Hamilton's Great Adventure preview
Put Pac-Man, Q*bert, and Indiana Jones in a blender and purée. Sprinkle a little Banjo-Kazooie on top, and you should have something resembling Hamilton’s Great Adventure (unless it’s a hideous crime against food and nature).
Fatshark, the Swedish development team behind last year’s Lead and Gold, are back with another budget game that’s more family-friendly. Instead of team-based gunplay in the Wild West, HGA is a top-down, tile-based puzzle game, challenging you to always be thinking three steps ahead of your next move. If you don’t, you may end up falling to your death while hastily attempting to snatch some treasure.
You play as Hamilton, reliving your greatest treasure-hunting moments from the 1920s while your granddaughter listens in awe. But you weren’t adventuring alone: your trusty bird/companion Sasha was with you every step of the way, using her avian scouting and distracting squawks to help Hamilton solve puzzles and sneak past monsters.
Each level is laid out in a grid, with Hamilton speeding along one block at a time. The catch is that each tile can only be stepped on a certain number of times before the creaky wooden platforms collapse beneath you. The trick is figuring out what path Hamilton must take through a level to snag as many coins as he can without fatally retracing his steps. You’ll need Sasha’s help in order to flip levers and identify safe hiding spots; this lends itself perfectly the game’s co-op mode, where one player controls Hamilton with the keyboard while the other swoops Sasha around with the mouse or a gamepad.
As is typical of any great puzzle game, HGA is designed to appeal to both casual and hardcore audiences. The learning curve is gradual, and players get some time to adjust to new mechanics, like slippery ice or trampoline tiles, before they’re thrown into the fray. Coins are scattered throughout each stage—the more you pick up, the shinier your medal. Being something of a completionist at heart, I felt compelled to figure out how I could snag each coin with the least moves possible. Luckily for me, death in HGA is fleeting, and you'll pop back into existence almost instantly after making a wrong turn at the proverbial Albuquerque. Even better, a string of top performances unlocks hidden levels that really test your puzzling mettle. For the most dedicated players, Sasha can fly around picking up orbs that can grant Hamilton a nice speed-boost. Expect the time-trial leaderboards to be filled with people controlling both characters simultaneously (while still managing to snag every coin).
The stages are nice and varied, in both setting and substance. Hamilton’s search for the Atlantis-esque Maralidia takes him through the Himalayas, Egypt, and the Amazon jungle over the course of around 60 levels. He won’t make it there unopposed, however: The Guardian, the cutest Cthulu-lookalike you ever did see, is determined to stop Hamilton, giving rise to some boss battles along the way.
The gang at Fatshark know how satisfying it is to navigate through a level at your own pace—with the exception of monsters, there’s nothing hurrying you along, and tiles will only collapse once you’ve stepped off them. They also pay their respects to the arcade classics of yesteryear, giving nods to games like Donkey Kong and Frogger in the secret levels. For $10, you won't need to sell off any ancient relics to pick it up. Hamilton will hit Steam this April.