Newgrounds has brought us a lot of interesting games over the years, and this is definitely one of them. Gretel and Hansel is an adventure game in the strictest sense of the term: search around for items that fit one puzzle each with no multiple solutions to any situation in order to follow the story. What can sometimes feel like a design flaw is that you can die quite frequently during the game, which can feel frustrating, if not obnoxious. But that acts only as one of the many parts of the games atmosphere. It works hand-in-hand with the art style, music, and mood to create a game well worth playing.
It took the developer (Makopudding) to create the first two installments of this series, the second of which is much longer and intricate than the first (so clearly that year was not wasted). Perhaps following the footsteps of titles like Machinarium rather than Monkey Island this game use sight and sound instead of dialog to create the perfect mood. The lead character, Gretel, discovers her parents are going to abandon in their children in the woods so as the child with the clearly superior intellect it is up to her to save them.
The games balance between child-like humor and horrifying adult themes which can be seen through the visual style they use. Cute characters in a storybook setting, one which looks hand drawn with faded sides (almost as if from a near ancient children's book, fittingly enough), are juxtaposed with graphic violence, hideous monsters, and brown washed colors. It sets a fearful mood as you immediately attach to your character and hope none of the over-the-top harm befalls her (and the first time it does can be shocking).
The soundtrack, especially of the second chapter, is absolutely beautiful. Most notably is an old man's banjo song able to keep you in the area for a longer than average wait, just to listen. But the entire soundtrack to the second part is golden, from haunting melodies to intense instrumentals accompanying moments of terror. It all works splendidly to build up the incredible atmosphere.
The actions of your character reflect your increasing desperation. During the first chapter you are more likely to distract the monster with tools (this is before you even leave your home). The second chapter is when truly disturbing action is taken by the characters. Alone in the woods, you more readily resort to violence. *SPOILER* In the first part of the game there is a moment where you find a rabbit and approaching it result in a hug, smiling as you rub it against your face. In the second chapter you capture what could be assumed the same rabbit, slash it open and use its innards as bate to kill a bear. *END SPOILER* There is a definite contrast between the innocent life of a safe child and a person fighting for survival established through this series.
So check out the first two chapters of the series. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and I also hope to see the next installment(s) be as clever and disturbingly beautiful as these last two.
You can play the first part for free through this LINK
You can play the second part for free through this LINK