Reviews
Chariot

By Jorge Figueiredo - March 29th, 2015

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‎When I attended the Canadian Videogame Awards back in November, I kept seeing Frima Studio’s Chariot during the nomination announcements for a number of different categories1. I was intrigued by this interesting-looking platformer. Frima was nice enough to send me a copy (PS4) to review, and I can safely say that it deserved every nomination that it received. Smallest Thumbs also joined in on the fun to help me test out the couch-cooperative mode – and she was quite happy about that.

‎This 2D side-scroller begins with the death of a king. The King’s spirit reaches out (somewhat loudly) to his daughter (and her boyfriend) to bring the cart-mounted coffin to his proper resting place (a reasonable request, I suppose). On the way to this purportedly special burial location, the King implores them to collect treasure, so that he might have some cashola in the afterlife (a slightly less reasonable request). The player takes on the role of the Princess (or her dude) to push and pull the coffin through 25 cleverly-designed levels.

The “chariot” can be pushed (by walking up against it) or pulled by using a tether (which is activated manually by the player). A tutorial plays out in the first level, with instructions painted on signs in the background of the level. As the game progresses, players learn that they can also haul in the tether, effectively pulling the chariot along (though, at times, opposing movement has to be applied to the character to uphold the balance). Gems (and rare silver skulls) must be collected by bringing the chariot within close proximity, which makes moving from A to B not a simple task. In addition, players also learn that there are many looters after the King’s money, and the King doesn’t want these bandits to touch his coins, so he must be defended (the Princess and the gentleman each have different attacks from the other). Thankfully, these enemies only focus on the chariot itself, so you never have to worry about dying.

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There is a lot of elbow grease being used here.

Aside from the normal paths that can be used, there are two others that make things even more interesting. The “dead rails” can only be traversed by the King’s chariot while the “life paths” are exclusive to the Princess and her beau. While each of these paths are solid for one party, they are transparent to the other. This makes for some interesting situations in which the cart and player move along two different surfaces at the same time. Aside from throwing a twist into the normal formula, each path reacts differently when utilized. When the King’s chariot comes into contact with dead rails, the rails begin to glow and small spirits rise up out of the tracks and subside once the cart has passed. Similarly, the life paths react in a more organic way to the Princess and her friend.

The challenge in Chariot increases depending on how much treasure you wish to collect. If you only want to go through the levels as fast as possible, it’s not really too tricky. However, if you want to cash in on cool upgrades, you’ll need to collect lots of coin and find the blueprints to make some of the cooler stuff. Some of the upgrades are more useful than others, like the rope with spike that can be jammed into walls to rappel down walls. Most of the levels have areas that are meant for two players, too, so you’ll have to enlist the help of a friend. That being said, there are some two-player sections that I have done purely on my own. The aforementioned rope and spike can be used to suspend the cart from the wall, allowing you to use tension to “raise it” by standing on a higher surface (which helps you get to some pretty tough-to-reach places).

While Chariot is fun to play on your own, it’s even better when you play it with someone else. Even though it is possible for a single person to attain the goodies that are supposed to be accessed by teamwork, it is far easier to do so with a friend. Furthermore, there are places that can only be reached by two people, which incents the player to buddy up. Smallest Thumbs was more than happy to fill the slippers of the Princess while I played her male companion, and we both had a ball. The co-operative mode can only be played locally – which is probably for the best since some of the more difficult puzzles would be harder to solve with an online partnership, especially if connection lag was an issue.

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Partnering up allows you a bit more flexibility.

Frima poured some pretty amazing love into the aesthetics of the game. Visually, Chariot is gorgeous; the bright colours and smooth animation really highlight the great character design and the different environments. Audio-wise, the sound effects sound well-sourced, and the sparse soundtrack will surprise you (it gets more dynamic during more action-packed moments – like fights). The Princess and her man don’t really have lines – but the King certainly does. His voice actor is exceptional, delivering his lines with great skill. In addition to the King, there is a hilarious skeleton that resides between levels, giving you advice on different things to spend your money on. Great writing all around.

If you’re looking for a fun game to play that has some legs (or wheels), check out Chariot. Beautiful visuals and great voice-work simply highlight the great puzzles and fun physics. The game is entertaining whether you play it on your own or with a friend, and it is full of replay value for those of you who like to try and sniff out every secret. Chariot is available for Playstation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC (Steam).

1 – The 2014 CVAs were a two-fer (2013 and 2014 videogames), and I was a judge for the 2013 games list. Chariot was nominated for 8 different awards.

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