Almost everyone knows of the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, even if they didn't recognize that he was the mastermind behind them. Stories like The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid, or the Matchstick Girl might ring bells for some who remember the tales. These are all classics for a good reason.
The stories return in the point-and-click adventure game The Ugly Prince Duckling. The tale starts out with a spoiled princess wanting to leave the castle and then getting kidnapped as trolls begin the flood the city of Copenhagen. So, it's up to Hans, the newcomer to the city, to rescue the princess and save the day. The story is simple and obviously geared towards a younger audience, and so more mature gamers might not appreciate it. Much like the tale of the Ugly Duckling, it's too simple to be enjoyable for an older audience.
The world of the Ugly Prince Duckling is one straight from one of Andersen's own tales. It's lighthearted and colourful, and full of references to his works. The game shows graphics that are alright, but lacking in any depth. The style seems to be there, but the detail is definitely not. Characters are colourful and larger-than-life, and in general, are voiced fairly well. Still, they're as deep as a children's storybook, and won't hold anyone's attention longer than the time required to talk to them. The score of the game is also very well placed, full of classical tunes that'll draw you into the world further.
The gameplay of The Ugly Prince Duckling leaves a lot to be desired. Control of Hans can be done either with the mouse or the keyboard, but both schemes have many problems. Pathfinding is a large issue, as Hans finds it fit to walk only in straight lines; and if there's something in his way, finding a way around it seems not to be his problem, but rather the players. Items need to be approached to interact with them, which, while eliminating the problem of pixel hunting, requires Hans to bump into every object on the screen just to see if he can use it somehow. The puzzles themselves are simple as they get, and are unlikely to require too much brain power, which is a perfect fit for the target audience.
As far as adventure games go, this is definitely not one of the better ones. Even as a game made with a younger audience in mind, there are a lot of things that will test a player's patience. Whether it's the poor pathfinding, the lacklustre series of puzzles, or the shallowness of everything from the characters to the plot itself, this game is severely lacking in depth. The short length is just another problem on top of the rest. The classic Hans Christian Anderson story is a nice setting, but its use here leaves a lot to be desired.