What do the Hungry Hungry Hippos do when they are no longer hungry? Do you think they have a Hungry Hungry Hangout? Go on a Hungry Hungry Hiatus? Maybe they wear a bunch of different, wacky outfits and slam their bellies into one another while navigating through a sequence of obstacle course levels? Let us hope it is not that last one, because then it would be like the boring, repetitive game Clumsy Rush.
Brought to us by the developing team at NerfGame, Clumsy Rush is a local, competitive, party game where you and up to three friends play as delightfully rotund hippos. Emerging as the victorious hippo is only possible by crossing a finish line at the end of a randomized obstacle course while wearing a crown. If a rival hippo has said crown upon their head, you must use your mighty girth and belly bump them until the coveted crown is in your hippo hands.
Now, despite the harsh words of this review’s opening paragraph, first impressions of the game were pretty solid. One of Clumsy Rush’s primary features is its unconventional control scheme. Moving around is done by using the left and right triggers to individually move the respective leg of your hippo. As you can imagine, it gets pretty hectic. Coupled with the ragdoll physics of the hippos’ upper halves, this control scheme is initially hilarious. It is goofy fun to watch a herd of hippos bump and slam into each other while struggling with walking in a straight line. However, much like late-night talk show host Conan O’Brien, it was funny for about two minutes before I got sick of it.
Once my friends and I had played a handful of matches, we immediately began to grow weary of the frustrating controls. Even when finding a rhythm that allows you to walk in a straight line for a few moments, it feels like the controls are doing the best they could to thwart any amount of progress. Constant belly slams from competing hippos did not help much since a slam took even more control away from the victim. I have always believed that one of the quickest ways to frustrate a player is to make them feel that they are not in control. So, in response to the clumsy (haha, get it?) controls, we switched to the alternate controls of moving your hippo solely with the left stick.
This proved to offer several big improvements. It made belly bumping brawls more fun, it shortened the length of matches considerably, and it highlighted the game’s weak level design. Okay, so that last one was not an improvement. The game boasts a whopping forty-seven levels, but this is misleading. What it really means is there are forty-seven incredibly samey tiles that can be arranged in a different order each time. Some have ice, some have ice but slightly differently, some have oil, some have oil but slightly differently, and lots of those tiles have no obstacle at all.
If those repetitive tiles were not bad enough already, they grow exponentially worse when playing the game alone. In single-player, the objective remains the same: grab the crown, and cross the finish line. Without a competing player, the tiles and those obstacles were the only thing to offer a challenge of any kind. Even then, the challenge felt like it was due to the uncooperative control scheme. With the alternate controls, every single level could be finished by holding the left stick up and waiting.
“But wait!” Clumsy Rush says before you shut off your console, “As you’ve played, you have been unlocking mods that mix up the action!”. While true, these mods only mix up the action in the same way that salt could be considered spicy. One mod extends the range of belly bumps, one makes it so the level is set at night (*insert enormous eye roll here*), and one causes your hippo to move only in reverse – as if the natural control scheme was not enough to earn your hatred. The mods only serve to further emphasize the issues of the controls and level design: there is not much game to this video game.
The biggest compliment one could give to Clumsy Rush would be its lovely aesthetic. Even then, though, it is a tentative compliment. I say this because although the levels are cutesy, bright and fun, some of the hippo costumes are questionable. Santa Hippo is great, the Donald Trump hippo is funny, and the Breaking Bad hippo in a hazmat suit is my personal favorite. Yet, some can feel a bit insensitive. The Jewish rabbi hippo and slightly toothless, Mexican hippo spring to mind. Whether you find these skins and a few others to be too far is up to you, but it is something to be aware of.
Big on the clumsy, and low on the rush, Clumsy Rush on Xbox One is a plodding excuse for a party game. Its controls are frustrating, its gameplay is insanely repetitive, and all attempts at switching up the action fall completely flat. Despite its fun visuals and strong concept, there is not enough here to recommend the game to anyone. Give Hungry Hungry Hippos another try – at least that had some thought put into it.