By- Armaan Khan
Hamilton’s Great Adventure starts where most video games would end: Ernest Hamilton, adventurer extraordinaire, has returned from a successful expedition to retrieve the Fluxatron, a mysterious ancient device his professor buddy needs to power another mysterious ancient device called the Transmorphanizer. The professor doesn’t know what the Transmorphanizer will actually do when it’s activated, but he’s darn well going to find out, the only way he knows how: by activating the thing and seeing what happens! (Yay, science!) Well, that was the plan until some dastardly nogoodnik came along and stole the Fluxatron. Cue sad face, angry face, then determined-to-get-it-back face, followed by a delightfully cheeky romp around the world.
You play as Ernest Hamilton as he trots around the globe in search of the Fluxatron, a quest that will take him across four unique “worlds”: the Amazon Jungle, the Himalayas, Egypt, and Maralidia (think Atlantis). Each world is comprised of 11 levels and each level is essentially a maze, with your primary goal being to find a golden key, which you can then use to unlock the maze’s exit.
Of course, accomplishing that simple-sounding task is actually quite tricky. You’ll mainly encounter crumbling floor tiles, most of which will fall apart after being stepped on once, although some can withstand being stepped on twice. Planning is key with these, because if you run around helter-skelter, you’ll find yourself trapped with no recourse but to restart the level. And if that weren’t challenging enough, you’ll also have to deal with a variety of enemies and traps: deadly things that pop out of the ground, sentinels that patrol in specific patterns, conveyors that push you toward bottomless pits, and more. Touch an enemy or fall into a pit and it’s game over, so you’ll be spending a lot of your time waiting patiently for an opening, then moving when the time is right.
And that’s the crux of Hamilton’s Great Adventure: it’s all about planning your moves in advance, then executing those moves at the right time. Early levels are incredibly simple, but later levels (especially the challenge levels at the end of each world) can get quite tricky, to the point that you’ll actually feel a strong sense of satisfaction for what you have accomplished, especially if you manage to collect all the treasure along the way.
Oh, did I not mention the treasure? Well, there’s treasure, lots of it, strewn all over the place. Collecting it is completely optional, though, and you can play through the entire game without picking up a single extra gold coin if that’s what you really want. The game won’t complain at all; in fact, the levels are far easier if you just bypass all the shiny stuff. But, the more treasure you collect, the more points you’ll earn, and those points will unlock bonus levels for you to play. These bonus levels are easily the most fun and challenging of the lot, and are a great incentive to go for a “Gold” rating in the story levels.
Like any good adventurer, Ernest doesn’t travel alone. He is always accompanied by his trusty bird companion, Sasha. She’s actually quite handy, and serves three purposes. First, and most importantly, she can pull out-of-reach levers to open doors that are blocking Hamilton’s path. Second, she can squawk to distract certain enemies, and also lure them into traps, which can make Hamilton’s life much easier, especially when he encounters the “agents” who relentlessly chase him around the map. Third, she can pick up the purple magic dust that’s floating around, which you’ll need to power the gadgets Hamilton has at his disposal.
Yup, gadgets. You’re awarded a useful gadget whenever you complete a world. There’s a spyglass that shows you the safest, fastest path through a level, a mask that tricks enemies into thinking you’re one of them so they don’t attack you, and a pair of boots that let you run really, really fast. Of these, the only one that I ever actually used were the boots, because there are a couple of sequences where you must use them to proceed. The other two provide a nice convenience for players who are having difficulties with the getting through the game, but aren’t necessary in any way.
As I mentioned before, these gadgets are powered by magic dust that Sasha can collect as she flies around a level. There’s a lot of magic dust to go around, and it respawns fairly quickly, so you’ll never have to worry about running dry at an inopportune time. All this gameplay is wrapped in a wonderfully campy, bombastic story of adventure and intrigue. The characters are all over-the-top, and the dialog is actually very funny. There’s no way to not smile while playing this game, because it presents itself in such an innocently playful and carefree manner. The story is actually told as a flashback, as an elderly and retired Hamilton tells his grand-daughter about his great adventure to find the Fluxatron. Cut scenes are styled to look like a graphic novel, comprised of a series of still images which illustrate the accompanying dialogue text. There are no voiceovers, however, but I think voice would have detracted from the overall experience.
Hamilton’s Great Adventure controls quite smoothly… if you have an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your computer. It’ll automatically detect the presence of said controller and provide you an intuitive experience perfectly tailored to that control method. Playing with keyboard and mouse, however, is more troublesome. It’s functional, but the game was obviously not designed with keyboard and mouse in mind. There are little things, like how you can’t use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out, or how one of Sasha’s abilities is mapped to “extra_1″ on the mouse, a button that most mice don’t actually have, that suggest not much thought was put into the keyboard side of things.
The biggest negative about playing with the keyboard and mouse, however, is controlling Sasha. When you’re using the Xbox controller, you can take direct control of Sasha to explore the entire level. She can fly anywhere and everywhere, which is a tremendous benefit because some levels are quite large, and do require a fair bit of planning and forethought to get through. With a controller, you can see how everything is laid out, get an idea of what to expect, and maybe even lure some enemies to their deaths to make Hamilton’s life easier in the long run.
With the keyboard/mouse controls you can’t do this. You aren’t able to control Sasha directly, and can only tell her where to go by clicking the mouse. This limits her usefulness to the immediate area around Hamilton. She can’t go off and explore, which means you can’t check out the entire level beforehand. This fundamentally changes the nature of the game, since you’ll have to resort to more thinking on your feet (and, thus, trial and error) than pre-planning and forethought. On the other hand, keyboard/mouse users are able to access a special menu that lets you put in a “mystic code” to unlock a couple of bonus levels. This menu doesn’t appear if you’re playing with a gamepad… which is probably a bug, now that I think about it, but maybe we can view it as a feature… ?
The game requires DirectX 11, which means you’ll only be able to play if you have Windows Vista or 7. The graphics are pretty resource intensive, too, so you’ll need a beefy video card to run it; integrated graphics simply will not do. I don’t know why the system requirements are so high. While the graphics are quite pretty, they’re also simple and don’t look like they’d be too demanding on the system. The settings menu is a travesty. It shows a “Screen Resolution:” option, but selecting it does nothing. It shows a fullscreen/windowed mode toggle, but using that just crashes the game. There are no options to reduce texture resolution or model detail, or make any of the other tweaks that PC gamers with low-end graphics cards like to do. The only things you can do are turn on anti-aliasing, and switch shadow quality from medium to high.
Conclusion – Is It Worth The Money?
Despite the poor graphics configuration options and consolitis, Hamilton’s Great Adventure is a lot of fun. If you have a good graphics card (or don’t mind hacking the ini file) and an Xbox 360 controller plugged into your computer, then it is definitely worth every penny. Your ten-dollar investment will net you 45 story levels and over a dozen bonus ones, which is a significant amount of entertaining content for the asking price. If you need your value-for-money expressed in terms of dollar-per-hour: it took me five hours to blow through the story mode, and that’s without taking the time to collect everything. For a completionist, I’d estimate the experience to last anywhere from 10 to 12 hours.
Either way, it’s a great value for a great game.
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