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Beethoven's Hair

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Rating: 4/5 (31 votes)
Comments (40) | Views (5,109)

PatrickBeethoven's HairBeethoven's Hair is a psychological vignette of a game designed by Alex Mayhew. The piece is, according to the author, "part of a cross media project based on the true story of a lock of hair that was cut from Beethoven's head and the story of how it passed down through history."

The game starts out mildly interactive, which might make you think "oh, another one of those 'New Media', self-smug clap-traps." But once you unlock the keyhole you'll discover a thoughtful and intriguing take on the escape-the-room genre that infuses the usual search dynamic with free-form exploration and historical fiction.

At the start, you unlock Beethoven's tomb, your "spirit", or as they say in America, "mouse cursor", is projected in the form of a Butterfly, and must hover over a 'scape of sheet music in order to resolve issues in the composer's restless soul. The interaction is extremely simple; just move the cursor around to control your avatar and press up and down to fly higher or lower. Follow the notes and clues and figure out the rest.

The journey takes you through Beethoven's life, his music to a lesser degree, and down through the history of Germany in his passing. The end result is an interactive trip, the kind of experience you can only find on the Web. Its not highly re-playable, and its not highly fun (though kinda fun). What it is, however, is compelling, it goes beyond fun. Take the trip.

Play Beethoven's Hair


Very interesting history lesson.


It was beautiful.


Way too short. Nice effects.


I feel so silly because it isn't a difficult but for the life of me I can't find the tank in WW2 section!


Beautiful, wonderful history lesson. i was a little sad that

the butterfly got killed


very frustrating game.......the controls for the butterfly are way out of sync. I finally gave up. Anyone else have that problem?


That was a really beautiful experience. Thank you for that.

Papachabre August 27, 2007 7:12 PM

This is a particularly tough game, so I'll write a walkthrough for it.


1. Follow the in-game instructions.

That's it =D. Good luck and enjoy; I know I did!


I agree it was a bit diffcult controlling the flutterbye, but since I wasn't under any pressure to do things exact and I really could do no wrong I found it easier as I went. Disturbing that Hitler appropriated such lovely music to further his so called rightous
campaign. Nice game. I'd say it's re-playable. If only to look at the things you missed.


very frustrating game.......the controls for the butterfly are way out of sync. I finally gave up. Anyone else have that problem?


Interesting. I especially liked the ending.


Not a bad way to do a history lesson. Although, being a pianist and one who was brought up as a classical pianist I found myself a bit disappointed in the music selection as Beethoven had many great works of art. Altogether not bad though.


Very pretty.
I probably would have enjoyed it more if I had any interest in Beethoven.


I don't think I'd call this "escape the room". It pretty much is one of those ...how did the review say..."Mildly interactive...self-smug clap traps"...or whatever. Here are your five things to do and we'll fill in the rest with video stuff. I missed getting to read that question mark fact dealie at the Hitler part where you land in the tank, because Beethoven started "talking" right when I hit the question mark, so I had to move and couldn't stop to read. Oh well.

Some interesting facts, though, and to agree with the masses, as a lover of Beethoven (I have almost every full Symphony of his on my computer and many of the smaller pieces, and I know the full 23 minutes of the "Ode to Joy" in the original German...but not to toot my horn, I'm just saying), I was just a little let down by the music. Well-done I agree, but I wish there were longer snippets, especially since they used such recognizable pieces. I'm sure everyone went "oh it's on repeat".


Did anyone else notice that on the website for the project, it said the lock of hair was purchased by two Americans... one of whom was named Che Guevera? It would be nice if they had said something like, "A doctor named Che Guevera" - but honestly, who looks at that name and doesn't think about the revolutionary unless they've never heard the name? It just looks weird.

ilikegames August 28, 2007 11:57 AM

Butterfly controls are frustrating.

I can't get the butterfly to "land" on the violin.


Very beautiful: although nothing spectacularly revealing information-wise to those who have read biographies of Beethoven, the presentation was poignant. I found the section with Karl particularly disquieting.

But to echo the above comments, as visually wonderful as this was, it needed much more of his music. In the end, that is how LVB truly communicated. The little snippets were more tantalizing than supportive. Think about those scenes in Amadeus (yes, hardly historical, I know) in which parts of Mozart music would drift in as Salieri would speak about the music. That sort of "music conjoined with narrative" would go a long ways towards turning a game like this from a 15 minute "history channel" biography into an actual exploration of Beethoven's genius.


In order to get the butterfly to land on the violin, you have to be at the right height first. Try using the up arrow to get above the violin first, then descend to it. That's what I had to do. I had to stop the game though, after the Hitler episode it said it was going to some portal- well, the little screen became black, and it said to land on the portal! Nothing happened, my butterfly just fluttered up and down, so I figured it didn't load right.


I feel a little disturbed now! Things like this that seem to take me to a troubled past always seem to drag me to that atmosphere. Nice game, though, I like it when I get dragged in this type of past :P


I loved this game and have sent the links to many of my friends. I loved the history lesson...but they left out why he became deaf...SYPHILLIS!

Canadian Enchantress August 29, 2007 1:18 PM

sooze, ilikegames, and Caya, (and anyone else experiencing frustration with game controls/screen blackouts/strange sightings and sounds), I think I may have found the source of your troubles!
You may have been victims of the phenomena known as: "Beethoven Burst" !!!

