Movie News & Reviews

What to play: In the ‘Hamlet’ remix ‘Elsinore,’ Ophelia is caught in a time loop

Rooted in "Hamlet," the recently released "Elsinore" is filled with so much debauchery, treachery, bloodshed and twists that one could concoct multiple games from its pages. And in a way, "Elsinore" is numerous games. We take control of Ophelia, who dies, repeatedly, and then can spend hours playing the denizens of Denmark – the rotten, the confused and the helpless – against one another. Anyone familiar with "Hamlet" will know that Ophelia ends up dead going in, but developers Golden Glitch Studios have their own answer to the AP English debate over the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death. They declare her murdered and her suicide staged. Then they add their own twist: Ophelia is caught in a time loop.

Why is someone out to kill a beloved yet relatively minor tragic Shakespearean character? As Ophelia's killer patiently explains to her, "To me, you are nothing. But you are an important person to important people. And that makes you useful."

Who she is important to, and how Ophelia's death, survival and actions affect those living inside Elsinore becomes the game – a narrative, text-heavy adventure in which what we say, and what we don't, can have grave consequences. Ophelia remembers the events of the time loop, and when she tries to her warn her father, Polonius, that Hamlet is going mad and may accidentally kill him, he brushes her off at first as a silly girl who needs more sleep. He soon realizes his error but forgets it in his next life.

Characters speak in the modern tongue, and there's the occasional knowing wink to the audience. It suits the game and ensures that "Elsinore" doesn't feel like one is playing a book report. Young ones, for instance, shouldn't think that this can replace homework – genders, for instance, have been swapped throughout, Ophelia is now a mixed-race young woman and Ophelia's presumed nemesis, Lady Brit, feels like a throwback to the 2004 film "Mean Girls."

The Ophelia of "Elsinore" isn't presented as quite as bold as she is in the recent Daisy Ridley film, in part because she's constantly being reminded of her place in the universe – a "sad little half rank girl with no prospects," as Lady Brit scoffs. And she could find herself in a #MeToo situation with King Claudius. Few in the kingdom believe Ophelia worthy of power and agency. And most are pretty OK with murder. But she was still smart enough to dump Hamlet before the events of the game.

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