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Hail to the Chimp (Xbox 360) artwork

Hail to the Chimp (Xbox 360) review


"The humor is practically non-existent with even the puns falling flat (and I usually love those). This wouldn't be a problem if the rest of the game were an improvement, but it's really not. The uninspired mockumentaries are actually the highlight of the whole affair (and double as bonus content that you can unlock). When you're a developer and the best bits in your game are rather poorly animated segments that wouldn't cut it on network television or even Cartoon Network in the early morning hours, you know that your project is seriously flawed."



Satire is supposed to be funny, so why is it that Hail to the Chimp makes me want to cry?

Developed by Wideload Games, the game was clearly developed to poke fun at the election process. It's filled with silly campaign footage depicting fuzzy characters who are competing for the newly vacated position on the throne as king of the animals. You'll hear animals that “approve this message,” see them sit in interviews with an ostrich that is clearly based on Oprah Winfrey and watch news reports from a woodchuck named Chumley who looks suspiciously like Tom Brokaw.

The animated segments are rather dull, with few jokes of any true substance. When they're not overdoing one stereotype or another, the voice actors spend most of their lines sounding bored with what they're saying. Can you really blame them, though? None of them have anything worthwhile to say. The humor is practically non-existent with even the puns falling flat (and I usually love those). This wouldn't be a problem if the rest of the game were an improvement, but it's really not. The uninspired mockumentaries are actually the highlight of the whole affair (and double as bonus content that you can unlock). When you're a developer and the best bits in your game are rather poorly animated segments that wouldn't cut it on network television or even Cartoon Network in the early morning hours, you know that your project is seriously flawed.

That didn't stop Hail to the Chimp from being published, even though it probably should have. This means that some gamers get to watch the train wreck unfold and--even worse--play it. The way that the interactive portions function is that you're dropped within beautifully-drawn battle arenas as one of the charming candidates. Three others critters are in the immediate vicinity, as well. The lot of you are trying to get votes, but the way you go about doing that differs from one challenge to another. Always the general goal is to beat the stuffing out of your political rivals. Think Power Stone only... not good.

There are a few reasons that the game is a misfire. One is that the arenas are too small. There's not really any space in which to move, which means rubbing shoulders constantly with your rivals. This translates to a bunch of button mashing as you try to make sure that your fists and feet are knocking your rivals away faster than they can return the favor. That play mechanic reigns supreme, whether you're going up against a few friends--good luck finding any who are willing to play this at length, though--or the bastardly computer rivals.

In an effort to make things more interesting, the developers added some complications. Many arenas have some sort of hazard, whether it be rising lava waves or platforms that fall away as you dance around over a huge pool of burning acid. These threats often take up nearly the whole screen--which already is limited enough--and only serve to exacerbate problems that never go away even when things are working at their very best. It's nice that things stay frantic and that no space is left unused, but here there's too much of a good thing. That's true even before you factor in things like portals, which warp you to another spot on the screen the minute you step on them or are knocked their way by one of your more rotund opponents. Sometimes, just keeping track of where your character has gone can be its own task.

Other players will make your life rough by flipping switches or manipulating the environment in other ways. For example, one stage has a ship at its center which emerges and submerges in cycles. This takes up most of the screen, but you can also wander around on the docks surrounding it... if you're not afraid that someone will catch you up in a basket. That's what happens when you step on the large yellow 'X' patterns, which then lead to you dangling in the air in a wired cage. You then must rotate the analog stick for a few seconds to break free.

There aren't actually all that many distinct arenas in the game, meaning that you'll have plenty of time to grow to hate each one. Whether you're trying to smash apart ballot boxes or donating clams to unwilling recipients, the end result is that you're repeatedly encountering the same irritating maps and repeatedly making frustrating trips across them for several minutes at a time. The objectives don't switch things up enough or significantly change how you need to play to succeed. The whole process grows tiresome very quickly.

That's probably why I couldn't find anyone else playing online. I tried several times and cycled through different game modes, ranked and otherwise. I even took the game's advice and tried choosing from several different campaign types (one, three and five turns), but it was all to no avail. Apparently, the people who picked up this game before me have all come to the same conclusion that I did: it's not worth playing.

Things didn't have to be that way, of course. Wideload Games has proven itself a competent developer in the form of Stubbs the Zombie, which I felt was truly great. Hail to the Chimp is just a much different game and I'm okay with that. Its actual premise is plenty cool and party games can be a total blast when they're executed well (a fact that more of the Xbox 360 audience would do well to accept). No one likes a bad game, though, and 'bad game' is really the only fitting description for this well-intentioned mess. I applaud both the publisher and developer for taking risks and for trying to do something fresh and different. They just happen to have failed spectacularly.

Rating: 3/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (August 05, 2008)

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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