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Have Ocean managed to retain that Spielberg magic with their latest conversion, or will JM Barrie be turning in his grave?

It's quite often the case that big film releases are snapped up ready for licensing for a computer game without a shred of an idea as to what the game is going to be. This usually results in the game being a rather weak action game that is only loosely based on the characters within a film. Lucasfilm have a very different opinion. They think that the only way to do justice to a film in a computer game is to produce a graphic adventure, and Ocean have take a leaf out of their book with the licence of the hit movie Hook.

You take the role of Peter Banning (who is, in fact really Peter Pan - he just doesn't know it just yet), who is taken to Neverland to try and rescue his children, who have been captured by the evil Captain James Hook. Unfortunately, Peter has completely forgotten all about his times in Neverland as the eternally youthful leader of the Lost Boys (no the blood-sucking, Kiefer Sutherland variety, but the friendly orphans). You must guide Peter around (with help from Tinkerbell), involving puzzles, finding useful objects and talking to characters before you can retrieve your children from the clutches of Hook.

WELL I NEVER!
The plot of the game is only loosely based on the film (after all, it would be a bit easy to complete if it was exactly the same), using characters and situations as clues to how you should continue, rather than enhancing the plot. Most of the situations and people you meet on the way aren't in the film at all.

The game is controlled via the usual sort of 'point and click' interface. You simply point at the command that you want to use (look at, talk to, pick up, use or give) then the person or object you want to manipulate. Walking around is even simpler. Just click on the point you wish to get to and Peter will walk there.

A particular sharp eye is needed when playing the game, since unlike most adventures, you aren't given any hint as to the usefulness of an object. You have to 'Look At' EVERYTHING on a screen to find out whether it can be used or not - you're given no clues whatsoever! If you want a piece of advice, you can try talking to Tinkerbell to get an extra clue or two, but she doesn't often give much information away.


The plot hardly captures the innocent charm and fun of the film

Interaction with the other characters is done by using the 'Talk To' icon. This gives you a set of questions you can ask (which are cycled through using the right mouse button). This is one of the main problem areas. Whereas in something like Monkey Island the conversations evolve as you go on, allowing the characters to develop their own part in the story, Hook simply churns out on the same messages time after time, making everyone in the game seem a complete dullard.

One thing that is pushed forward in the Peter Pan story is to 'keep thinking happy thoughts'. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done while playing Hook. The graphics have been very nicely done in places (there were, after all, five artists working on the presentation) but they lack the style found in Monkey Island 2's wonderful artwork.

Some kind of wonderful?
It's a shame the graphics aren't wonderful, since the presentation is all that Hook has in its favour. The plot hardly captures the innocent charm and fun of the original film, and the gameplay is just too boring to keep any adventurer for long. At times it appears that complete lunacy has taken over - especially in the way that some of the clues are given. Tinkerbell gives 'clues' to do things that have been done about 10 minutes ago!

The control system is one of the most limited to appear on an adventure for quite some time. Five commands? Come on! The unwieldy control system is also very difficult to use. For example, after attempting to use an object, you have to click the icon to stop using it before you can do anything else! This is very frustrating when you're trying to carry out a series of actions.

Due to the style of the game and the obvious pirate connotations, some comparisons may be levelled between Hook and Monkey Island 2. However, comparing Peter Pan's digital adventures with Guybrush Threepwood's mighty escapades is like comparing a Gameboy to an Amiga. Hook lacks the scope, atmosphere, humour, style and enjoyment of Monkey Island 2, ending up a rather dull adventure with no real staying power.



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Steven Spielbergs Versuch, das Märchen von Peter Pan im Kino fortzusetzen, gilt als Millionen-Flop - und was haben die Lizenzhelden von Ocean daraus gemacht? Das erste richtige Adventure ihrer Firmengeschichte!

Wer sich den kitschigen Leinwandschinken angetan hat, kennt die Hintergrundstory bereits, alle anderen erfahren sie aus dem opulenten Intro: Der mittlerweile erwachsene Peter Pan bekommt einen Brief seines Erzfeinden Hook, der seine beiden Kinder entführt hat. Flugs bringt die liebliche Elfe Tinkerbell unser Peterchen zurück auf die Pirateninsel im Nimmerland, damit er seinen Nachwuchs wieder einfangen kann - und schon befinden wir uns am Ausgangspunkt des Spiels...

