Internet funny-chap Ryan North may be familiar to some of you as the Canadian creator of the webcomic Dinosaur Comics. You might also know him as the author of the short story collection Machine of Death. But did you know he’s also pretty good at making funny video games? I took some time out of my busy schedule recently to sit down with To Be or Not To Be, his hilarious first entry into the video game pantheon. and wrote down some thoughts that I had like a proper critic, which I am, yeah?
To Be or Not To Be (or TBoNTB as I’ll be calling it) is a choose-your-own-adventure book based on the Shakespearean classic, Hamlet. Now, any English schoolchild can tell you Hamlet is the one with the skull and lots of people dying but did you know it also has pirate fights, ghost dinosaur wrangling and spectral adventures beyond the realm of the living? Well it doesn’t, but this new game does instantly making it better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote by adding the aforementioned details. It’s also very, very funny – Ryan North has created a world with a delightful mix of razor sharp wit, laugh out loud bizarreness and sheer, unadulterated fun.
I know what you’re asking – “Is it in 1080p HD and will it run at 60 fps?” Well, its not a graphical behemoth by any means since it’s literally an interactive novel, essentially a Steam-friendly version of his Kickstarter-funded book of the same name. You choose your characters at different intervals – Hamlet, Ophelia or Ghost Dad (aka Hamlet Senior) – and click one of several different dialogue choices. There’s a little Horatio skull icon next to the choices the bard himself made, but there’s more fun to be had going off the rails. It’s a game that would be absolutely perfect for lying in bed and playing on an iPad but honestly, its worth downloading even if you have to sit in an actual chair to play it. With over 150 different routes and endings plus collectible achievements, unlockable art and the chance to party on a boat like its 1599 all over again, you’d have to be mad to miss this.
Now, in honor of the Bard himself, allow me a moment to share my thoughts on To Be or Not To Be in the manner most accustomed – the Shakespearean Sonnet.
A review born of a desperate need
To find poor Moose a game of much lolling
How lucky he was to find this new screed
From Ryan Norths mind, so young and becoming
For what did he find? A boring old book?
Nay but a game filled with awesome, odd stuff
Young Hamlet fights a pirate with hook
While his old, dead dad flies around in the buff
Princess Ophelia, scientist girl
Kicks ass while keeping the killing at bay
Gertrude is Queen but hark, not a churl
That’s just some of the people you’ll meet on a play
Now for the question, To Buy or To Not?
Why yes, buy it now, or be called a sad clot!
Alas, Poor Yorick, Just Buy The Damn Game
Gameplay - 7/10
Plot - 9/10
Design - 8/10
A charming, hilarious adventure for all the family. Read it aloud and proud with kids or chuckle away to yourself in private but either way, you will not be disappointed.