Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (GCN) Retro Review

I've been playing a lot of past generation games lately. I really don't know why. I might as well review one of them though, so I don't appear to be slacking off. Here's Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for the Nintendo Gamecube.

Which came first: the mediocrity or the egg?

Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, made his first mascot hero in over a decade. Mett Billy Hatcher, an egg-rolling boy ready to lay some mothers down with his hard-boiled weaponry in Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for the Nintendo Gamecube. Does this game mean fun? Does it mean a superb adventure? All I know is that it does mean a whole heckuva lot of egg puns!

Our cartoony tale takes us to Morning Island where every 100 years the dark crows invade the island in attempts to bring night to the breakfast paradise for eternity. When all hope seems lost, a precocious young boy gets called to Morning Island, stumbles on a chicken costume (don't ask), and turns into the heroic and eggscellent superhero, Billy Hatcher! By obtaining sun emblems, the power stars of the game, Billy can drive back the darkness of the crows and take down the villainous Boss Crow for good!

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg follows a familiar formula to anyone who has played Super Mario Galaxy. There's six worlds in all, each with up to eight missions. Three missions are unlocked as you rescue Billy's friends from the clutches of the dark crows. Each mission has you playing through a somewhat linear level, taking down baddies, solving puzzles, and sometimes taking down a big boss to collect that mission's sun emblem. Every second mission of the eight concludes with a boss battle. These follow simple attack patterns and parts of the fight where the boss or bosses are vulnerable to Billy's attacks. After the boss has been bruised enough, they'll be defeated, and Billy will earn an emblem. Billy can then choose to go to a new world to follow the process again of two missions and then a boss, or then Billy can stay in the same world and play through the newly unlocked missions. The missions range from get to the emblem to collecting blue coins to taking down 100 enemies throughout a world.

The worlds are bright, cheerful, and varied.

There's plenty to do and collect in each world. Many missions you'll simply be revisiting locations and locales within the current world you're in. The only differences are altered enemies, eggs, and coin locations. Golden coins are hidden in each mission with five apiece placed. By collecting coins, you can unlock brand new Sonic Team creatures and characters to pop out of specially marked eggs including Sonic the Hedgehog and Rappy from Phantasy Star. There's over eighty different types of eggs to hatch, each with different possessions tucked away inside the egg. These range from power-ups, extra lives, to elemental creatures that can blow away enemies with one shot.

While the bosses are large, goofy, and easy.

At the end of each mission, you're awarded points based on your performance. These range from time it took to complete the level, enemies defeated, combos obtained, and eggs hatched. Unfortunately, the game or manual does not explain how each of these categories are scored or what some of them (like combos) even are. You'll constantly be getting Cs and Ds because you won't know how to get a high score in levels. That isn't the big problem of Billy Hatcher though.

The big problem comes from a combination of things such as a twitchy camera that seldom stays where you want it to and the actual controls of the game. While neither are broken, both of which add up to one frustrating eggsperience. Billy Hatcher oftentimes needs to have an egg with him. Otherwise, he's pretty much powerless. The more food his egg rolls over, the larger it eggspands. The larger it gets, the more damage it can dish out on enemies. Then there's the platforming with the egg. It's annoying at the very worst and fun at best. Rolling through blue rings will cause Billy and his egg to shoot through them. Green rings bounce Billy up to astronomical heights while yellow rings serve as cannons. Trying to do intricate platforming, however, is a near joke. The camera fouls up, the egg rolls in a direction you don't want it to, and you fall into oblivion. Not to mention that dying ruins any chance of you getting an eggscellent score.

Nothing like an egg piledriver to shake things up!

Visually, Billy Hatcher has a cute, colorful, cartoony eggsthetic to it. Environments are varied, characters animate smoothly, and the game runs well on the Gamecube hardware. The game runs at a steady clip and there's little in the way of pop-up. The soundtrack is absolutely infectious with charming songs, "can't get it out of my head" tracks, and bouncy music all around.

Is Billy Hatcher eggscellent? No. Is it eggsquisite? Not even close. However, even with all of its problems, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg is an entertaining romp and one of the more overlooked platformers on Nintendo's Gamecube. What it has in frustration, it will make up for in pure, unadulterated charm. If you don't mind eggstreme irritation covered in a cute blanket, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg might be right for you. For everyone else, it may only be worth a rental or a bargain bin price.

[SuperPhillip Says: 5.75/10]

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