Developer: Wideload Games
Release Date: July 2, 2008
When it comes to politics, calling me a pessimist would be an understatement. I'm not really a fan of serious topics, so I rely on satirical news such as Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" to get my political fix. Wideload Games has taken the political satire of those shows and mixed it with the animal kingdom to create a party game that will determine the new king of the jungle in Hail to the Chimp for the Xbox 360.
Once you start up the game, a CNN-style broadcast plays on the main menu screen. News anchor/debate moderator Woodchuck Chumley gives you the latest headlines with occasional political debates, advertisements, and hilarious product commercials. Some notable stories include bunnies breeding like bunnies and a reference to a classic flash animation involving badgers and mushrooms. You can spend upwards of 30 minutes watching these hilarious broadcasts before realizing you haven't even pressed the Start button. You may even have more fun watching the main menu screen than playing the game.
That's a bold statement to say, but it's pretty true. The reason for this political turmoil is a recent scandal that has forced the lion, king of the jungle, to abdicate the throne. Now that the position is vacant, 10 candidates desperately want to take his place. The only method to do this is to skew the votes in their favor in the form of 16 politically themed mini-games.
These mini-games comprise Hail to the Chimp's two modes: Campaign and Versus. In Campaign mode, you play through the campaigns of the 10 characters. Each campaign has an objective for you to complete, such as earning the most points after a series of mini-games or winning a majority of the mini-games. The characters include: Bean the sloth, Crackers the monkey, Daisy the platypus, Floyd the walrus, Hedwig the polar bear, Moxie the musk ox, Murgatroyd the jellyfish, Ptolemy the hippo, Santo the armadillo and Toshiro the octopus.
Versus is your typical multiplayer mode where up to four players can compete. The computer controls any other players that aren't human (local or online). You'll then choose an odd number of games up to nine that make up the primary, and whoever has the most points at the end is the winner.
The mini-games start getting repetitive since there are only 16 of them, and playing on different maps will only take you so far. The problem isn't the lack of games, but rather the games themselves. No matter what game it is, the goal is to collect the most clams. It may involve having the most clams before time runs out or being the last one to survive because you have the most clams. You may have to collect clams and deposit them into a ballot box, or use them to smear campaign signs, or even pay them to fat cats (literally and figuratively) to support your campaign. You don't even have to pay attention to the directions to get the gist of the game.
You can collect clams as they appear on the map or by destroying boxes, snowballs, and other objects that contain them. Since the characters move so slowly, you won't be able to collect the clams that fly out of the boxes you break, so you'll have to beat up your opponents for their clams. In addition, the levels are ridiculous. Every level has hazards that hinder your progress and can kill you. It takes a while to respawn, which means you're losing time to collect clams. Random bombs and cages will fall on top of you, holes will drop down below you, and your double-jump is next to useless for recovering. To add to it all, the camera zooms out so far at an isometric view that half of the time, you can't even see yourself, and the other half of the time, you're dead.
For those who prefer to be a little strategic in competition, there are power-up weapons you can use on your opponents. One is a bomb that you can stick to someone, and there's no way for him or her to get rid of it. However, the explosion is large enough that it can catch other players and kill them in the process, too. Another power-up inflates a character's head like a balloon, which causes the victim to float in the air and be unable to collect clams. Also, if two characters are nearby and they press B, they can form a temporary alliance to thwart the two other players. Examples of such tactics include a clothesline maneuver between Ptolemy and Toshiro. Another team technique occurs between Floyd and Santo, where Floyd aims at a target and throws Santo at them. In many cases, power-ups and team-up skills cause more chaos than necessary.
To wrap up the gameplay, it's essentially a mess. Controls are clunky, character movement is too slow, and it's difficult to see what's going on. Playing multiplayer with all humans can be somewhat enjoyable because no one else will know what's going on. You can also play online, but I failed to find any other players to play with. In addition, your high scores can be posted on the online leaderboards. I checked it out once and realized that most of the people on the boards were QA testers for the game.
While you may not enjoy the gameplay aspects of Hail to the Chimp, you may be pleased by the presentation of the game. Everything is animated in a cartoon-like fashion. Characters are bright and colorful, and as a fan of cel-shading, I enjoyed the graphical direction. On the audio side of things, the music is okay. Most of the music is typical party game fare, with a few political tunes thrown in, such as an electric guitar rendition of "Hail to the Chief." Character voices are pretty good, and the diversity of accents and personalities makes the political conversations hilarious. However, all of the things being spoken during the mini-games can get repetitive. The characters seem to have a small vocabulary, as they tend to blurt out the same two or three phrases nonstop.
All in all, I can't recommend Hail to the Chimp as a game, but it gets my vote as a satire of politics. The clunky controls, slow character movement, obstructive camera, repetitive gameplay, and chaotic multiplayer work against the title, and although the graphics and audio make up for it to a degree, it's nowhere near enough. The news parodies makes it somewhat worthwhile to watch; maybe they should have released Hail to the Chimp as a DVD movie instead.
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