reviews\ Apr 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Hamlet - PC - Review


By Dan Liebman for

If someone ever accused you of being a dullard, you could always defend yourself by gesturing to the vast library of “adventure” titles in your PC software library. Times have changed however, and the physical library of games occupies not tangible shelf space, but digital real estate within your computer’s beefy hard drive. Hamlet is one of those games, nestled comfortably within the recesses of your CPU, appearing as little more than a bit of text and an innocuous cartoon icon; that is, until you launch the game.

From its sarcastic title menu to its bulbous 2-D characters, Hamlet would seem to be designed with clean fun in mind. Folks plagued by an embarrassing infatuation with Shakespeare might be disappointed to learn that Hamlet bears almost no resemblance to the famous literary work. The narrative is displayed in comic-panel format, beginning with the capture of Ophelia (that would be the damsel in distress). The brawny Hamlet sets out to rescue her, only to be suddenly squashed – by a time-traveling scientist from the future.

The presence of this anachronistic scholar doesn’t seem to phase any of the characters. His significance is as a character is, for lack of a better word, puzzling. One can only assume that his lack of physical strength is meant to emphasize his intellectual abilities. Using the mouse, the player clicks his way through each scenario, unraveling one logic game after the next. The problem is that, for all their amusing absurdity, many of the puzzles just don’t make all that much sense. It often seems like you’re clicking arbitrarily on objects of interest – some of them being deeply concealed – and determining how a certain mechanic will interact with another in the environment. This is further complicated by the context-sensitive nature of each interaction. For example, a bird might squawk if you click on him, but if there is a fish present when you click on him, he’ll latch onto it. It takes time to determine the nature of each object, something that will surely test the patience of the player.

The game really won’t hold your hand during the course of the adventure, either. In the bottom right of the screen, there is a timer. Only when a significant amount of time has passed will you be allowed to click it, revealing the helpful clue for the area. Unfortunately, these clues aren’t written in plain English. They’re visual diagrams, puzzles in their own right, and if you decide you want to view the clue a second time, you need to wait for the timer all over again. I can understand the desire to preserve the challenge of the game, but something must be there to curb the difficulty for the struggling player. Players can also click on the scientist to view his thought bubble for help, but this only reveals his short-term goal rather than a possible means of achieving it. “I need to rescue Ophelia” isn’t really helpful when you’re wracking your brain, trying to determine why some snoring geezer won’t wake up when you ring the bell.

Our diminutive protagonist isn’t the only thing out of place in the adventure, however. The entire world seems riddled with advanced technology, from electric guitars to computer-password locked security systems. Cerebral players might be annoyed to find that many of the seemingly sophisticated puzzles actually have very simple solutions; one even requires familiarity with emoticons in order to solve. Still, Hamlet feels far more like a grown-up distraction than a children’s game, something that you would play at your office desk and only force your kids to play as punishment. The solutions are more elusive and frustrating than satisfying, and not even the zany artwork can conceal that fact.

Above Average

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