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Hansel and Gretel and the Enchanted Castle

Reviewed by  Mr. Bill & Lela

Every so often we like to play and review one of the great older games that you may not be aware of.  Not only so that you can keep a lookout for it, but also so that hopefully some publisher will notice it, and reissue it.  This delightful little children's game is definitely one that is far too good to just let disappear.  We had an absolute ball playing it.  Several times, in fact!

For those of you who aren't familiar with the classic fairytale, this is the story of two children who have an unforgettable adventure.  Hansel, the little boy, and Gretel, the little girl, are brother and sister.  Once upon a time they lived with their father (a poor old woodcutter) and their new stepmother (a selfish, heartless woman) in a small cottage at the edge of a dark forest.

Times were hard, and there just wasn't enough food to go around.  So the wicked stepmother hit upon an evil plan.  She convinced her gullible husband to take the two children deep into the forest and to abandon them there.  "Someone will find them and feed them there", she lied.  Secretly, she really just wanted to be rid of the children so that she could have their share of food for herself!

On the way, Hansel dropped crumbs from his last morsel of bread to leave a trail so that they would be able to find their way back home.  But the birds ate it, and the children didn't know which way to go!  They were all alone, and scared because there were bears and wolves in the forest.  Hungry and desperate to find a way out, the children wandered ever deeper into the forest...  until at last they came upon a wicked witch's home.

To the starving children, it was a wondrous sight...  a castle made entirely of cakes and candy and a million other goodies.  Little did they know that it was all only an illusion designed to lure her victims inside.  For once the children were there, the witch took them prisoner...  planning to first fatten them up, and then to put them in her oven!

But of course Hansel and Gretel eventually do escape and live happily ever after...  as children always do in all good fairytales.  And the rest of the story is about how they manage to do that.  In the game, it can get a mite complicated...

This is a 1995 game, but you'd never know that just by looking at it, or by playing it.  It looks like it could have been made just yesterday, and gameplay is a joy!  It is a cartoon style, 3rd person, point & click game, with a smart cursor and picture saves.  And all of your options, including gameplay help, are located on one well designed page, which can be accessed at any time by a simple left click in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.

The game can be played in any one of 5 different languages:  English, French, Spanish, German, and even Japanese!  Or you can opt to play the game in one language while having the names of objects also repeated in another, making it a good tool for those trying to learn a second language.  There are 2 levels of difficulty, easy and hard.  The easy level seems perfect for younger children, whereas the hard version is complicated enough to keep even adults fascinated.  And the locations of things vary from game to game, giving it great replay value.  You should have heard Mr. Bill screech "That *$%#&* Swami moved the kitchen!"

At 640 x 480, the bright and beautiful graphics are full screen, and the game has all the drama and realism of a feature film, with wonderful animations.  All sorts of realistic animals and birds inhabit the forest, and ghosts and goblins run rampant in the castle, with something appearing whenever you click on anything.  And the acting is excellent.  Hansel screaming for his sister when they are separated is very real, and we absolutely loved the wicked witch...  she is played better than any we've ever seen.  Even the music is perfect, including one little song of love and longing that the children sing to the memory of their own dear dead mother that is unforgettable.

But not to worry.  This is a fun game, a happy game, despite the nature of the sad story.  The events leading up to the situation that the children find themselves in at the castle are only briefly and lightly touched upon, and they can be bypassed entirely later, if desired.

The kids make 3 new friends in the forest, who come to help them once they are prisoners.  They are Osworth the Owl, Digster the Weasel and Prin the Forest Imp.  Gretel has been locked up in the kitchen somewhere, and Hansel must escape his own room and find her.  Osworth and Digster can unlock his door, but it is only Prin who can give him the key to the kitchen.  And Prin, who loves to play a memory version of 'Hide & Seek', will only give the key to him after Hansel finds him a certain number of times.  There's also a Swami who may or may not appear late in the game to offer help.

You must discover what to click on that magically opens a hole in the floor or ceiling in order to go from room to room.  Certain doors can only be entered after you have found the 'Magic Wand' or the 'Shrinking Powder', and if you happen to unlock the wrong door, both of them will be taken away from you.  Add to all that the fact that a Goblin may appear at any moment, in any room, chanting  "Here he is!  The witch is going to eat you,  the witch is going to eat you!", forcing you to hide lest she imprison you again...  and you have enough variables to keep any kid busy for hours.  Especially since any or all of them may be changed from game to game, or at times even within the same game.

But once you are successful, find Gretel, get rid of the witch and escape, you will return home with two precious jewels given to you by Prin as a reward for playing with him.  So both the kids and their father will indeed live happily ever after (without the wicked stepmother), and always have plenty to eat!

Who knew that fairytales could be such fun?   We enjoyed it so much that now we want to play the other two games in the series:  Rumpelstiltskin's Labyrinth of the Lost and Buster and The Beanstalk.

Look for this game.   Your whole family will love it!

 January 2005  Mr. Bill's Adventureland

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Developed (1995) and published by Terraglyph Interactive.

Rated:   RP   for Rating Pending  (should be E for Everyone)

Minimum System Requirements:  Windows

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