A Hooked Second Look
Hamiltonís Great Adventure already released on PC, but here at HG, we believe that games can be different experiences on different platforms, and are worthy of a second look. I strongly suggest you read my esteemed colleague Ryan Sandreyís PC review, but the console version offers an even better experience for those with two analog sticks and no Steam account.
Not Quite the Professor
The story is definitely Hamiltonís Great Adventureís weakest point. The game is essentially one big flashback. An elderly Hamilton has his granddaughter and a scrapbook in his lap as he recounts his adventures. The story is told in slideshow-like cutscenes with no voice acting other than the occasional ďHmm?Ē or ďAha!Ē Ryan felt that this didnít detract from the game, but I feel an opportunity for greatness was wasted. The Professor Layton series on the DS is one of my favorites because in between the puzzles is a fully voice-acted story with amazingly high quality (for the DS) cutscenes. The video interludes felt like a movie and really added to the experience. If Hamiltonís Great Adventure had gone this route, Iím sure the game would have felt more like Indiana Jones and have profited from it. As it was, I quickly stopped caring about what happened and skipped on to the excellent levels. That being said, the game has its humorous moments. I cracked up when I witnessed a flying fish helicopter buzz Wagnerís The Ride of the Valkyries with a kazoo, and jumping mountain goats with FBI-issued shades show style.
No DX11 Needed
The Direct X 10/11 problem that Ryan faced is a non-issue on the consoles. Luckily, the PS3ís processing power ensures that the game looks and sounds just as good as Ryan mentioned. Environments are crisp and varied, and the background music for each level is catchy enough while still staying, well, in the background so you donít get distracted.
Dual-analog sticks and numerous shoulder buttons remove any camera problems. Controls for rotating the screen and zooming in and out are confined to the shoulders, while the right analog stick controls Sashaís altitude. A press of the face buttons switches between Hamilton and Sasha, and you will be doing quite a bit of switching.
What makes Hamiltonís Great Adventure so Great is the methodical nature of itís gameplay that rewards planning ahead. While beating the levels isnít that hard, collecting all the treasure is. Like chess, you have to plan many moves ahead lest you cross a deteriorating platform and be unable to return. This is why you have Sasha. I started every level by switching to Sasha and taking a tour of the level while collecting dust. This gave me a clue of what I had to do and turned what could have been a very irritating mechanic into an invigorating obstacle course. Co-op, an addition not available in the PC version, makes it even easier. One player controls Hamilton while the other controls Sasha. It could become problematic, as they share camera controls, but good coordination results in an even better experience than single player. It also makes the game kid-friendly, as parents can play with and assist their kids with a videogame that doesnít spurt buckets of blood.
From Good to Great
While Hamiltonís Great Adventure had flaws on the PC, and as the game is a port, many of them still exist. The story and presentation doesnít live up to their potential, and it can be annoying to get all the way to the end of the level, make one mistake, and have to start over to get that elusive gold ranking. However, many of them have also been fixed. I encountered no bugs or crashes during my playtime with the game, the camera works fine, console standardization ensures anyone can play the game, and coop is even thrown in as a bonus. These improvements elevate Hamiltonís Great Adventure above the level of its initial release and make it worthy of the protagonistís catchphrase. Excelsior!
Engaging cerebral gameplay, improved camera controls and coop.
Story could have been presented better, no mid-level checkpoints.