To Be Or Not To Be is a comedic content-rich interactive novel set in Shakespeare’s Hamlet-universe. It is a brilliantly told story, garnished with marvellous artwork, and it will finally teach you punks a bit of culture.
Shakespeare’s plays are without a doubt some of the most reused and retold narratives of all time. The love-story between two members of rivaling societies (Romeo and Juliet), the destructiveness of unchecked ambition (Macbeth), the fact that love and feelings make everything unnecessarily complicated (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) or in this case, the power and nature of the human urge to revenge.
Let’s start by criticizing what is left of an actual game. The graphics are good and framerate is absolutely sufficient for this kind of genre (but let’s face it, 10 would do the trick aswell). The artwork fits the narrative. It is simple, comical and I will even dare say that it’s a bit cute. What the lazy readers amongst you will appreciate is that all the dialogues are read to you, so you don’t even actually have to read. The voice acting is spot-on and actually helps the story come to life.
Speaking of story: As with every visual novel, the story of course is the center-piece of this title. I’m struggling with the choice of setting. Hamlet, after all, is a tragedy, not a comedy. If you have never read or seen Hamlet, this might not bother you at all, but if you are a fan, it might feel like someone wrote a comedy-piece about A Song Of Ice And Fire. It’s a serious book, with a lot of death and serious stuff to think about, for someone to come along and make it seem like Ricky Gervais could star in it … I’m not going to lie, this part doesn’t feel right.
On the other hand: I do understand why you would choose a story written by the guy who has written the richest stories in all of literary history. If Shakespeare made cakes instead of plays, he would have made chocolate cakes with chocolate filling and a cherry on top of the sugar frosting, you would need a lot of milk to wash that sticky stuff down. I have a feeling I am getting carried away. The point is: Rich story, a lot of touch points for reinterpretations.
The most central aspect of this piece of literature, and yes, I would go as far as to categorize it as literature, is the comedy in it. The jokes never miss their goal, they are hardly ever over the top or become boring. A very important point also being that the story will never make you feel like you have lost control of the direction it is headed, just for the sake of being funny. (Something like: “You have decided to kill the dude. Psych! There isn’t even a dude.” I hope you know what I mean with that.) Whenever you have played/read through a chapter you have the feeling that your choices actually mattered and that the outcome is only due to the choices you have made.
The game rocks! I actually have a hard time comparing it to any other game, since all the other visual novels I have played are somehow Anime-related and there are no japanese schoolgirls in miniskirts in this story (which is a two-edged sword I suppose). Anyways, I highly recommend you get a steaming cup of cocoa, a hot water bottle and a warm blanket, get comfortable in front of your PC and dive right into the story of the prince of Denmark.
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