Hamilton's Great Adventure Review
I was supposed to be crossing the 20-hour mark in Deus Ex: Human Revolution yesterday afternoon and yet, I found myself playing a downloadable game called Hamilton’s Great Adventure. That should say something. Fatshark’s game isn’t perfect and isn’t without its immensely frustrating moments, but it’s a solid, colorful, charming adventure with plenty of content. Featuring over 60 levels amongst multiple environments, great pacing, a whimsical style, and a definite addictive quality, this is one digital title that deserves your attention. For $10, you get some definite bang for your buck.
The production features a top-down presentation that allows us to see the vibrant, pleasing palette. There’s a ton of nice color, surprisingly intricate detail, and even a few decent animations. It’s not overwhelmingly impressive but the atmosphere is appropriate and the level design is fabulous; one always wants to see the next intriguing challenge. It can be a little difficult to spot vital pieces of the environment (as I’ll mention below), and the limitations of the camera can obscure pathways and treasure as well. But overall, this is one of the prettier digital titles available, even if it isn’t loaded with a ton of crowd-pleasing special effects and explosions.
The audio is also nicely appointed and even refined in some cases. There is no voice acting as the characters only emit a few brief grunts and exclamations to go along with the written dialogue. It only adds to the enduring charm, though. The soundtrack could’ve been more prominent but the selections that do exist suffice; many even enhance our experience, especially in the later levels. The best part? The ambient sounds in each level; each tiny effect doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the end result is a landscape that’s just brimming with slick, “tinkle-y” goodness.
A retired adventurer is retelling the story of his brave excursions into lost continents, and his fascinated granddaughter is hanging on his every word. We play through those past challenges, which are simpler and more cerebral than standard top-down action-oriented titles. It’s like Indiana Jones only without any weapons and the potential for bloody death. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t any danger: we control Hamilton, who must contend with crumbling platforms, leaping piranhas, lumbering sentinels, and unreachable switches. A neat gameplay twist deals with that last obstacle.
You are accompanied by a skilled bird, which can hit those unreachable switches, gather up Mystic Dust (they look like purple fruits hovering in the air), and locate treasure chests. Switching between Hamilton and his winged ally is as simple as pressing the Square button; the bird can also distract sentinels with a screech, and can be helpful for getting a – forgive the pun – bird’s-eye view of the level. The goal is to find the golden key and reach the exit, but there are plenty of treasures to be found, many of which exist along alternate paths.
Moving back and forth between the two adventurers is easy as pie, and the game design is great. Control can be an issue, but only if you rely on the analog stick to control Hamilton. This reminded me very much of the control issue in Catherine: while we’re talking about two completely different games, both characters in question move one block at a time. It’s less obvious in Fatshark’s title but it’s clear that each level is comprised of a series of blocks (even if the next step doesn’t look block-ish). Therefore, it’s highly advisable to use the directional pad; you’ll thank me later.
Controlling the bird is easy enough but it can be difficult to gauge altitude. This isn’t a major issue, though, because the bird usually isn’t in any danger, and you’re just seeking treasure, switches, and Dust. The only other flaw centers on the camera. You can move it temporarily, but when you release the R1/L1 button, it reverts back to the standard frontal view. You can, however, zoom in and out and leave that setting when you wander about. It just takes some getting used to, especially when trying to locate all the treasures and relevant switches in a dense, colorful environment. Really, trying to see everything can be a tad irritating.
The other thing that can get irksome is the demanding challenge of the later levels. During the first few hours, the game is an absolute blast and even captivating in some cases. That captivation doesn’t disappear, per se, but when you make one simple mistake during a large level, you’re forced to replay, which means you may spend a large amount of time with any one challenge. And if you’re a completionist like me and you want all the treasures, it’s even more daunting. The camera issue can get in the way as well, especially when timing is essential.
But overall, Hamilton’s Great Adventure is a fun, delightful, challenging romp through a beautifully designed world. It can really get on your nerves due to minor control and camera issues but it’s also quite rewarding. You’re always pulled forward through the charming story and world, you always want to nab each and every treasure (well, I did), and examining each level for the correct path is quite entertaining. And again, for only $9.99, you really do get plenty of content. If you’re looking for an adventure with an amiable, amusing side, this is a darn good option.
The Good: Detailed, refined visuals. Subtle yet pleasing ambient sound. Great level design and completion is rewarding. Likeable overall presentation. Great longevity.
The Bad: Soundtrack isn’t pronounced enough. Small camera and control issues. Frustration can mount during later challenges.
The Ugly: It’s too cute for anything to be “ugly.”
8/23/2011 Ben Dutka