There’s some weird and wonderful games and Ultimate Chicken Horse fits the bill perfectly.
Developed by Clever Endeavour Games, a small 5 man team based in Montreal Canada, Ultimate Chicken Horse is an indie hit, that’s every bit as exciting to play as it is intriguing to see in action as you dynamically create levels to stop your friends from reaching the exit.
Firstly take a handful of animals, the Horse, Chicken, Sheep and Racoon, (but there’s various others such as my favorite Chameleon online), next look at games like Little Big Planet or even the mobile title Crazy Machines for inspiration and finally throw in enough part fun to keep everyone entertained.
From the well designed main menu, you can head into offline or online play across a variety of modes… Challenge and Free mode are the only offline single player options and serve as a great way of creating levels and getting to grips with the gameplay and visiting some crazy creations that you or others have produced.
There’s the useful option of sharing a controller by placing your character on the couch and then selecting up to 3 more, which forces local creative mode.
Gameplay is a fairly simple core of getting from the start to the finish, but levels are littered with obstacles such as combine harvesters, lava pits, impossible gaps or perilous drops to bypass.
As you play you change the course of the level by placing pieces before each turn, creative mode gives you more freedom, while party mode gives a limited selection and everyone has to race to grab what they want out of the party box.
Initially you’ll want to place a few simple platforms to help navigate the level ahead, but sure enough, your so called friend (or random online player) might put a crossbow above that platform, or glue to make jumping off near impossible.
There’s a wide range of items designed to both help and hinder so you’ll want to try and create a level that’s possible for you, but likely to stop your opponents.
As you can imagine this leads to lots of laughs as your friends intentionally try to make life difficult, only to fall at their own hurdle, even online against random players I’d often be kept waiting by someone being a little too cautious with placing their items or navigating the level, but karma would always help out as they’d somehow manage to fail at their own poorly placed hazard.
At home playing with the family, Ultimate Chicken Horse was loved by all and while I can’t see myself returning alone, or with random players online, having family and friends either locally or over Xbox Live, make this a fantastic party game.
Graphically, the indie roots shine through and it’s just a little disappointing. The game does run at steady pace without hic-ups, but I couldn’t help but feel there could have been a little more attention to detail rather than trying to look like the pages of a children’s book. I’m sure children ranging from 5-6 right up to their teens will love Ultimate Chicken Horse, but that doesn’t mean that adults aren’t going to enjoy the game too.
It’s great to see a true party game concentrate as much online as it does offline, especially with the option of saving and sharing your created masterpieces, and it’s understandable things wanted to be kept simple to make that sharing and dynamic creation more possible, yet I’m still left feeling it could have been just a little sharper, more detailed and appealing.
Audio is another area that could have been better, and the overall presentation does feel a little lacking compared to other popular titles like Overcooked, they are completely different styles however it’s worth noting that the extra attention to detail with both graphics and sound has excelled Overcooked to be a bit of a cult classic already for Party games, and Ultimate Chicken Horse, may very well be held in the same regard, but if it isn’t then that’s certainly not down to the fantastic gameplay.
It’s been a lot of fun navigating the various levels of Ultimate Chicken Horse, there may only be half a dozen or so areas, but with using a blank level in free mode there’s millions of possibilities and visiting some of the custom levels in challenges are a great example of how different a creation can be, It’s fun, frantic and will bring our the worst of your competitive nature, but I just wish it’d had a little more gloss visually and with the audio on a few themes.