GAME REVIEW: TO BE OR NOT TO BE / CREATOR: RYAN NORTH / PUBLISHER: TIN MAN GAMES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOWRyan North’s work has always been interesting and highly creative; his fixed art webcomic Dinosaur Comics has been a staple of the internet since 2003 and he won an Eisner award for his Adventure Time comic book. He recently teamed up with choose-your-own-adventure specialists Tin Man Games, who create marvellous apps that allow you to play multiple choice games books on your phone. The result was To Be or Not To Be; a game based on Hamlet.
There’s no special rules mechanics here; it’s a straightforward adventure game. Well, sort of straightforward. For a start, it’s an adaptation of Hamlet which allows you to pick a character first. Your choices are fairly limited; you can pick Hamlet, Hamlet’s Father or Ophelia.
That’s right: this is a version of Hamlet where you get to be a ghost. Each option is pretty silly, and also very, very funny. North combines an educated and highly literate wit with some amazingly appropriate illustrations to brilliant effect. To Be or Not To Be effortlessly deconstructs the gaping plot holes and faulty logic that makes Hamlet work and then proceeds to mercilessly poke fun at the whole affair. When it’s not laughing at Hamlet or taking a sharp look at gaming in general, it’s dropping some really interesting facts. But mostly, it’s silly fun.
North uses the ‘choose your own adventure’ format to emulate comic timing; the text scrolls by at a set pace and the reader is constantly setting themselves up as a straight man of sorts. This makes the gags funnier and also means that once you’ve gotten to the end of one story path you immediately want to see what joke you may have missed.
To Be or Not To Be isn’t Shakespeare - it’s funnier.
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