appearance, or even trying to thwart him. Sometimes you must engage a character more than once to receive new information, and often the response is different when you encounter the same character in a different neighborhood. The police are slow-moving and cover a small area, but if you stand near one you will most likely be thrown out of the neighborhood unless you have a ready bribe.

There are five neighborhoods in the town, and Andersen must earn money and get better clothes to fit into the progressively higher social circles represented by each neighborhood. Besides doing tasks for money, he must seek employment. In addition, kicking various barrels and other items will often surprise with a hidden coin. (While I am on the subject of kicking things, here is a note to the developers: Why on earth did you make it necessary to kick roosters?)

In the midst of all this is, of course, the story line of the Princess and the town in danger. At various points the sky will go dark, and rather bumbling goblins lurch about the town. You must navigate Andersen and sometimes the Princess out of danger. This is a simple matter and is not timed, and your character cannot die. The worst that can happen to you is that you find yourself starting the sequence from another direction, and you will lose coins if the goblins touch you. You can easily double click to run past the slow goblins.

There are no sliders, no color or music puzzles and one maze. Besides the aforementioned inventory and navigation puzzles, there are also some logic and machinery type puzzles that are very basic in nature.

I thought the ending far from satisfactory. It may have been true to Andersen’s sometimes offhanded story endings, but I saw it as an opportunity missed in regard to the big-eyed orphan girl.


“No wonder you’re so thin – nothing can grow in the shade of that nose.” (HCA: The Ugly Prince Duckling)

What is a rather enchanting story falls short when it comes to the game controls. You can utilize either mouse or keyboard, but neither is particularly satisfactory. You can point and click and follow directional arrows around the streets. Sometimes the action will not engage. Sometimes the arrows won’t show up. You can also click your left mouse button and keep it pressed as you maneuver your character. This works better, although you will still find yourself at the edge of screens, forced to make a move at the edge several times until the character can go on.

Changing screen views make some puzzles much more difficult than they need be, with the icon for a necessary action not appearing. Even when there is no view change, on occasion no action icon appears – for instance, in the underground when confronted with the dogs. Then, instead of an action icon appearing, it was necessary to press the space key on the keyboard for the appropriate response. Entering into buildings, climbing down ladders – sometimes I would get the action icon and sometimes I would not. This is particularly frustrating when you do not know which buildings you can enter, and therefore have to guess which you should keep trying to find a way into.

When there is the occasion for its use, the Inventory flashes onto the screen via a wheel in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Or you can elect to have the Inventory displayed all the time through the menu options. The item displayed most prominently is the object that will be used. A problem with this default setting occurs in several circumstances. If your coin purse is in the active position, it will automatically give out coins when you are in a situation where this action is possible (such as encountering those begging for coins, or at a street stall full of wares). You may only be trying to elicit dialog, but by clicking on the character, you find yourself losing your precious coins.

Once the inventory wheel appears, you scroll through the items by way of the scroll wheel on your mouse. This is important, for if the particular item you need is not in the active position, the action that you need to take place on the screen will not occur, and the inventory wheel may flash off the screen before you realize the mistake. Much better to select “always display inventory” from the options menu.

You can save at any point, and your saves will be displayed by a time and a picture. I didn’t encounter any shortage of available save slots.

The game froze at one point in the laboratory.

Visuals and Sound:

“The pennant of Knight Swanfeather: What a graceful swan! I bet there is a story behind this image.” (HCA: Ugly Prince Duckling)

The graphics and the story are the strength of this game. Visually it is lovely, with a cartoon style rendition of Copenhagen during the 1800s. The uneven cobblestones paving the streets beckon the player to discover what is just around the corner. Pastel houses with artistically opened windows, uneven roofing and other enhancements make the town come alive. Even here there is a nod to Andersen and his view of the illusory nature of society. Behind many buildings that majestically show a faultless finish to the street side are other walls that show paint peeling and grime. There is standing water in the streets.

The ladies wear the brightly colored fashions of the time, with different elaborate hairdos. The males are likewise appropriately attired. They all look somewhat like marionettes, which I am assuming they were meant to, given the beginning animation.

The music is orchestral, operetta-like in nature and fits the game well. Characters are well voiced. There is ambient sound, primarily as clues for progression.

Odds and Ends:

“Most of what I have written is a reflection of myself.” (Hans Christian Andersen)

The game is on two CDs, which do not have to be in the computer drive to play.

It is not alt/tab friendly.

This is the developers’ first game. There are flaws, but there is much of which they should be proud. With some adjustments to the mechanics, their next game will be one to look forward to.

Grade: B -

March 2007

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