It has to be said, there aren’t an awful lot of games available for Xbox One which are suitable for the whole family, so when one turns up, it should most definitely be looked at. Chariot is one such game…isn’t it?
Originally given away for free as part of the Xbox Live Games With Gold promotion for October/November 2014, Chariot is a physics-based platformer which sees a brave Princess and her fiancé take the King on his last journey; a journey to that of a gold-filled tomb. You see, the King has recently died and so it is up to you to take his funeral wagon through a series of puzzle heavy levels in order for him to be buried with his wealth. Dead or not though, he’s a grumpy old bugger and his spirit is quick to pipe up whenever there is loot involved, so the collection of as much of that as you push, pull and drag the King’s tomb through plenty of dark catacombs is something you’ll need to focus on throughout.
And whilst they’re absolutely beautiful to look at, those catacombs have been devilishly created with numerous routes open to investigation as long as the Princess can take the tomb round with her. A solitary rope is her main friend and this can be used to pull the wagon up and over both basic platforms and the most complex of obstacles. There’s an awful lot of jumping involved and it all works reasonably well with a decent level of precision with various platforms to traipse over; some of which only the Princess can walk on and others that can only accommodate the chariot. With that in mind, there are times when you have to step back and assess the whole area before moving on, especially once you get further on into the game and pressure pads, doors and the explosion of walls have all been integrated into the levels.
Whilst the option is there to complete each stage set out in front of you in the most basic of ways, the inclusion of additional secret entrances brings a huge sense of replayability to Chariot, and this works extremely well if you’re a fan of the whole ‘discovery’ feel the game broadcasts at every opportunity. If you’re one of those who enjoyed the likes of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet and Shadow Complex from a few years back, then Chariot is a lighter hearted version of those and is something you must really check out.
There are decent enough reasons to investigate the routes available as much as you can though, mostly because they are all filled with loot (everyone loves loot no?), but the more you search, the more likely you are to find the secret entrances and the odd blueprint for extra gadgets which can be purchased and attached to the chariot in order to explore further. Beware though, the caverns are also filled with looters who will attempt to steal anything you’ve already got your hands on!
If you get bored of dragging the King’s corpse around in search of treasure and exits then each level has a speed run option available to it in which you can attempt to beat your Xbox Live friends’ attempts. The speed runs bring that little something different and are good for those of us with that super competitive streak ingrained in. You really will need to learn the best route through each level first though.
Whilst the game works surprisingly well as a single player affair, much of the hype surrounding Chariot focuses deep on the multiplayer side of things and this is where it gets a little disappointing. Firstly, there is no online multiplayer available (and that’s pretty much unacceptable for a new game that pushes such a co-operative feel), but unfortunately even the option that is given to us, 2 player local co-op, turns out to be more frustrating than it should. Whilst the basic tunnels that are laid out in front of us work fine with two players, as soon as you hit a point when a bit more cooperation is needed, the basic mechanics of the game just seem to go out of the window. Each player can latch on to the chariot with a single rope but the timing that is required in attaching, jumping and then carrying out simple movements mean many attempts will have to be taken on over and over again before becoming successful….and even then it feels like there is too much pot luck involved to make the whole process worthwhile. It’s fun to start with and yes the rewards are there if you do manage to grab that extra loot, but too many times I’ve been left bewildered by the sheer amount of hassle the two player mechanics have caused.
It’s a shame, because Chariot really should be ‘fun’ with more than one person but throughout any co-op session you’re constantly left with the feeling that you’d prefer to go about things by yourself.
As a free single player title (and let’s be honest, the vast majority of Xbox One owners would have snapped it up via the Games With Gold promotion), it’s a solid affair with a decent level of enjoyment that all competent 2D side scrolling platformers bring. In fact, if it were a single player only game, then I’d probably be raving about it. But the fact of the matter is it’s been billed as this big cooperative experience (even including areas that can only be access with more than one player) and as soon as an extra player gets thrown into it, any attempt to fire through much more than the most basics levels sees far too much irratation for my liking.
Chariot is colourful enough and contains just about the minimum amount of humour needed to drag it through to a TXH 4* rating, but you’ll most definitely need to be a bit controller savvy to really make the most of it and even then the sheer amount of trial and error may seem a bit too much.
I’m just not sure I’m meant to be enjoying the solo play more than the cooperative stuff!