Zuerst muß sich der besorgte Papa mal als Pirat tarnen, was ihm gar nicht so leicht fällt, da er immer noch auf den seriösen Familienvater Peter Banning gepolt ist. Seine Versuche, ein Taxi zu bestellen oder mit der Scheckkarte zu bezahlen, sind in einer Welt, in der nur Gold als Zahlungsmittel akzeptiert wird, ziemlich fehl am Platze.

Ja, wenn man ihn eine Weile tatenlos herumstehen läßt, zieht er sogar ein kleines Kästchen heraus, das verdächtig nach einem Gameboy aussieht! Früher oder später kriegt man das aber auf die Reihe und stattet den Helden vergangener Kindheitsträume mit astreinen Piratenklamotten aus. Dann kann man sich frohgemut an die Lösung der nächsten (Reise-) Probleme wagen, wobei übrigens keinerlei Kinderhelden-Rabatt gewährt wird - die Rätsel sind allesamt ohne!

Kindisch einfach arbeitet dafür die Maus/Icon-Steuerung mit den Funktionen Schauen, Sprechen, Nehmen, Benutzen (in drei Varianten) und Geben. Gequatscht wird in einem etwas umständlichen Multiple Choice-Verfahren, bei dem man sich mit der rechten Maustaste durch die Antwortvorgaben klickt und mit der linken anwählt.

Ähnlich aufwendige Nagetier-Aktionen sind nötig, um eine Beschreibung der Gegenstände im Inventory zu bekommen; aber so wichtig ist das alles nicht - wer "Monkey Island" kennt, wird auch im Nimmerland zurechtkommen. Schließlich erinnert das gesamte Abenteuer-System deutlich an das "Lucas-Evangelium", was sich auch bei der witzig animierten, aber vornehmlich in brauen, ocker und grün gehaltenen Grafik bemerkbar macht.

Mr. Threepwood hatte allerdings kein holdes Elfchen Tinkerbell, das ständig um ihn herumschwirrt, und er durfte sich auch nicht über ruckelfreies Scrolling und fehlende Nachladezeiten freuen. Nicht zu vergessen die hübschen Screenanzeigen, durch die man jederzeit darüber im Bilde ist, wie es gerade um die jeweiligen Erfolgsaussichten der beiden Kontrahenten (Hook/Peter) steht.

Die Musik- und Geräuschkulisse ist ebenfalls sehr stimmig, der einzige harte Kritikpunkt betrifft das schön vergilbte Handbuch: Es informiert weder über den genauen Funktionsumfang der einzelnen Befehle, noch über die Möglichkeit, Spielstände anzulegen.

Ein bißchen muß Action-Spezialist Ocean also an seinen Abenteuer-Fähigkeiten noch feilen, aber im großen und ganzen ist das Debüt recht gelungen! (mm)



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Ocean seem to be raiding a different style of game every time they do a movie licence these days - but they don't stop having hits. Here's more proof...

Hook, hook, hook-ability, that's the beauty of the game. Or at least, it is in theory. Ocean seem to be going for a completely different game design every time they convert a film property these days, and you've probably all heard the Monkey Island comparisons about this one several thousand times already.

I won't say anything else on the matter for the time being, then, but prepare yourself for a few Lucasfilm references later on in this review, because they really valid. Not only that - they give me a good reference point for explaining just where Hook is coming from, and where it's going.

Background guff out of the way first though - many of you will have seen Hook the movie, and I guess most of you would agree it was a fairly typical piece of Spielberg shmaltz. Though undeniably rather fun, I found it a little shallow and unwilling to really stretch itself, despite the presence of such class acts as Robin Williams as Peter Pan and Dustin Hoffman as the ubiquitous Captain Hook himself.

It was also an all-action type of film, which made it quite a surprise when we heard that Ocean were intending to put together a pseudo adventure for their conversion, rather than some sort of platform leaparound.

We had our doubts about the wisdom of this, but it looks very much like they've pulled it off - this is one game that manages to follow the plot and, indeed, the visual style of the original (but without giving those who've seen the movie an unfair advantage) while, at the same time, working exceptionally well as a game.

