HARK! The latest offering from English developer William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet promises to be a happy-go-lucky story of teenage love overcoming societal pressure with an interesting hook - the play offers two protagonists. The titular Romeo and Juliet each have unique abilities and story arcs that intertwine to make one larger plot.
Romeo and Juliet's simple story doesn't offer much in the way of special effects. Whereas Hamlet's ghost and MacBeth's witches provided a supernatural excuse for lavish visuals, Rome and Juliet relies more on elaborate set pieces, choreography, and practical effects. Much of the play's aesthetics are communicated through its beautiful locations - whether in the courtyards and gardens of Verona or the palatial Capulet ballroom.
That being said, there's little to look at here. In comparison to Shakespeares' other works, where you might at least get a glimpse of fairies or a centaur, it all seems a bit on the plain side.
Again, this is one area where the play is a little plain. In the end it's almost entirely dialogue from start to finish and, save for one courtship scene at a Capulet party, there's no music of which to speak. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the dialogue has a certain rhythm to it. In fact, it's practically lyrical at times.
This is where Romeo and Juliet really starts to disappoint. There aren't really any controls to speak of, and I often felt that I had no control over the action. It often felt that I was unable to prevent both Romeo and Juliet from making idiotic and shortsighted decisions - and nobody likes playing the stupid jerk. Frequently I find myself stopping to ask "did they even bother to play test this?"
Romeo and Juliet really shines in the story department. Shakespeare's characters are alive and vibrant, and each moves to his own motivations and rationale. It extends farther than you might expect at first, though - not only are Romeo and Juliet well defined, but also supporting characters like Tybalt and Benvolio.
The story is following a satisfying arc, if somewhat formulaic. It's a little jolting at times when you recognize the distinct shifts between acts, but if you can ignore that it provides an imersive and occasionally visceral experience.
The light and up-beat love story will do wonders to lighten your day - but that said I haven't quite reached the end yet so please, no spoilers in the comments. I'm looking forward to finding out just how the characters manage to make peace between the families.
It's a little light - the summer romcom of Shakespeare's oevre - but that can be a good thing at times. This lighthearted tale of romance could be the feel-good hit of the year if the ending is as solid as the start. All in all, if you're a fan of Shakespearian drama, you'll love Romeo and Juliet.