Purple Chicken Spaceman is a completely mad concoction of so many elements that it probably shouldn’t work. But somehow it does. You can throw in a silly premise, ridiculous enemies and some really weird music to top it all off. It’s just mad, all of it. And that all works in its favour.
Developed by Holmade Games – whose only previous effort was Hurdle Turtle – Purple Chicken Spaceman is… exactly that. You are a purple chicken who decides to take it upon himself to defend the planet when UFOs suddenly invade. Thankfully you can fly, and apparently you also require no oxygen while flying through space, coming under attack from all angles by all manner of nasty aliens and other odd creatures. Now, a word of warning. This game is pretty damn hard. The enemies are relentless. Their attacks don’t end. But if you know anything about this game going in, it’s sort of part of the marketing. The studio intended it to be a serious challenge, and it lives up to that name.
Purple Chicken Spaceman follows the format of every other 2D sidescroller you’ve ever played. You move from left to right and shoot enemies. Wow, crazy right? There’s an enemy counter in the top right of the screen that indicates how many enemies you need to kill to progress to the boss stages. The top left contains your life counter. You can only take a few hits before you die, so your evasive manoeuvres have to seriously be on point. If you’re used to this type of game, then this should be a welcome challenge to you, however, if you’re one who doesn’t play many sidescrollers, this might come across as being a bit too difficult. It can be immensely frustrating when you’re agonisingly close to finishing a stage only to fall at the last hurdle. But then, that only makes it all the more satisfying when you do finally complete a stage.
Now, I mentioned earlier that you get to fly through space, and you do, but you also get to fly through several different environments as you progress through the game. Each of the stages feel distinct, with their own unique enemies to keep things fresh. Some of these include an arctic area, a tropical island, a rainy dystopian looking city, and a… land made of candy? In any case, the strangeness of some of these stages completely ties in with the aesthetic that Holmade Games are aiming for, and they pull it off with aplomb. The bosses are similarly weird. If I’m being honest, I didn’t expect the first one to be a giant cat. This is after you beat the stage set in space, if you were wondering. But strangely, it fits.
You have a few weapons at your disposal to try and deal with everything this game throws at you. Your most commonly pressed button will be A, which fires off shots. With both bumpers, you can trigger a smart bomb that wipes out all enemies that are present on the screen. However, these can only be picked up by destroying containers found floating throughout the levels. And any enemies you kill with the smart bomb don’t count towards the enemy counter in the right, making this much more useful in a situation where you become overwhelmed, and not for general progression. The triggers control a shield that you can use to block enemy attacks, and is massively helpful when you feel like you’re beginning to get overwhelmed. Again, the shield is a pickup and cannot be activated whenever you wish, adding another dimension of strategy to the otherwise straightforward gameplay. Another strange and slightly less useful powerup reverses the movement buttons, suddenly making things a lot more confusing. You should probably avoid that where possible. A few more attack types wouldn’t have gone amiss here, but there’s a fun strategy to figuring out how to alternate between each of your assigned tools to achieve the best result.
The quirkiness of Purple Chicken Spaceman on Xbox One is sort of obvious from the get go. It’s completely off the charts, as you may have been able to deduce from both the name, and the premise, alone. Accompanying your playtime is a bizarre, and genuinely fun song named identically to the game, in which the same three words are repeated over and over again. Yep, you guessed it, those words are Purple Chicken Spaceman. Honestly, this is a perfect touch on a game that’s so knowingly zany and over the top; it feels completely right, and is probably one of the very best things about the game, even if it does get repetitive quite quickly. It’s endearing and charming in its own mad way.
Purple Chicken Spaceman is exactly the type of game that you’d expect it to be, if only a bit harder. It’s a fun challenge, and the completely unique visual style makes it tough not to admire. Yes, it’s mental, but it works.