We dream of being as cool as Chameneon. Every move they make is soundtracked by pulsing EDM. Whenever they jump, they spin in multiple 360s, and always land on their feet. They grind handrails like Tony Hawk, but without the need for a skateboard, and they do all of it with their tongue hanging out, like a dog’s ears in a moving car. Chameneon – you’re a dude.
It’s not just Chameneon the character who’s effortlessly cool. It’s Chameneon the game too. Chameneon may be a slice of budget gaming, but it’s got its collar up, shades on and toothpick in its mouth. The levels are minimalist and neon, but they’re crisp. It’s never unclear what’s going on, and as you tap away on the pad, changing lanes for little Chameneon to skate over, the effect can be like a pocket rave.
Yeah, we’ve got a bit of a crush on Chameneon. At least from a presentation point of view, it’s far cooler than we could ever hope to be. Sigh.
We should probably move from the style to the substance. Chameneon is an endless runner, but the type that does actually end. Your little lizard will continue to surf through the level regardless of anything you do, and your aim in each of the eighty levels and four worlds is to get them to the wall of static that represents the finishing line.
While you can’t move Chameneon, what you can do is jump. Chameneon will grind-rail, and you can tap A to send them leapfrogging over electric charges, enemies and gaps in the course. That’s very conventional for an endless runner, but Chameneon stops being conventional around that point. You see, the course can contort such that Chameneon is upside down, sideways and doing all sorts of loop-the-loops. But there is momentum at play, and the grindrails exert their own gravity. So, jump from a large rail-sphere and you might be yanked back down by gravity. But jump from one sphere to another, and the gravitational-pull will switch mid-leap. At first, it’s a mind-jumbler, but you get used to it.
Soon, you’re using momentum to slingshot from one rail to another, or timing your leaps just before you return to a horizontal state, so that you’re skipping whole chunks of the level. Chameneon has its own rhythms and skills, and acclimatizing to them is the vast proportion of its opening hour. But Chameneon knows this, and turns the dial of difficulty incredibly slowly.
As that dial begins to turn more emphatically, new ideas get thrown at you. Early-ish, you gain the ability to turn off blue handrails and turn on pink handrails. It’s a switch that you can flick mid-jump, should you want to, or even while you are sliding on a given rail. You can use it to switch-track like a minecart, avoiding some upcoming electric sparks. You can remove an incoming wall. Or you can get artful, and start bypassing swathes of the level when used in combination with the gravity-jump.
Those are the biggies, but Chameneon never really stops complimenting the base mechanics with others. Enemies start riding the same rails as you do. Other enemies float across the screen. Suddenly, timing becomes even more of an issue, as sliding down certain paths at certain times becomes untenable. You’ll need to take a different route.
And throughout all of this, collectibles dangle temptingly from the end of grindrails. A floppy disk is the main collectible, the one that shows up on the level select screen, but there are also lightning bolts to collect in large quantities to fill an end-of-level battery. Cruelly, the number of deaths are also proudly presented at level-end, so you can be confronted with just how often you spiraled into the void. It isn’t unusual to get well into double figures.
It is, all told, a generous, effective little package. Eighty levels is a lot, particularly when some levels had us bashing against a window for ten minutes or so. The presentation is stellar, and the music in particular had us standing up as we played, rather than sitting down. We couldn’t enjoy the vibe with our butt on a seat. When you consider that this arrives for the miniscule price of £3.29, it’s an absolute steal.
There is a Columbo-like “one last thing”, though. Chameneon is nails-hard. It’s nails-hard in the sense that the levels have been constructed masochistically, with long, uninterrupted sequences of obstacles that will kill you repeatedly until you master the timing or find a cleaner way through. But it’s also nails-hard because there’s so much room for error in the momentum and gravity, and the way that one can overrule the other. You’re dealing with complicated physics on the fly, and that is an awful lot for a human mind to understand, let alone master.
We’re not entirely sure whether Chameneon asks too much of a player. There were times when we completed a level out of luck, rather than skill, as we skipped to the end thanks to a well-timed slingshot. Other times, we found our patience slipping away, as the only way to complete the level was to memorise a protracted sequence of jumps and switch-rails. We suspect that if you have little patience for repeating levels, then Chameneon may not be for you. If your reflexes are on the wane, it may not be for you either. Very generally, you will have to be brave, lucky and patient in various combinations to get the most of Chameneon, and that’s not something that everyone has in the quantities needed.
Is Chameneon too demanding, too random? Perhaps. We’d put a vote in to change the level select, so that you could skip a particularly troublesome level, for example, or perhaps even dare to include a checkpoint system. But we’re sure that some Chameneon purists would argue the opposite.
Chameneon is difficult. Cruelly so, perhaps, dabbling as it does with physics and relentless obstacles. But if you’re up for the challenge, there really is no other reason not to pick it up. For £3.29 you get one of the most stylish, pulse-quickening endless runners you’re ever likely to play.
You can buy Chameneon from the Xbox Store