First posted on 28 December 2010. Last updated on 28 December 2010.
|Security around Elsinore is somewhat lax.|
|Polonius is a space alien, really?|
|Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead!|
|Shakespeare scholars will find some scenes in the game unfamiliar.|
|Get ready for the most frustrating puzzle in the game!|
Hamlet, "or the last game without MMORPG features, shaders and product placement" (as the game's subtitle proudly proclaims), is a full-length graphic adventure game from Russian cartoonist and indie developer mif2000, the pen name for Denis Galadnin. As the game's name otherwise suggests, this is not a direct adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, nor is it trying to be faithful to the literary canon—"loosely based on" is perhaps a more appropriate subtitle for the game.
The game opens by announcing that the original Prince Hamlet has been killed by a time traveler from the future and that an unnamed Hero has now decided to set out to stop the evil Claudius from marrying Hamlet's old flame Ophelia against her will. The game, like the play, is divided into 5 acts. Any similarity between these works, however, promptly end here.
Each act in the game is made up of 5 levels. A level is an individual screen where the Hero must solve a series of puzzles to advance to the next screen. The majority of puzzles consist of clicking on objects in the right order to bypass some preset obstacles. However, there are also a fair amount of mini-games to keep the gameplay interesting. There is no penalty for simply clicking around the screen—indeed, the player must do this often upon entering a new level to learn what interacts there, since there is no highlighting to indicate which objects are interactive. If the player spends too much time clicking around, a timed hint mechanism will appear to direct the player towards a specific solution. Much more general hints are also available by simply clicking on the Hero and other non-player characters to see what they are thinking.
The puzzles in this game are not particularly easy, but they are not particularly frustrating either (with a single exception). There is a great degree of logic to how to solve the various levels. Also, finding the solutions to the levels tend to become easier as the player progresses and develops experience on how the game is structured. In fact, most of the game's challenges are up front as the player adapts to how the game wants the player to think, so that even the end puzzles start to become fairly obvious. The only exception is a puzzle that requires the player to click on an object a ludicrously high number of times, which seems somewhat arbitrary but makes sense in the greater context of the game.
Where the game is strongest is its art style. Galadnin's artistic talent shines through in every screen and object animation. The unique style of his arts adds much whimsy to the game and a layer of charm that differentiates itself from its competitors.
Where the game is weakest is its story and length. It may not be fair to judge the game based on its plot, especially considering the fact that it is going for a very definite tongue-in-cheek approach to adventure games and even video gaming in general. In fact, as the game's subtitle suggests, it is squarely aiming at the humorous side of the adventure genre. Unfortunately, the game is not as consistently funny as it aims to be. Jokes tend to be more one-offs of the "We are gamers. Get it?" variety. The game also seems a bit too short, though it must be noted that the game is created entirely by a single individual rather than a team. The puzzles at the end of the game appear to be more hastily crafted than those at the beginning, to the extent that the entire game can be easily solved in a single sitting by an experienced gamer.
Overall, Hamlet offers a good deal of gaming fun and shows off the talents of Galadnin as both an artist and a game developer. The game is family friendly and makes for an excellent choice for parents to play with their children.