In a world where guns speak louder than words, it is good to see a game hit the Playstation Network that makes you think for a change. Hamilton: The Great Adventurer is an adventure puzzle game that not only relies on your cunning, but also on a second player.
The story revolves around an old Hamilton, recalling his great adventures to his grandson. It turns out that, back in the day, Hamilton and his friend were collecting parts for a mystery machine (no, not the Scooby Doo kind), that will revolutionise the world. However, one night, a vital part of the machine was stolen and it was Hamilton’s job to track down the culprits. The cut scenes are told in the style of a moving comic book (seems to be the in thing at the moment) and set the scenes very well.
The two stars of the show are Hamilton and his trusted companion, Sasha the bird, and the idea of the game is to use both characters to traverse each stage. This can be done either in single player (by swapping characters) or in co-op. Hamilton collects coins and keys, while Sasha will activate switches and collect magic dust. But, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The levels involve you working out the best route (and in some cases, the only route) to gather the keys required to open up the doors and exits. A lot of the maze is made up of platforms that crumble when stood upon, meaning that there is no doubling back to take another path or collect an item you may have missed.
The stages start out simple, but get progressively more challenging, and in some cases, almost impossible. The difficulty curve is one of the game’s downfalls, as you can end up becoming increasingly frustrated as you make mistakes again and again. Some of these mistakes will be down to human error, or stupidity; but some of them will be down to the sensitive controls. The camera can sometimes get in the way as well, even though you have the ability to slightly adjust the angle by pressing the shoulder buttons, scenery can still get in the way.
As you move through the stages, you will encounter more and more things that will impede your progress such as mountain goats, that will jump up and down on the spot; flying puffer fish, that will try and attack Sasha and even abominable snowmen. Good timing and a quick finger will normally see you past these obstacles though, and it does add another level of danger. As you finish each stage, you will be given a score based upon how many of the coins you collected and whether or not you found any of the hidden gemstones. To start with, you will end up acing each stage, but by the end of the first area you will have probably missed some items. The game keeps a record of this, and you can always go back later to try the stage again; something that will keep those elitists busy.
The main complaint I have with the game is how quickly the stages become seemingly impossible. By the time I have gotten a few stages into the second area, I was up against monsters, moving obstacles, platforms that fling you forward a few squares, goats and snowballs, all in one level. Sure, this is a puzzle game and therefore meant to be challenging, but there were times when I was restarting the stage 15-20 times. You end up becoming really annoyed. Thankfully, the game does litter each stage with helpful hints, and you also gain equipment along the way that will help you through the tough times.
Hamilton is a game best played co-operatively, mainly for two reasons: 1) Two heads are better than one and 2) Playing on your own means switching between characters (using the square button), and this can prove troublesome if you have a puzzle that requires speedy interaction from both characters. The controls for Sasha are far better than for Hamilton, but Sasha does get the short straw when it comes to things to do.
The game does look impressive for a downloadable title. Fatshark have really given the game an art style that complements both the game’s story and era, making it feel like one of those serial adventures that used to play in the cinemas in the forties and fifties.
If you prefer your games with a little more grey matter, then Hamilton will be right up your street. The game’s niggles are far outweighed by the joy that gave be gained by finally working out a tough level, and couch co-op is something not often seen, but works well here, even if you do end up screaming at each other!
Review copy provided by publisher.