You know, I was never any good at horse. I could never get thrilled enough to play it. I thought it needed more danger, more camaraderie, more cuddly creatures, and possibly also some hardcore platforming.
Luckily for me, my childhood prayers have been answered by Clever Endeavour Games. Not only do the developers have an awesome studio name, they’ve used whatever magic they practice to make an awesome four-person party game that will certainly test a few friendships. And as I found out, the strength of Xbox controller manufacturing.
Now, you may be wondering what Ultimate Chicken Horse is, and I truly can only describe it as N++, but the levels are made by sociopaths. Now, you may think that is a harsh description of the developers, but you needn’t worry – they don’t make the levels, you do, along with the other people in the match.
Because this game is centred around the difficulties of making it through custom maps, all of the characters are the same in how they play. But should you be a person that cares about aesthetics, you can select between a chicken, a horse, a raccoon, and a sheep, before you’ve unlocked any of the other characters. These can be unlocked through little gift packages that show up in matches (none of which cost money to open, nor do you need to buy them in a shop) and include a robot bunny, a chameleon, a squirrel, and an elephant! They are all adorable little creatures; the rabbit being my favorite, simply because he has tracks for feet.
The idea of the game is that you get to choose from a random assortment of items at the beginning of each new round, and then you must place them within the level to create a way to finish the course. Now, the catch of the game is that you must make the level difficult enough to kill your animal friends, whilst making it easy enough for you to make it through. If everybody makes it to the end of the level, nobody gets a point, but there are specific bonuses if you make it there first, or if you are the only one to make it to the flag.
As you can probably guess from other experiences with online games, gamers can be quite the evil little devils, and this game is no exception! In fact, being a right bastard is a very winnable strategy, and so you may find yourself getting kicked from matches for being too evil. This has been the case for myself and my colleague. We have both had issues getting in, and staying in, matches. It seems that we are both too evil for the lobbies we joined, ending quite a few encounters with one of us being kicked. However, as my friend can attest, it was an absolutely wonderful time spent building unbelievably cruel levels and laughing as nobody could complete them.
Now, the game does have an issue in its matchmaking system, which is quite a bit lackluster. Whilst we have both been kicked from matches, we both had a difficult time actually getting into a match during the connecting phase. He couldn’t connect to my lobby at all, and so we had to coordinate connecting to other public lobbies, which meant quite often one of us would lose connection before even getting into the game. It would have been understandable if it had just been us two, what with region differences that he and I have, but even alone I have had issues actually making a connection to many of the lobbies. If there was a way to make a more dedicated system to running the game’s servers, but still offering the option for the normal, seemingly peer-to-peer connection, it might make it easier for people to play the game together.
There is local multiplayer as well, for those that have friends over and multiple controllers. As far as I can tell, you won’t therefore experience the desyncing issues that are rampant throughout the online multiplayer. Often, at times, you’ll see people just walk through arrows or cannonballs without a care in the world, and sometimes you’ll die from a projectile that was still a good distance away from you, which does make for a somewhat angering time, especially when it makes for the difference between who wins or loses. There have been a few times where I would be leaping through the air, about to score what would be my lead securing points, and I’d suddenly keel-over and die. This leads to many hand gesticulations… that almost ended in my controller being deposited against the floor.
Now, the game isn’t broken in that sense, it’s just another issue that the multiplayer system, as with ones before it, has. It also isn’t normally a rage-inducing game, but there is something so satisfying about having your little animal dancing at the finish line – something that is even more vexing when you’re the only one who didn’t make it. This game brings out the competitive side in people, so if you do dare to play Ultimate Chicken Horse locally with friends, do make sure they aren’t sore losers… or make sure you are wearing padded clothing!
As for the other aspects and many things are absolutely wonderful. The graphics are cute, and the audio is also oddly satisfying to listen to. The movement system is a little odd, but it’s still precise enough to get the job done well. It could do with allowing some rebinding to bring a more comfortable experience though.
Overall, this game is worth the money for anybody that likes hardcore platformers. Grabbing three friends and playing will bring you a time that not only will strengthen your bonds of friendship, but will also determine who is the Ultimate Chicken Horse!