Ah, childhood. Is there nothing about it that can't be twisted? Not if Gretel and Hansel, a new episodic point-and-click adventure by Mako Pudding, has anything to say about it. When she overhears their parents decide they would be better off without two additional grubby mouths to feed, it's up to Gretel and Hansel to save the day! Or, uh, Gretel anyway. Hansel is a little... thick. But who needs boys when you've got a slingshot anyway? It's more fun, and has less cooties besides! Parents be warned, this one isn't for the young'uns.
For the most part, the game is controlled like your standard point-and-click. You use your mouse to interact with objects if a thought balloon appears above Gretel's head, and once you acquire the slingshot, you can fire from your endless supply of ammo by clicking on a target, holding briefly, and then releasing. Unlike most other games in the genre, however, Gretel can be moved around the screen with either the [wasd] or [arrow] keys.
The object in this first installment of a planned three part series is for Gretel to gather shiny stones to mark a path with when their parents lead them into the woods. Don't expect much help from Hansel; he's too busy eating flies. You'll need to venture outside and hunt down some suitable rocks around the house. Just remember to steer clear of bees. And giant spiders. And rabbits. And... ahhhhhh, you'll figure it out.
Analysis: The author states in the game's description that it was a labour of love. And frankly, I believe them. The hand-painted visuals here combined with the storybook soundtrack make for a lush experience. Although fairly simplistic looking with their smudged bobbleheads, Gretel and the rest of the cast still manage to be surprisingly expressive, and the story is more funny than tragic like the original. Despite featuring a perplexingly out of place and mildly annoying chase/avoidance sequence at the end, Gretel and Hansel is still a pretty well polished little adventure.
I do wish the adventure aspect of the game had been as tight as the rest of the design. It almost feels like the whole thing was intended originally to be an animated short, and then someone suggested they make a game out of it. While never really illogical, none of the puzzles are terribly unique either. You can find most of the ten stones you need simply by walking around behind things, and it makes the game feel a little lopsided. It's still adorable and fun to play, but it doesn't feel as fully realised as it could.
The whole game is actually fairly short, and I'd be surprised to hear it ate up more than a half hour of your time. Unless, of course, it's because you were tracking down additional death scenes like the sick little bunny you are. Yes, like any good, treasured childhood fairytale, Gretel and Hansel features unpleasant things. While most of them actually take some determination (or good old fashioned tick-headedness) to see, you can still meet an untimely (and humourous) demise if you aren't careful. There's no real penalty for death, however, and you'll just restart from the point where you entered the area.
Play both games in the Gretel and Hansel series:
If you can't laugh at bad things happening to adorable little watercolour moppets, Gretel and Hansel may not be the game for you. It takes a slightly off sense of humour to take everything that happens in the game without getting riled up. (Death by bunny, anyone?) But if you're looking for a quirky, quality treat to fill some time, Gretel will greet you with open arms and slingshot at the ready.