by Tomasz Pudlo


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Number of Ratings: 21
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A literary feat undermined by its puzzles, December 22, 2021
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2004

"Audacious" doesn't begin to do justice to Gamlet. Harry Potter by way of Portnoy's Complaint with a soupcon of Shakespeare; kabbala, pubescence, the luminous, somehow innocent attraction that sin holds for those just cresting adolescence; there's a lot to take in here, and the author's voice is bold and assured, weaving together the abstract and the vulgar to devastating effect. The writing is elliptical, content to take its time and draw the player into the world at its own pace. Themes and echoes are everywhere.

Frustratingly, though, this pregnant, compelling premise is swallowed up by overcomplicated puzzles which aren't sufficiently integrated into the game. Perhaps I'm just not clever enough at coming up with solutions, but it felt like important objects weren't always mentioned, and some of the puzzles seem to presume more knowledge and perspicacity than I could muster. I'm still not sure where the clock combination came from. As a result of the difficulty, I found myself forced to the walkthrough sooner than I would have liked, which broke the spell of immersion the game had been weaving up until that point; the fact that instead of evoking an "ah-ha!" the solutions left me wondering how I was supposed to come up with this stuff didn't help matters.

Worse than the difficulty, however, is the way that the puzzles become more and more contrived as the game progresses. Lighting a lamp, finding a hamster, raiding the kitchen; these are all reasonable actions, and a certain degree of spelunking in the PC's father's study makes sense given the premise, as well. But too quickly, the game falls prey to increasingly arbitrary puzzles, with little connection to the story beyond the necessity of padding the length. The game very much lost me once I entered the elevator; this new, fantastic world felt colorless and generic compared to the dim, claustrophobic house below. There's a symbolic logic which continues to work even here, and the prose continues to be strong, but ultimately the latter portions of the game are a disappointment.

Overall, Gamlet perhaps tries to do too much; cramming so much characterization and puzzling together is a tricky business, and the game might have been better served by privileging one over the other. As it is, its skewed, distinctive vibe makes it one of this year's standouts, but its flaws do far too much to weigh it down.

- E.K., September 22, 2020

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
The Dark Side of Kabbalah, March 26, 2018
by Tristano (Italy)

I truely enjoyed this game (about three hours play, using hints now and then).

Denfinitely, an unsual work of IF. The atmosphere is dark and feverish, the plot explores the dark side of Kabbalah. Thrown into the main character's shoes, you'll be playing this adventure through the eyes of Jack Pudlo, a young jewish boy whose precarious health turned him into a cynical misanthrope. It's very well written, every part of the text reinforces the main character's mental state and his (sick) relation to the surrounding world.

The map is not huge, but in order to explore it in full you'll need to unravel many puzzles. The game is claustrophobic, crude and profane; reality is constantly blurred by a mixture of Jack's paranoia and hallucinations, on the one hand, and occult manifestations and magic, on the other. This is as much as I can say without spoiling gameplay.

The implementation is smooth, and I've only stumbled in a single disambiguation problem during the whole game. There are no "guess the verb" situations and commands parsing is implemented rather mercifully; smart implicit actions replace tedious commands sequences, sparing the player endless typing when it's obvious what he has in mind. The commands set in not huge, and non standard commands are either obvious or hinted at in the text. I advise you try out any action that comes to your mind, for the atmosphere of the game will push you in directions that are worthy to explore (especially the dark side of Jack), even when these actions might not have a direct impact on the story course.

Jack Pudlo reminded me of Francis Orme, the main character of Edward Carey's Observatory Mansions, who's own narrative (like Jack's) is distorted by his own personality and selfishness, and chronic disease becomes an excuse to moral superiority and misanthropy.

The story ending is quite unexpected, and I still can't decide what to make of it. The ABOUT text is very strange indeed, and I'm left with the impression that it contains clues to decode further layers of narrative meanings for example, the theme of "war" is mentioned in the ABOUT, and constantly leaks into the story background, from the distant sounds of the outside world, growing in intensity as the story approaches its end, but it's never explored or directly connected to the plot. Kabbalah being a central theme (and device) to the story, I suspect that there is more to the plot than meets the eye at first sight.

- Ivanr, May 18, 2017

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Good writing and clever concepts in a bizarre and crass game, February 3, 2016

This is a highly unusual game. It is written about Jack Pudlo, an infamous troll on the r*if forums. I think the game hints that he is the author.

The game seems like a big trolling on one hand, while on the other hand, it is highly polished.

For the polish: the writing is smooth and clear, with really vivid images. The game borrows heavily and openly from Shakespeare. It delves deep into Jewish culture. There were no bugs that I noticed. The ending was very clever until the last bit. Overall, a game with a lot of polish.

On the other hand, it trolls you. It uses sensuality and profanity from time to time in crass ways (not to arouse or for art, just to be gross). The character has an odd relationship with God that is hard to describe. And the ending openly insults the player. The ABOUT text is bizarre.

Overall, a weird game. It's like a very nice cake flavored like mustard. I'd love to learn more about its background.

- CMG (NYC), January 29, 2016

- gaite, December 20, 2015

- Thrax, March 12, 2015

- Joshua Houk, October 18, 2014

- liz73 (Cornwall, New York), November 24, 2012

- Mr. Patient (Saint Paul, Minn.), March 10, 2012

- Mark Jones (Los Angeles, California), June 3, 2010

- Grey (Italy), December 25, 2009

- Ghalev (Colorado, United States), July 5, 2009

- Jeremy Freese (Evanston, IL), February 28, 2009

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Snatching defeat from the claws of victory, December 7, 2008
by Nusco (Bologna, Italy)
Related reviews: IF Competition 2004

Prepuberal Prince of Denmark wannabe peels the deep implementation layers of his parents' home. Exceptional atmosphere, flourishing prose and dark, dark humor abound.

Gamlet is a missed chance for a classic. It's deeply unsettling and funny at the same time, but the effect is somewhat spoiled by the ending sequence. The ending itself is mildly interesting, mainly because it reveals a lot about the game's author - which probably wasn't the intention of the author itself.

- Nathan (Utah), October 26, 2008

- VK, November 27, 2007

- Stephen Bond (Leuven, Belgium), October 26, 2007

- Pseudo_Intellectual (Vancouver, Canada), October 25, 2007

- Quintin Stone (NC), October 23, 2007

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