Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chariot (Wii U eShop) Review

We have arrived at SuperPhillip Central's 549th review! Let's not get ahead of ourselves by wondering what the 550th review will be. Instead, let's take a look at an endearing but heavily challenging physics-based platformer from Frima Games. It's Chariot, and it has finally arrived on the Wii U eShop.

The king is dead! Long live pulling his ghost from place to place!


The 2D platformer is a common genre used by indie developers and the genre in general is especially popular on the Wii U. I have no qualms with either of these realities whatsoever. It is my favorite game genre, after all. However, rather than just take the genre, throw in a new character and coat of paint, and call it day, Frima Games has made a physics-based platformer with plenty of character, charm, cleverness, and yes, some frustration as well.

Chariot has you playing as the daughter or prince of the late king. However, before the princess and prince can fully grieve the loss of their father, the king in ghost form demands to be taken to a suitable final resting place, sitting aboard a tomb on a wooden chariot. It's up to the player to take the king and chariot through over 20 levels of gameplay involving pushing, pulling, and puzzles dealing with physics. 

Physics and puzzles go together as well
 as peanut butter and jelly-- at least in Chariot.
The titular vehicle always needs to be nearby the player, or else after a few seconds, the player returns to the last checkpoint of a given level. Returning to the last checkpoint can also be done by holding the B button down for several moments. There are multiple times where the chariot can easily get away from the player-- fleeing down a steep hill, for instance-- making this manual way to return to a checkpoint most welcome.

Various platforming and physics puzzles include allowing the rope that the princess holds and is connected to the chariot enough give so you can leap to a higher platform and then wind the chariot in so you can manage the next jump. There're also pressure plates that need the chariot to sit on top of them to have a nearby door open. Some of these doors open permanently while others require smart chariot pulling and quick feet to pass through them before they shut tight. Then there are some rails that the chariot can pass through that the player cannot and vice versa. All of these obstacles and more add up to create a steady stream of levels with something new to offer.

At least the princess and her father
are spending some quality time together.
Chariot is not a twitch-based platformer where your reflexes are called into action most of the time. Instead, careful navigation of the game's cavernous complexes are what is needed to reach each level's exit. Along the way there are plenty of loot to be found, and thanks to the chariot having a bit of a magnetic personality, nearby gems will be collected just by being them. These gems can be used in the shop in between levels to purchase new tools, such as a peg that anchors the chariot securely in place. Perhaps over a pit so the player can jump off the chariot to reach an otherwise inaccessible platform, and then using another rope to pull the chariot to their level. 

The game's areas contain a multitude of secrets besides gems, including areas that require the most strenuous chariot-pulling action, denoted by signposts with stars on them. The more stars on a sign, the more challenging the upcoming optional area. However, through completing these non-mandatory areas will the player find the rarest of collectibles and treasure, such as special skulls and blueprints, the latter of which unlocks new items to be purchases in the shop.

The things we do for treasure...
Speaking of treasure, one of the more annoying parts to Chariot-- outside of contending with missed jumps from high heights, meaning you have to redo the same portion of a level multiple times until you get it right-- are the "looters." These small, treasure-stealing enemies are summoned by sound, so delicate movements with the chariot in tow are recommended. However, it's all too easy to alert the looters, who will then attack your chariot, quickly thieving your loot. It seems the only purpose of these creatures is to add some action to the otherwise exploratory gameplay of Chariot, but by having them, they simply are nothing more than a big annoyance. They aren't hard to get rid of, only needing to be attacked to run away, but when you have more than a dozen coming after the king's coffin, things get tedious to battle them over and over. The game comes to a screeching halt.

A very important part of Chariot is its local-only cooperative play where two players can control the princess and the prince at once. Communication is key here, and while it takes a well-oiled machine (i.e. partnership) to deal with the game's later obstacles, the co-op makes many of the challenges that would be really difficult to do alone much more feasible with two players. There are even sections in many of the levels that require two players, though these are for expensive gems and not an actual collectible, so there's no worry of missing out on something to 100% the game by not having a person to play cooperatively with. 

Work like a well-oiled machine or
a plain, messy oil spill with co-op play.
Frima Games has a good thing going on with Chariot in the presentation department as well, offering cartoon-like, whimsical visuals, stunning lighting and other special effects, and plenty of candy for the eyes. The sound is no pushover either, containing plenty of enjoyable (although sometimes overly repeated) lines spoken by the king and the shopkeeper, well done sound effects, and subtle music cues and themes. 

Chariot is not a game for everyone. Those lacking patience and the will to stick it out and conquer the game's abundance of physics-based platforming challenges will not have a good time with the game, as it can get very annoying to have to repeat vertical sections repeatedly. However, if you are looking for some good fun, especially locally with a co-op partner, and don't mind some frustration, your chariot awaits.

[SPC Says: 7.5/10]

Review copy provided by Frima Games.

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