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Review: Ultimate Chicken Horse

8 Feb 2018

Got a few friends? Good. You’ll need some where we’re going. At the very least take one, it’s dangerous to go alone.

Ultimate Chicken Horse recently got a port for the PS4 and we had a look at what was in store. I got a few select folks together for a couple of nights fun and plunged into the possibilities and unpredictable humor of this unique indie title.

Developed by Clever Endeavour Games, the game was originally funded on Kickstarter, where more than a thousand backers raised an impressive thirty-four-thousand dollars. While the game starts off as a straight-forward party platformer, the fun is revealed as players start to recognize the potential of building your own platformer as both a mechanic for their own success and their opponent’s demise. The art style is charming and fun, and pairs well with the cute sound effects from our furry friends. Some of the devs actually voiced a few of those bleats and clucks themselves. The funky soundtrack adds a layer of 70’s style to the game. The controls are simple, and a session of party play feels fresh and exciting for a good hour or so at a time. The more people you have on your couch the better. Good local co-op is too rare these days and this title delivers a hearty helping of it.

Sheep is the Best Choice. Trust Me.

The name of the game here is building your way across to the finish flag by using platform or trap pieces chosen by each player at the beginning of every turn. The large variety of items is the key part of the action, as it leads to item interactivity that can quickly turn a simply made left to right platformer on its head. The items try to make their uses known as they’re actually animated in the selection window when they are highlighted, which was a nice touch. You’ll be surprised as traps turn the mundane into the outlandish and impossible for ideally all but yourself as players slide over ice on their way to a spike trap that’s on the edge of a rotating four platform carousel.

Points are made interesting here as coins can be placed on stage to pickup for boosts of personal score and players are incentivized to build challenging levels together by simply awarding no points if all players cross the finish line. The maps will require new stage building strategies to get around the given obstacles to where the goal flag is placed. There are twelve to choose from once you’ve unlocked them all.

Rooty Tooty Point and Shooty

While the goal of each level is to build your way through to the finish flag, each map has features that make it unique. You can treadmill friends across to the receiving end of a wrecking ball and delight in their fall into the abyss on the rooftop stage, hide objects behind foreground pieces in the pyramid map, hide ice in the grass in the waterfall map, or take your game night to the next level on the dance party map as lights flash and dazzle.

My only real complaint to Ultimate Chicken Horse is that a game can sometimes come to feel too long to finish, as it’s entirely reliant on the players how the game will progress, and sometimes that means that progress just won’t happen quickly if everyone happens to be very good at controlling our furry comrades through custom-made gauntlets of peril. There is a play timer that will run down but it feels a tad bit long. This complaint is further highlighted if you’re only booting up the game with two players, as it’s all too easy to fall into competitive counter moves. As a minor additional gripe, I will mention that sometimes jumps and landings just don’t feel as precise as it should.

Pick Your Poison

There are multiple game modes to choose from depending on what you fancy. Party Mode will be the default that most players will spend their time in. Each player takes turns in a window of time to pick and place an item and then the stage can be run through for points. When two players go head to head in party mode, you can speed up the fun by activating the double party box option in the rulebook to increase the number of placed items. Creative Mode lets you pick from anything in the games arsenal and not just what the party box would offer you. It even lets you go back and change your mind after picking an item to place. Players are also able to move items already placed by another player. Challenge Mode lets you test your mettle against others and rank on an online leader board as either single or multiple players. Free Play is all about stage creation. You can make, edit, save, and upload created stages for use in other modes. It also offers unique items to choose from as permanent fixtures to your stage, and players are able to easily switch between item placement and testing the stage as you build it.

All Together Now

There’s a lot of old-school co-op fun to be had in Ultimate Chicken Horse. It’ll net you some of the same laughs as a well-shot green shell in Mario Kart and the nostalgic groans as a friend picks Oddjob in GoldenEye. The party aspect of the game is held up most by virtue of how easy it is for any person present to pick it up and give it a spin. The best moments had with the game were when the unexpected pairings of items led to the repeated deaths of cute farm animals in such a way that the room couldn’t help but break out in laughter.

I suggest unlocking the various playing maps Ultimate Chicken Horse has to offer. The first two or three maps may have you thinking you’ve already gotten most of the enjoyment out of the game, but you’d do well to push on for the rest. I’d recommend it be kept in any game night’s roulette to be whipped out randomly, enthusiastically, and often. Perfect for the holidays or any gathering of friends and family.

~ Final Score: 8/10 ~

Review copy provided by Clever Endeavour Games for PS4. Screenshots provided by Clever Endeavour Games and taken by reviewer.