Load up the game then, and the first thing that strikes you is one of those neat animated intros which everybody loves using to fill up disk space. It looks nice, and it fills in the story for those who haven't seen the movie, but the really interesting stuff comes when the game itself starts, dropping the player into a Monkey Island-style graphic adventure, complete with character interaction, multiple choice conversations and a similar piratical theme. Hell, there are even the underwater scenes you got in Monkey Island in here!

Anyway, back to the plot. The grown up Peter Pan - now called Peter Banning )so grown-up, grouchy and yuppie-flied that he doesn't believe he really is Peter Pan) - stands bewildered in the pirate village in Never Neverland.

A glowing, shimmering light flits around overhead - this is the ever-present Tinkerbell, who's always good for a laugh or a snog (in the movie anyway). Movement is simply a matter of clicking the mouse cursor on an area of the screen - Peter will find his own way there - a la Monkey Island.

Using the icons below the main screen, Peter can talk to people, pick up objects, use objects (or combinations of objects), and give them to others. Communication is simply a matter of clicking on the talk icon, choosing a character, then using the right mouse button to cycle through a list of possible phrases. These are all context-sensitive just as they are in Monkey Island.

Initially the player finds that nobody will stop for a chat because Peter isn't a pirate, so mission number one is to get yourself a decent pirate's outfit.


More suited to the younger adventurer

AND SO THE FANTASY UNFOLDS
Peter meets the Lost Boys, re-discovers his old tree hideout, and...but wait a minute, I don't want to spoil the story for all you Hook-less types out there. Suffice to say that it follows the film pretty well, without making all the puzzles too obvious.

Where Hook really scores, however, is in the atmosphere stakes. The sound is particularly gorgeous. The spot FX - the Lost Boys eating, the crickets cricketing - are ace, and although the music used isn't the same as the soundtrack we heard in the movie, it's damned effective, recalling the epic, emotional, and lighthearted moments on the movie surprisingly, and equally, well. The way Hook shakes his, um, hook in anger whenever a puzzle is successfully solved is also pretty cool.

Puzzle-wise, however, Hook is occasionally a little predictable, sometimes a bit on the obtuse side, and just a tad too linear. It's very rigidly structured, with the solution of one problem leading into the next all too surely. It's just too limiting and organised, particularly given Hook's diminutive size - and no, I'm not making a Dustin Hoffman joke there, just pointing out that the game is rather small. What's there is nice, if only there was more of it.

And that just about rounds off what I want to say about it all really - I think I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking. I must confess to going to the movie Hook deliberately not wanting to like it - quite perverse, I know - and I wasn't exactly looking forward to the version game either. It's nice to be proved wrong sometimes, isn't it?

The conclusion, then. Where Hook falls down, it's mainly through the subject matter. As I said before, the movie was somewhat shallow and lacking in plot, and the result is that Hook the game is short on humour -and short in length too.

Although Ocean claim that their game has almost exactly the same number of locations as the first Monkey Island, I'm not convinced. And even if it has, it was the convoluted - and rib-achingly funny - storylines of the Monkey Island games which make them such winners.

In some ways it's not fair to compare the game to Lucasfilm's masterwork, I know - even if, with the pirate locations and very similar presentation, Ocean are rather begging the comparison. Let us instead treat it in its own right, in which case it's fun, it's slick and it stays true to its subject matter (as true as the film did, anyway).

More suited to the younger adventurer, maybe, but it's another success for Ocean. Keep it up, guys.


WITHERING FLIGHTS

Before Peter stands a chance of recovering his children from the clutches of Captain Hook, he's got to solve problems of epic proportions, find the Lost Boys, remember that he really is Peter Pan (and not some old yuppie called Peter Banning), and learn to fly again. Quite a lot to do, then, but your problems start a lot easier. Task number one, for instance, is simply to get accepted as a dirty, rotten member of pirate society.

A pirate uniform is obviously needed, but, of course, life, even in fantasy lands, is never that simple. Talk a walk him with us, as Peter makes his way through the scum-infested piratetown, grabbing bits of choice clothing as he goes. (In the movie Peter had no problem getting hold of a pirate uniform, so even players who've seen the film have to use their imagination and ingenuity here). Remember, just think happy thoughts.

