There’s not much in the way of story in BigChick, so we started making our own story up. We felt like we had to: there’s a lot that needs explaining here. After all, you’re playing a giant rooster with magical powers, protecting much smaller chickens from a world that includes Dune-like sandworms, giant catfish and countless wolves and crocodiles. Your powers include the ability to raise the sea bed, and lowering islands to the sea floor.
So, you’re a Chicken God, clearly. And these are the end-times, with a volcano erupting and the denizens of Hell coming to the surface. If you can protect your chickens by getting them to the holy Big Barn, then chickens will survive, inherit the Earth, and usher in a chicken-based future. That’s what we assume is happening, anyway.
It’s not only the set-up that’s a bit odd in BigChick: you probably won’t have played many games like it either. It’s a chicken-herding simulator, which isn’t particularly common right now. Your job is to create paths from hatching chicks to the game’s Big Barn, often in the centre of the game screen, and then protect the chicks as they auto-walk, Lemmings-style, to that barn.
Luckily, you have some Chicken God powers. Conveniently they are all on the A button of your controller. Hold A, and BigChick can speed up, which is invaluable in getting to the chicks and keeping up with them. It also speeds up the chicks themselves, acting as a kind of motivational speech. When you’re pressing A around a group of chicks, they absolutely peg it to the exit.
You also have some natural, passive abilities. You are far stronger than the pterodactyls, piranha plants and wolves in the area, so walk into them and they will be stunned. For a few seconds, those creatures will be harmless and your chicks can stroll past. It’s clear what you have to do: if your chicks are going to survive all the way to the exit, then you’re going to have to participate in a bit of an escort mission.
BigChick and friends live on an archipelago, so there are plenty of isolated tranches of land. Chicks are often caught on these islands, so you also have to be capable of creating land-bridges to them. Which brings us to the final two abilities that BigChick has: he can simply walk into water and raise it up, like a wattled Jesus. Equally, he can tap a shoulder button and jump into a lido, where the power switches the other way. Suddenly, BigChick can turn islands into water, which is useful for chicks who are more water-based. Many of them are in their own lido, which is a signal that they would prefer a submerged path.
And that’s it: you have a ‘Health’ score, which is the game’s way of telling you that, if a certain number of chicks die, then you’ve lost. You’ve fed too many chicks to catfish, and you’re a terrible Guardian God. So, you’re often replaying a level to try to keep the number of chick-deaths down to a minimum.
The challenge comes from spinning plates. Since chicks start auto-walking as soon as there is a viable path to the Big Barn, then you suddenly have multiple babysitting – sorry, chicksitting – options. Do you protect the chicks coming from the north-east who are heading for some wolves? Or do you protect the swimming chicks from the south-west that are about to be crocodile fodder? Often, the solution is to focus on speeding up one channel and hoping that the other channel will be safe in the meantime. Other times, it can mean destroying a path to the Barn so that chicks just wait for a sodding minute. Each level is a puzzle of ‘who’s going to get eaten first’.
Which, as it turns out, isn’t all that fun. Or, at least, not to us. Take the first approach, where you’re constantly herding and protecting the most endangered of chicks. While BigChick is fast, he’s not fast enough, and the back-and-forthing from one flock of chicks to another becomes a frustratingly slow game of Overcooked!. You’re trying to manage them both, but there’s too much downtime in getting to them, which obviously leaves them open to being eaten up. Particularly on harder levels, it’s incredibly frustrating to try to protect everyone, as the game never really keeps up with what you want to do.
Being their guardian is frustratingly imprecise, too. Knowing who is protected and who isn’t is utterly random, so you can be sheltering five or six chicks, only to find that one was slightly out of your invisible radius and gets gobbled by a sandworm. Pressing A to speed up the chicks can mean you speed up some, but not all, of them, leading a few to slow down and, yep, get gobbled again. It turns out that herding chickens is hard. Who knew?
Which reverts you to the other game-plan: to fiddle with the chicks’ paths, so that you can manage the influx of chicks. But this just isn’t enjoyable. We felt like we were cheating, blocking off paths so that we could play one chick at a time, or a few at most. On harder difficulties, it felt like the only approach, but nannying a few chicks at a time, while putting the other chicks in infinite loops isn’t exactly the height of excitement.
The other approach is to whack the difficulty down to Very Easy, which makes everything rather moot. You can strut through the levels like a chicken colossus. But where’s the fun in that? We suppose it gets you the achievements, with 1000G for roughly half an hour of play.
Which is, conveniently, just before BigChick breaks. We reached a point, about two-thirds of the way in, when the game crashed incessantly. It managed to crash in ways that we haven’t actually seen before on an Xbox. C: prompt appears, telling us that batches of data are corrupted, and it chucks us out of the game and onto the home screen. It’s all very bizarre, completely frustrating, and utterly game-breaking. We’re not entirely sure that it’s possible to complete BigChick.
BigChick has big ideas. The idea of a chick-herding game had us bobbing our heads in chicken-like appreciation. But, as it turns out, herding chickens is hard and not particularly fun. Either you’re multitasking with a rooster god who can’t move fast enough to make that job fun, or you’re trying to break the rules of the game to make it easy – and also boring. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to dodge the avalanche of game crashes that hit in the second half of the game. We got our revenge by uninstalling BigChick and ordering a KFC.
You can buy BigChick from the Xbox Store
- Fresh, interesting new premise
- Can hit its stride with some fun levels
- Huge number of game crashes
- Too slow-moving
- Best practice is to boringly block chickens
- Some ugly presentation and UI
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - PixelPoint
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 15 March 2023
- Launch price from - £4.99