Also on: PC
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Developer: Tin Man Games
Even before I?d played To Be Or Not To Be, I was pretty sure I was going to love it. I mean, I try to approach every game I play without too many preconceived notions or expectations, but in this case, it felt impossible.
For one thing, the game was written by Ryan North, who isn?t just the man behind the very awesome Dinosaur Comics (and also the writer for the equally amazing Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Adventure Time), he also wrote a very funny book called Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable Path Adventure. Seeing as that mined similar territory as To Be Or Not To Be ? in a nutshell, both of them turn famous Shakespeare plays into Choose Your Own Adventure-style novels ? and I loved Romeo and/or Juliet, I figured it was a safe bet that I would get an equal or greater amount of enjoyment out of To Be Or Not To Be.
On top of that, North assembled a pretty impressive line-up of comic artists to help with the game?s visuals, including Kate Beaton (creator of Hark! A Vagrant), Randall Munroe (XKCD), and Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal), along with plenty of other creators of well-known webcomics. Obviously, their styles of art are a) hugely different from each other, and b) not necessarily to everyone?s tastes, but as far as I?m concerned, I?ll always welcome the chance to see more Beaton and Monroe.
In other words, To Be Or Not To Be was practically engineered for it to be one of my favourite games ever. And, unsurprisingly, that?s exactly what it is.
I mean, I might be exaggerating a little bit to call it one of my all-time favourite games. Setting aside that you should probably wait a little bit before declaring a game you?ve just played as one of the best ever (wait and see if it sticks with you, obviously)), I don?t know that it?s really fair to compare a visual novel to, say, Portal 2 or What Remains of Edith Finch, given that those games didn?t just have exceptional stories, they also had exceptional gameplay too.
But even so, it?s a delightfully fun ? and delightfully funny ? game that was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. North?s writing is hilarious, and, as was the case in Romeo and/or Juliet, he?s created a game/world that feels like it could go careening off in any direction at any moment.
In fact, it often does go careening off in any direction. You can play To Be Or Not To Be straight, of course, and try to faithfully recreate Hamlet ? or you can help Ophelia invent the concept of central heating. Or turn Hamlet Sr. into a detective trying to solve his own murder. Or fight terrorists. Or you can ignore that and just read the very lengthy credits. Whatever direction you choose, odds are good you?ll come across something highly entertaining.
Admittedly, just because I love To Be Or Not To Be, it doesn?t mean everyone is going to love it. I get that. If you?re not a fan of North, or this type of comedy, or the general idea of deconstructing English literature and turning it into something else entirely, chances are this probably isn?t for you (also, you probably hate the very concept of fun).
But as far as I?m concerned, I?ve found my new favourite game.
Tin Man Games provided us with a To Be Or Not To Be Switch code for review purposes.