To learn more, visit the original site: http://www.beethovenshair.ca/flash.html
------------------------------ Welcome to Beethoven's Hair ----------------------------------
Click Start
Click Haunting
Review this message:
"Visitors to the Beethoven's Hair Website have been reporting strange sightings and sounds.
The producers have determined that it is not the work of a disgruntled programmer, nor is it the result of a virus. These phenomena can be traced back to a particular chain of events.
In 1977, NASA's twin Voyager probes were launched into space. On board the probes, recorded on a copper disc, is a message for other civilizations including two composites by Beethoven:
* THe first movement of the Fifth Symphony in C minor, opus 67
* The string quartet, number 13 for 2 violins, 1 viola and 1 cello, opus 130
On December 16th, 1999 (the 229 anniversary of Beethoven's birth), one of the most violent eruptions of gamma rays in outer space was recorded. Given the brilliance fo this inter-stellar event and the timing, astronomers dubbed it "Beethoven Burst".
A celestial event had the following effects :
A disruption of radio signals and electronic systems was recorded throughout the world, with outages in internet, radio and tele-communications. Autstria was particularly affected, with Vienna, actually experiencing a 24-hour blackout.

Afterwards, websites devoted to Beethoven were plagued by instability - including our own."

Canadian Enchantress August 29, 2007 1:35 PM

P.S. To jenny:

gasp! my butterfly met an untimely demise, as well, . . . I suspect it was supposed to, though ... ? or . . . was it too, victim to "Beethoven Burst!!!"

Oh, Oh . . .
another thought just occured!
Jay, and one Patrick Dugan have taken considerable risk, by posting a link to this game, on this website

Beware, Beware! Especially on December 16th . . . sound-of-Twilight Zone-theme song-mysteriously-begins-it's-eerie-tune . . .
December 16, 2007 will be the 237th anniversary of Beethoven's birth - the 8th anniversary of the one of the most violent eruptions of gamma rays in outer space was recorded.
Since the disruption of radio signals and electronic systems was recorded throughout the world, with outages in internet, radio and tele-communications, and afterwards, websites devoted to Beethoven have been plagued by instability, and "Beethoven Burst" seems to continue to affect all those whom come into contact. . . . there's no telling what could happen next!

Hey . . . my screen's going fuzzy . . . that's weird, my cursor just started erratically zipping about, even though my hand is nowhere near my mouse . . .
hey, what is tha --- what is happ

lol! just kidding


The game was beautiful and an interesting way to present history. The Web site, however, was virtually non-functional because of the "hauntings". I tried to read through the history pages and it kept booting me back to the haunting link. Once that happened, I had to start through the time line all over again. Very frustrating.


I think this game was very well done. The story, history and sounds were great. Taught me a few things about Beethoven. I would like to see more things like this.


Absolutely stunning. I love the brilliant golds and the vivid images. Also, the little historical notes give real meaning behind each of the symbols, and I learned a lot about Beethoven. Definitely gets 5 stars from me- 100 if the star system would allow


VERY interesting. I knew most of the information about the composer already. However, imagining this sort of "after life" concept was very impressive.

I was particularly moved (I was moved by the game. I know thats a little sad) when "my spirit", the butterfly, ended up as it does in the end.

The slight music during this cut scene added to the effect.

I felt like I'd really...done something, I guess!

It was beautiful, though I agree the differences in music could have been more pronounced. Beethoven composed so many beautiful works...I wish there'd been more on the game to hear.

It was amazing, however, just stunningly...meaningful.




A great game!




OMG, I hate butterflies... Yuk. I wish it was something else so I could play


Pretty game, entirely defeating interface! After grappling with the stupid butterfly all the way to the violin (because every time I'd get lag, the butterfly would continue uncontrolled in whatever direction I was pointed, with a few random weird flits so I'd have to hunt through the pages of notes to find my lost place) the damn thing wouldn't land. I tried the various (few) suggestions, with no luck. And of course every time I looked for more info online, my butterfly would wander somewhere new, leaving me to once again hunt up the violin. I can now find the violin from any location, but I still can't land on it.

Screw this, I'm done.

...Daymare? March 30, 2008 5:09 PM

I-I.....I can't play it!
I'm just too...scared of ghosts!
Could....Could someone....Please help me?

I'm scared!

P.S. It's freakier than the Tails Doll!

nightmare April 6, 2008 2:05 PM

That was beutiful if you love beethoven as much as me u really appreiciate this game and daymare dont be afraid its not as scary as you think i thought the game controls were easy.


I really do hope they make a longer sequel. This was a true masterpiece.

Anonymous April 20, 2009 12:55 AM

Does anyone know where to play this game? The link takes you to a disabled page.

Patreon VIP Chiktionary August 22, 2009 8:34 PM

Not so much a game as an interactive piece. I realised fairly late that by chnging the altitude of the butterfly, the wings would play the musical notes as it passed them.
I found this to be a beautiful and disturbing interactive piece, even artistic in it's intention. This should be the format for teaching history at school.

As for the butterfly, possibly people are assuming that up and down means up screen and down screen. What it actually means is closer to you and further away. Imagine you're above the butterfly in the sky looking down and when you want the butterfly to land, that is move away from you, hit the down key. I know it took me a minute to adjust to the new view.


Just letting you know, the link no longer seems to be working.

[Edit: Seems the author's account has been temporarily disabled. Hopefully it will be back soon. -Jay]

Brandon May 23, 2010 1:27 AM

I dont get what I have to do with the butterfly?>>



I developed this game in collaboration with Alex Mayhew. FWIW we build a game CMS for making BH as well as some other games that never saw completion (The Hive and City of Wings). Was an epic build and probably suffer from us being over ambitious and a little naive.

In any case, I stumbled across this link while doing an ego/nostalgia search and am very happy to see that people are still checking it out (albeit very few).

The game is still available:


We will most likely not be producing anything like this again. But I am very happy we did.

Brandon: use your cursor keys to fly up and down, read the instructions and try an land of hover above things to trigger events.


this game is fun but way too short


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