Review: Frima Studio's Chariot is charming
Platform: Xbox One and PlayStation 4
In a time when various indie developers are returning to the classic 2D roots with its platforming endeavors, it can be difficult to find that "hook" to keep players coming back for more. Thankfully, Frima Studio has managed to find that with Chariot, a game that's equally fulfilling whether you go it alone or drag along a couch partner for the ride.
In the game, you play as a princess (and her fiancée, if you've got a friend tagging along) fulfilling one last wish to her deceased king father – finding all the wealth you could possibly amass to fill his grave with. However, being the greedy, absorbent ruler that he was, the king demands to collect the treasures directly, resulting in the pair to drag around his mobile grave to pick them up.
At first, the game starts simply enough so you can get used to the tethering mechanics. But as your adventure goes on, the difficulty begins to crank up, and Frima's brilliance shines through when it comes to platforming antics, whether on your own or with an ally.
Rock and Rope
The trick to Chariot is managing to pull up the king's free-wheeling gem collector to new heights. Thankfully, Frima has given the player the ability to fire ropes onto the chariot and lift it to new heights, or ride it down hills to pick up diamonds in a hurry, while avoiding any traps that may lie ahead.
In addition to pulling on a rope and trying to maintain balance over cliffs, Chariot also provides the ability to wind in your line while in a stationary position, which is quite helpful. Using the mobile chariot, you can climb up to new heights, or even manage to use it as a weapon in certain situations, as unlikely looters – like penguins that make the quartet in the Madagascar films look like saints – tend to get in the way.
As the game moves forward, you'll find new challenges to overcome, such as icy terrain that makes maneuverability much trickier than before, along with dimly lit areas that require timing to get through. Thankfully, you'll receive assistance from a guide, who will be more than happy to build secondary accessories provided you come up with blueprints for him. These include a peg that lets you keep the chariot stationary as you explore further into the level, as well as a grenade that can easily leave some looters in the dust.
The gameplay system takes time to learn – especially if you're going solo or working with a rather wily partner – but it's fulfilling to say the least, and a lot of fun, especially when you're trying to collect every last gem on a stage.
A Charming Design
While Chariot doesn't really take too much advantage of the next-gen hardware at hand, Frima gives it a low-key, charming approach when it comes to design. The character animations are enjoyable, especially when your character kicks his or her legs trying to drag down the chariot from a higher level. The King's ghostly apparitions are a highlight as well, as his impatientness to settle in the afterlife continues to grow with each stop you make in the stages.
Speaking of the stages, the design is impeccable, with new challenges to overcome and plenty of unique hiding spots to find extra goodies, like warrior skulls and more of those precious blueprints. The only downside is that some of the better stuff can't be acquired unless you're working with a friend in co-op. A minor setback, but still a setback nevertheless.
The music has its own soothing aura to it, playing in the distance as you explore the levels at hand. However, the voicework is the real treat, especially the bickering king, who complains about everything from the darkness in a stage to missing a few precious gems in one of the easier parts of the level. You gotta wonder how much of a pain he was when he was actually alive.
Bring a Friend and Reap the Rewards
The single player experience of Chariot is fun but this game was meant to be played on a co-op level. Having a second player tagging along is challenging, but once you both find that certain groove to the gameplay, you'll find Chariot to be richly rewarding, especially when you complete each level 100 percent and stumble upon new blueprints to earn additional power-ups.
This game redefines what a couch co-op experience should be, and it's better suited for it – especially in this day and age with so much reliance in online connectivity. Just grab a friend and enjoy yourself.
These are the criteria I consider most important when reviewing Chariot.
Hardly anything next-gen, but excellent level design and humorous animations fit the bill.
Good background music, combined with solid voice acting, makes this a pleasure to listen to.
Challenging at times, the platforming gameplay included in Chariot is quite enjoyable.
Single player is fine, but get a friend to join you on your journey and the fun bumps up tremendously – even while you attempt to find the right chemistry.
Chariot isn't just a reminder of the classic co-op gaming experiences. It presents a fun, interesting wrinkle on platforming games as we know it, while pertaining a certain sense of charm in its presentation. Frima Games has made a truly satisfying game that should please all sorts of players – even with that nagging king complaining nearly every step of the way. Rest in peace already!
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