Chicken Run (Dreamcast) review
"The best is yet to come?"
There have been many occasions where I entered a game with reserved expectations, and came out surprised and satisfied. It's rare that the complete opposite happens, where the game is much worse than I was anticipating, however my time with Chicken Run has earned it that special distinction. I wasn't expecting a hidden gem, but since this licensed product contained some interesting mechanics, I was hopeful for some kind of unique, albeit average, playthrough. Based on the claymation film of the same name, the dev team, Blitz Games, decided to recreate several scenes, often brief, of the hens building and using devices from stolen items in a bid to escape the farm, and flesh them out into actual missions. Since the plot revolves around snooping and avoiding detection, the devs also used this opportunity to base the main mechanics off a then-remarkable title released two years prior: Metal Gear Solid.
From a radar with cone vision, to patrol dogs with extremely limited sight, and even wall hugging that changes the overhead camera to a more personal angle, there's really no doubt where Chicken Run gets its inspiration from. Sounded pretty cool when I read descriptions of it, but once I got my hands on the game, not even five minutes into my stealth escapades, I got really bummed out. The mechanics aren't even used properly here, simply due to the environments being both too wide and basic for most of it to have any effect. You can basically run around a good chunk of the farm by staring at cones on the radar and staying away from fence lights without much hassle. This also renders the wall grab view the most pointless addition to the game, especially since you can't switch to a higher difficulty that omits the radar. The reason all this stuff works in MGS is because you're in constricted areas, which calls for some thinking and patience.
Bunch the uninspiring stealth design with the game's other main aspect, fetch questing, and this turns into an exercise in staying sane. For the entire journey, you're just searching for items and taking them to the proper hen huts, which doesn't sound all too terrible on its own. Unfortunately, you'll be oblivious to a huge ratio of items in Chicken Run, meaning you literally will just stumble around aimlessly until you find something. It doesn't seem all that bad in the first of three acts, when you're only able to explore a small segment of the farm, but once you enter act two when most of the farm opens up, it just becomes unnecessarily confusing. But act three is the worst, since, not only do you have to wander around the farm again, but look extra hard in spots you never would dream of searching. In one location, I pushed crates together to form a stair platform, so I could jump into a hole I never knew was there!
How did I know the hole was there, then? After my dreadful exploits in act two, I used a guide for act three... and it was still a terrible experience! I don't even want to know how miserable it would have been without a guide.
So, after collecting these items and placing them in the right huts, what do you get for your troubles? Mario Party-type minigames. There's one where you have to aim chickens at a bouncy mattress that's being moved around erratically by other chickens... for some reason. Then there's another where you have to shoot chickens onto objects floating in a pond. There's also one where you shoot chickens inside a house? Twist: these are not fun to play. Out of all the minigames, there's only two I found kind of entertaining, one of which requires staying balanced while walking in a fake human body, and the other forces the hens to button match the rhythm of the human as he repairs a machine. Also, while I wouldn't recommend Chicken Run if it did have one, I just find it perplexing that the devs never considered adding a multiplayer mode for these.
I really dislike games like this that try covering up its lack of content by making everything as convoluted as possible, thus making it undesirably longer than it should. I'm sure some people might defend this game's extreme blandness and simplicity by saying it's meant for young children who enjoyed the film. Would you subjugate a child to this? It has misleading mechanics, a bewildering fetch quest design, and minigames that would likely irritate children. Since when did kid games become synonymous with boring games?
Give them a less-insulting game to play on the Dreamcast, like... 18 Wheeler. That'll do.
Community review by dementedhut (August 31, 2015)
Rules of nature.
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