Hook
The pub's a useful place to visit, but if you get no luck here, try chatting to Tink, who flies around your head. She can be useful.

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The main square, and Pter relaly gets into the 'swing' of this piracy lark. He's actually trying to get a pirate hat here.

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Now you won't find this scene in the movie at all, but giving your gold teeth to the dentist(!) is a handy way to make a fast buck.

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A few mugs of 'cocoa' laster and one of the bar regulars is fast asleep, but - hey! he didn't suit those pirate trousers anyway.

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Occeasionally the game gets very cartoony in style. Here Peter snaps a roller blind, and it leaves him in pirate mode.

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Peter gets all uppity with Hook, but to no avail. The Captain wants a fight with the real Pan, not this yuppie he sees instead.

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As with the movie, Hook features a gratuitious underwater sequence. Make sure Peter examines the huge conch shell...

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Here's Peter before he turns back into Peter Pan. He still can't fly at this stage, which means he's a long way to go to beat Hook.


HOOK, LINE (BUT NO STINKER)

Rather than opt for the sort of text-based menu system seen in The Secret Of Monkey Island, Hook uses icon-based controls. Here we see Peter at the very start of his adventure in Never Neverland. Let's take a look at the icons which give us control over our hero, shall we?

Hook
  1. The Magnifying Glass Icon - surprisingly enough, this is used to examine objects.
  2. The Talk Icon - simply click on here, then click on a character to have a chat with him (or her).
  3. The Take Icon - if you can't work out what this one's for, you shouldn't really be playing adventures.
  4. The Use Icon - used in conjunction with one or more objects, Peter can manipulate or create things.
  5. The Give Icon - used for passing bjects to other characters. Very 'handy'. (Ahem.)
  6. This semi-animated piccy of Hook will shake his fist whenever Peter solves a puzzle. Note the pic of Peter over on the other side - when he remembers his Pan identity, his appearance will change.
  7. The Object display. Peter (having heo-sized pockets) can carry as many objects as he wants. The arrows at either side of the display enable the player to scroll through this rather unwieldy list.

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Pulling on his green tights, Rik Haynes joins Ocean in Never-Never Land...

BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
Those of us with kids or young relatives have probably had their belly full of Hook, the blockbusting movie from Steven Spielberg and Sony. Updating the JM Barrie masterpiece, Peter Pan, in typical Hollywood style, this wholesome slice of American schmaltz certainly made its mark over the Easter holidays. And, after very little hype, here is Ocean's tie-in.

Closely following the movie's plot, this game is Ocean's first stab at producing a new generation graphic adventure with fancy graphics, goofy puzzles and a slick point 'n' click interface. Taking the role of Peter Pan, the player must rescue his children from the grasp of dastardly Captain Hook. Before this tear-jerking event can occur, though, Pan must regain his faith in the magical powers of youth and lose some of the flab. If he gets stuck attempting to solve a problem, striking up a conversation with any character nearby normally provides a handy clue. Apart from that, try using your brain - it's not that hard to complete.

LACKS FINESSE
Sadly, despite aspiring to the heights achieved by Monkey Island, Hook has none of the finesse of rival productions of Virgin Games and Delphine. Whilst slightly above average, the scenery artwork and sprite animation certainly fall short of something like LeChuck's Revenge or Cruise For A Corpse.

Elements of Monkey Island were bound to creep in. On that note, Peter Pan certainly strides along like the main character from the world's most popular adventure. On a more positive observation, the interface is quick and easy to use and some neat sound effects have been blended into the background.

If there was ever a good time to shove a game through the Ocean 'Movie license construction kit', Hook is that release. The film's over-the-top storyline and special effects scream out for a bit of platform action across Neverland, arcade swordfights with Captain Hook and his band of pirates, and perhaps a flying section with Tinkerbell. It's a surprising mistake really, considering the Manchester powerhouse's usual knack of producing the right game for the right license.

Exactly who will pick up on the game, I'm not sure. Fans of Monkey Island will be extremely disappointed with this poor offering. It's nowhere near sophisticated or witty enough for fans of the genre and far too complicated for the average six-year-old.