Ultimate Chicken Horse – PAX South 2016
With a name like Ultimate Chicken Horse, how could you go wrong? This curious title from Clever Endeavour offers players a unique party game that challenges you to reach the goal. Sounds simple? Oh, did I forget the part where everyone chooses an obstacle or platform every round to make this goal easier or harder? Sorry about that. I guess reaching that goal isn’t going to be as easy as it first sounds.
With the game launch about a month away, the Clever Endeavour team was showcasing their little gem for people to play. MissyS and I got to compete against two complete strangers in the game’s Pyramid level, and while it started out quite whimsical and fun, it quickly turned quite strategic as each of us sought to undermine the others with our placement of objects. If you took the classic arcade game Rampart, gave it a dose of Little Big Planet, and threw in some Speedrunners, you can start to understand how this game works a little better.
There are currently seven different animal characters to choose from, differing only in appearance. Each round you select an object from the Party Box, which can range from simple platforms to devious traps. Each item can only be grabbed by one player, leading to a madhouse grab for the best (and worst) looking objects first. Next up you have a chance to place that object on the stage pretty much anywhere. You can rotate the object, stack it on another object, or in some cases, use it to make an existing object more dangerous (like adding barbed wire traps or ice traps). The whole idea is to make a map that keeps your competition from reaching the goal – while you can still get past it.
In fact, you get points for completing the stage, and bonus points for finishing first, finishing solo, for each trap you’ve placed that eliminates a player; even collecting a cleverly placed coin in the stage will lead to rewards. The person that reaches the end of the score bar after each round is the winner of the match (which was me; Raccoon game too stronk).
UCH has a nice handful of levels currently, and quite a few tricks and traps to play with. Each level really is as easy or difficult as you all make it. Make it easy enough that everyone reaches the goal, however, and no one gets points. Not getting defeated by your own traps, though, is also a challenge, especially in later rounds when crossbows are firing and a black hole looms right over the goal.
The team also explained their vision for the future of Ultimate Chicken Horse, with a desire for Mario Maker style levels that people can build and challenge their friends to complete. The idea is that these stages can be shared and offer a base challenge on which players continue to add obstacles and traps as they would on a normal stage. If you’re thinking Rube Goldberg device, so was I. With this added ambition, Ultimate Chicken Horse is a solid party game that’s sure to provide some hilarious outtakes.
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