It’s all kicking off in the animal kingdom. A gluttonous gray squirrel has taken all of the food in the land, leaving the other residents to starve to death. Now, coming from one of the few areas of the country which is home to the rather wonderful red squirrel, I am not surprised in the slightest at the behavior of this gray menace.
Thankfully, a trio of chipmunk martial arts masters are up for the fight to liberate the land from this pest and its many, many followers. I suppose it’s as good a reason as any to kick some rodent backside. You can play as Grey, Cheeks or Red in this side scrolling beat ‘em up inspired by classic titles such as Streets of Rage and Golden Axe.
It is in fact the latter of those two games which Chipmonk! really reminds me of. It’s very similar in terms of style, leaning heavily on the retro vibe. I’ve played countless games over the years which settle on this type of look, and all I can really say is that it’s fine. It does what it says on the tin, so to speak.
The soundtrack to each level struggles to make an impact, and at times it sounds as if nothing is playing at all. What’s most strange however, are the sound effects. When you deliver the finishing blow to an enemy, what sounds like a gunshot will go off, and they will let out a death cry which sounds nothing like any animal I’ve ever heard. The gruff (obviously human) groans of pain can be heard from armor clad moles to smaller flies; it shows a real lack in attention to detail. In fact, it feels lazy.
Anyhow, as with any game of this ilk the most important part has to be the fighting. In true side scrolling tradition, you will edge forward before being set upon by goons, and need to take them all out before you can continue. You can move up or down your path to step around enemies, but only attack to your left or right.
Despite being martial arts masters, your characters’ abilities are pretty basic. They are equipped with a standard attack, as well as a special which is charged by collecting mushrooms from those flies I mentioned earlier. The chipmunks can also jump and slide whilst attacking at the same time.
There are some small differences between characters, which each come with their own set of slightly varying stats. Power, speed and a unique special ability are some examples of what separates them, but in reality this has a negligible effect on how Chipmonk! plays.
Combat is reduced to button mashing pretty quickly. With some enemies, you end up just trading blows, one after the other, with no real ability to employ tactics thanks to the basic gameplay. I found spamming the slide attack to be particularly effective in preventing the enemy landing their attacks.
Each level concludes with a boss battle, complete with chunky health bar. However, rather strangely these characters can also pop up mid-level later on in the game, or another variant will return in a future boss battle. The fact that each level doesn’t even get its own unique big bad tells you all you need to know about variety in Chipmonk!.
Despite the simple gameplay, Chipmonk! is by no means an easy game to beat. You’ll regularly take damage as enemies rush you from off-screen, losing lives and using up continues. There’s no way to save mid run either, and you can’t quit halfway through and resume your playthrough at a later date (despite how much you might want to take a break). It is very much just like they used to make ‘em.
There are a few game modes in Chipmonk!, the main one being adventure mode. You essentially fight your way through different environments, with the odd hazard such as exploding mushrooms, water or sheer drops being added in an attempt to mix things up a little. Accompanying this, there is also the revengeance mode, which works in a very similar way.
You can also get a friend involved and jump into a duel, or tackle the onslaught mode which tasks you with surviving for as long as possible against waves of enemies. These may sound different, but fail to inject that much needed variety into the game. However, there are leaderboards which congratulate you and track your stats which is nice, despite them being purely offline.
To put things bluntly, it didn’t take long for me to get bored with Chipmonk!. There is very little variety to almost every aspect of the game. It feels more like a carbon copy of classic games from way back, rather than an inspired tribute. Sadly, it fails to hit the heights that the classics did despite them being released decades ago.
Chipmonk! is an incredibly basic beat ‘em up which fails to innovate or excite in almost every way. What results is a mediocre callback which does nothing to stand out from the crowd. It would be nuts to recommend it.