This one may be getting impeached.
Hail to the Chimp is the first endeavor since ex-Bungie employees Wideload games finished their previous cult-hit: Stubbs the Zombie. Granted you would never know that both games were developed by the same team aside from one recurring theme; humor. Hail to the Chimp succeeds mostly thanks to its hilarious PSA messages and between mission chatter rather than intuitive game design. When stripped away you are left with a simple party game that suffers from what I have dubbed “Powerstone 2 Syndrome”. What this boils down to is a game that is highly entertaining when played with three friends, but when you decide to go solo you end up feeling more than empty inside.
The backdrop for HttC is a comical one. Apparently the king of the jungle (the lion of course) has been removed from office for being involved in a scandal. The rest of the animal kingdom decides it is time to introduce democracy to replace monarchy and the hilarity of campaigning hippos and monkeys ensue. The combination of hilarious dialogue and brilliant PSA messages stowed away within the news-style presentation is pure genius. The writing is genuinely funny and the voice overs are absolutely spot-on, which gives the game a comical flavor that few others can match.
The game play is straight-forward and simple. In single player you get to choose from different candidates as you complete each campaign. Each section consists of a series of mini-games that all focus on one thing: collecting clams. Each candidate has a series of primaries that requires you to collect as many clams as possible while also stealing clams from your opponents in a series of mini-games. The biggest problem here is that each mini-game is hard to distinguish from the last. The core game has you simply collecting clams, while another has you collecting enough clams to take money from cats. You will also be required to collect a giant angry clam and then take it to a newspaper add in order to eat it. Needless to say the focus of the game is to collect clams.
Really all you do is collect clams in some form or fashion.
While there is certainly a wide array of ways to accomplish the main goal it all starts to feel monotonous far too soon. Each game begins to run into the others and deciphering between them becomes more challenging than the game itself. This is further agitated by the fact that the AI in the game is some of the most inconsistent I have ever encountered. For example in the game where you collect the giant angry clam to eat the newspapers the AI rarely ever makes an attempt to pick it up. They wonder around aimlessly jumping off the stage to their doom. However, in some of the collection levels where I was trying to deposit my clams into a poll box they would constantly focus in on me as a team and steal all of my clams before I could ever deposit them. The balance between effortlessly easy and insanely frustrating is poorly executed.
There is a thin layer of strategy involved with Chimp in the form of teaming up with your running mates. During the course of any event you have the option to temporarily team up with one of your opponents. During this time you gain a special attack that will wipe away the competition. Be careful though as I mentioned earlier when playing alone the AI loves to do this; especially when they are losing. This is a perfect example of why HttC is best played with a group of three other friends. The team up function can also be used as a segue-way to backstabbery. For instance if you notice one of the other players taking an early lead it would be wise to utilize one of two strategies in order to get a leg up. You could either team up with another player and attempt to slow down the leader, or you could team up with the leader and lead them into oblivion – or simply throw them off the map – to gain an upper hand. It is this sort of treachery that keeps the action interesting in multi-player.
The multi-player in the game is certainly the way to go, but it doesn’t come without its own set of problems. For starters the control scheme is plagued with issues. Combat feel clunky thanks to poor collision detection. More often than not I found myself swinging at air as opposed to landing blows on my foes. Each character also handles differently so some run faster while others jump higher, but to be honest none of them control well. Every character feels like they are running through a thick field of molasses and trying to execute a precise jump is like trying to prevent a monkey from slinging poo at you; it simply isn’t going to happen. When you combine these issues with the fact that there is usually way too much going on in any given level you have a compilation of slow frame rates, losing sight of your character and (if you are playing single-player) ridiculously unbalanced AI that makes the game more frustrating than fun.
Seriously? A platypus with a nose ring…
Visually the game is actually refreshing. The lush color palette fits the mood of the game nicely. There are a few hindrances though that keeps it from achieving visual nirvana. First off the character models are detailed but lack fluid animation. Their stiff movements detract from the vibrant tone of the game. The frame rate also takes a dive more often than not thanks to the highly cluttered levels. Sometimes there is simply too much going on for the game to keep up on either system. It’s not like the game is pushing some massive polygons, but the action gets to frantic that at times you have absolutely no idea what is going on. The audio is fantastic sporting some truly humorous dialogue and memorable tunes. Some of the commercial jingles are so infectious you will be humming them for months to come.
Even with all of the problems there is a certain charm about HttC that is hard to deny. As I mentioned early on the game’s wacky dialogue and mammoth collection of videos are entirely worth the price of admission alone. You can also take the battles online and from our play test we have come to two conclusions: one the game runs pretty smooth with very few hints of lag and second, absolutely no one bought this game. The online lobby is like a ghost town, which is sad because the game does have potential buried beneath its frustrations.
Hail to the Chimp is one of those games that will quickly become a novelty. There is a fun little romp tucked away in here, but you have to dig (and play the game with other people) in order to find it. The humor is genuinely funny and the profuse amount of content packed on the disc make it worthwhile for fans of quirky titles ripe with humor. The game is certainly not going to win any awards nor will it re-invent the genre. But for those of you who give it a chance you may come away pleasantly entertained for your forty bucks, while other will simply come away frustrated. Not for everyone so make sure you check out the demo on PSN or Xbox Live before taking the plunge.