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Chack'n Pop (NES) artwork

Chack'n Pop (NES) review

"Someone needs to get on that Chack'n Pop/Chakan: The Forever Man slash fic."

Poor Mr. Chack'n! He's a weird little bird thing whose girlfriend, Miss Chack'n, has been kidnapped by jealous wizards (hey, we've all been there!). Now he has to traverse a series of mazes, freeing stolen love from literal cages along the way.

Chack'n Pop is one of those peculiar little platformers that doesn't actually feature any jumping. Chack'n can extend his legs to reach low ceilings, then will attach himself to them and walk along them. If he reaches a low obstacle, such as a set of stairs, Chack'n will automatically climb them. His legs don't stretch very far, meaning he can't always reach the above ceiling, but he can always detach himself from the ceiling and fall to the floor below. Unfortunately, Chack'n moves incredibly slowly. He sort of just crawls from left to right, awkwardly dropping bombs and watching them roll away. Bombs issue forth either to Chack'n's left or right, depending on whether you press the A or B button to drop them, and they serve two purposes.

As you can probably guess, the first purpose of bombs is to blow up enemies (or the eggs from which they hatch). At least, that’s how things work in theory. In practice, enemy eradication isn’t so easy. Once a bomb is dropped, it bounces away, across flat surfaces and down steps, until it hits a wall or stops on its own accord just before exploding. If your enemy is not positioned next to a wall (and the one type of enemy featured in the game, the Monstas who would later appear in Bubble Bobble, are always in motion), actually making contact with adversaries is largely a matter of luck. Defeating foes is hardly worth the bonus points you earn for doing so at the end of the level, especially since each stage has a time limit. Thanks to Chack'n's slowness, you seem to be more likely to kill yourself with an explosion than to catch an enemy in one.

The second, and more practical and important, use for bombs is to destroy the cages that are holding hearts, representing the love shared between Mr. and Miss Chack'n. Most stages contain two such cages. Once the hearts are free, they'll float up to the top right corner of the screen and clear an opening through which Chack’n can exit the stage.

There's a total of nine distinct single-screen mazes (down from the original arcade version's fourteen), and those repeat forever. The individual stages don't feature much variety, meaning you won't have to learn many clever tricks or patterns to get through them all. That's not to say the game is easy, considering you have to deal with Chack'n's sluggish pace and awkward climbing mechanic the whole time, but Chack'n Pop's levels consist almost entirely of floating masses of platforms with few to no traps or proper obstacles. The final few levels feature walls that you must blast apart before you can progress, but such obstructions don't really do anything besides slow you down. Some stages also feature holes in the walls that will let you quickly cross over from one side of the stage to the other, the same way you can in Pac-Man.

The one interesting thing about Chack'n Pop's level design is that the mazes are legitimate mazes. Thanks to Chack'n's awkward move set, paths that may seem easily traversable at a glance are actually impassable. It takes a bit of practice and familiarity with Chack'n moves to reach the point where you can instantly spot viable routes.

Visually, the game is no more impressive than its play mechanics. Chack'n's sprite is cute and weird, and the Monstas are iconic enemies thanks to their appearances in the more classic Taito games that eventually followed, but here the stages are too bland. Simple patterns cover the platforms, set against plain black backgrounds. Stages themselves are built for function, rather than form. None of them have interesting layouts. The game even sounds bad, with one four-second tune that loops over and over again throughout its entirety. You'll wish there was an option to mute it.

Sadly, Chack'n Pop has very little going for it. The movement mechanics are atypical, but they're not very good. Thanks to the slow, awkward movement, the game is simply never all that enjoyable. Chack'n Pop is a vaguely interesting, but not very playable, novelty from the 80s and is probably best forgotten.

Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (April 27, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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