Apparently Shakespeare got it wrong. The real story of Hamlet is much stranger and less bloody than his famous iambic pentameter rendition. According to Hamlet the game, here’s what really happens: Claudius and Polonius kill both of Prince Hamlet’s parents and kidnap his girlfriend Ophelia (no matter that she’s Polonius’s daughter). And just when Hamlet is about to exact revenge and save his girlfriend, a time machine rips through the spacetime continuum and squashes the young prince where he stands. And so it falls to you, a time traveler from the future, to finish the job Hamlet wasn’t able to.
Doing so requires much touchscreen-tapping and intricate puzzle-solving on your part. Each scene in the game is a puzzle that, when solved, gets you one step closer to rescuing Hamlet’s ladyfriend. A number of puzzle types are included, from seek-and-finds and mazes to logic puzzles and pattern recognition. The one thing common to all of them is that the rules aren’t laid out anywhere, so part of the challenge is figuring out what you’re supposed to do. Each puzzle comes with one hint that you can view after a certain amount of time has elapsed, but even the hints are ambiguous.
That doesn’t look like a hamlet…
Since many of the puzzles are brain-busters, one nice thing about the game is that it never punishes you for wrong guesses. Most of the time when you come to a new screen, the best thing to do is tap everything that looks like it might be a point of interaction. When you find one, see what tapping it does and try to figure out what’s expected of you. Oftentimes it’s not obvious.
For instance, in one puzzle you’re shown a river scene with three birds, a house, and a bell. By tapping around, you discover that you can open the window of the house and that a man is sleeping inside. What you have to do is use the bell to wake the man up, help him catch some fish, and urge the birds, one by one, to eat the fish as he pulls them out of the water. You’ll then see that the birds were sitting on a boat that you can use to continue your quest.
Presentation-wise, Hamlet shines. The graphics are bright and appealing, and the audio is fittingly quirky. Unfortunately, the game is quite short. From start to finish, it took us about an hour to complete. There’s some wiggle room, of course, as some people will take longer to complete the puzzles than others, but it’s probably beatable in a single sitting. If you get seriously stuck, you can Google a walkthrough (confession: we succumbed for one of the puzzles).
Otherwise, Hamlet is a fun and streamlined point-and-click puzzler. As long as you don’t come to the game expecting any literary or educational value, you’ll probably enjoy it quite a bit, at least while it lasts.