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Chulip (PlayStation 2) artwork

Chulip (PlayStation 2) review


"You might not expect it from a game with kissing as its central theme, but Chulip will kick your butt if you’re not paying attention. Any time you try to smooch someone and fail, he or she slaps you and you lose some heart (your life meter). You start with four as your HP, and that rises every time you successfully kiss someone. Early on especially, you’re going to be seeing the ‘Game Over’ screen a lot."



Chulip was on localization wish lists for years and a lot of people thought it would never actually make it to the United States. A kissing game? It sounded like the distinctly Japanese sort of thing that would remain available exclusively by import for all time. It also sounded just weird and fresh enough to be seriously cool, so people kept saying they wanted to play it and Natsume finally relented. After an unbelievable wait, we got just what we thought we wanted. There’s only one small problem: the game really isn’t all that good.

Now, before anyone gets upset, let me say right up front that some people will appreciate it despite its flaws. That’s because no matter how poorly it plays, Chulip is unique and it does have aspects that will find you smiling (like a musical score and collection of ambient sounds so annoying you have to smile). Then one of the game’s flaws will slap you across the face and the sting leaves you suffering.

Basically, the idea behind the game is that you have just moved into town and there’s a girl you’d like to kiss. She’s cute but finds you completely ignorable. If you try to walk up and plant a wet one on her lips, you’ll get a slap to the face that’ll knock you on your butt and leave you seeing stars. That’s undignified. So you have to build up her interest by completing mundane tasks for the populace of the local town and outlying regions. Think Animal Crossing, only not quite so much fun.

Consider the first issue, load times. They’re actually quite frequent, and though they’re not always lengthy--ten seconds here, fifteen there--they come often enough to be irritating. The areas you explore in the game are fairly detailed, with grass blowing in the breeze, a bamboo forest with a waterfall pouring down the mountainside that lines it, a busy street with cars roaring by, a park. . . you’ll see all sorts of appealing locations, all linked together by streets or a train ride. The problem is that when you cross over the crosswalk, that’s a load time. When you skip over the footbridge, there’s another wait. Almost every time you turn around, you’re waiting for the game to load.

Now, the developers were kind enough to provide visual distractions. You get to watch your character balance on the ball of his foot and just barely avoid walking out into traffic. You get to watch him pass through an alleyway while a street vendor watches in the background, and you get to watch a crow flap away from its perch as you dash up the temple steps. These animations are nice and they help offset the wait the first few times. The problem is that the game has you running all over the place--regularly--so you’ll spend a lot of time jumping from one load screen to the next.

Underground dwellings provide another irritant. As you wander around through the various destinations, you’ll see spidery cracks in the concrete. If you examine one of these, you can choose to spy on the residents that live beneath the surface. Such voyeuristic glimpses take 30 seconds each, and there might be several in a short space. If you don’t make a note of each hole’s contents, you’ll have to keep checking back until you memorize things. Or you can look in the game’s instruction manual, which includes a walkthrough.

The problem with that, of course, is that you’re robbing yourself of the reason people play the game. The goal here may be to score a kiss, but Chulip is about everything you have to do in order to make that kiss happen. So if you’re just reading through the manual and following everything it says to do in the order specified, it starts to feel hollow, like completing a word find puzzle by constantly flipping back to the answers printed in the back of the book.

With or without the walkthrough, though, you’ll probably have a hard time. You might not expect it from a game with kissing as its central theme, but Chulip will kick your butt if you’re not paying attention. Any time you try to smooch someone and fail, he or she slaps you and you lose some heart (your life meter). You start with four as your HP, and that rises every time you successfully kiss someone. Early on especially, you’re going to be seeing the ‘Game Over’ screen a lot, not because you’re stupidly walking around and kissing people without setting the mood, but because you’re just exploring. The game relies on trial-and-error gameplay to an absurd extreme.

Let’s say you cross the street to visit a park. After witnessing a somewhat interesting text conversation, you’re left free to explore. Your life is a little low because of that boxer you ran into a minute ago, but no matter. You’re in a freakin’ park! So you decide to try use slide to see if that triggers anything interesting. It does; your character stubs his toes at the bottom and loses heart. Game Over.

So you say “Hey, that sucked!” You go back to the park, though, determined that this time things will go differently. The conversation that before you found interesting is less intriguing now and still required reading. Now, perhaps you came at the wrong time of day and a monster pops out of a hole and punches you a few times. If so, Game Over. To be fair to the game, though, let’s say you didn’t arrive at 4PM or so. You take a drink at the water fountain and your life meter refills itself slightly. Nice. Then you decide to take a ride on the spinning playground toy. Boom. You lose all of your heart. Game Over.

This is a trend throughout the game, and it’s not fair because if you don’t explore, you don’t advance. One reason for this is that you need significant cash almost constantly. To advance the plot you constantly must scavenge for kettles and cold buns and whatever else the game deems collectible. Scavenging means checking dumpsters and garbage cans, but if you find the wrong random item, you’ll lose heart and maybe head back to the “Game Over” screen. Even when things are going right, you’re constantly worried that the next thing you check will unexpectedly end your life. I don’t have to tell you how significant your loss will be, for example, if you find a panda turd along the bamboo forest.

That all brings you back to that one option I mentioned: playing through with the included walkthrough. And honestly, that’s just not fun. There are the constant load screens, a character leisurely walking through his environments instead of moving quickly and the fact that when the walkthrough tells you to start scavenging, you’re once again left on your own. Suddenly, Chulip feels a heck of a lot like work. Sure, it had promise. The final product does have cool moments. But ultimately, this is one game that should’ve stayed in Japan. Just because you get what you want doesn’t mean you’ll like it.

Rating: 5/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (February 21, 2007)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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