Review: Hail to The Chimp (Sony PS3)

Hail to The Chimp
Developer: Wideload Games Inc.
Publisher: Gamecock
Genre: Action/Party
Release Date: 06/30/08


The non-mini-game based party game is a genre within a genre that pops up from time to time, though I don’t believe any of them have really made the mark they intended to. Games like Kung Fu Chaos can be amusing to certain gamers, while the likes of Fusion Frenzy leave a bit to be desired with regards to “fun” in any sense of the word. Wideload games, creators of the highly enjoyable Stubbs The Zombie, have decided to try their hand at this iffy game genre with the creatively conceived Hail to The Chimp. Let’s see if they do any better in their attempt than those who have come before them.

Story:

The Lion, the undisputed King of All Animals, has been caught amidst a vegetarian scandal, and as a result is forced to resign from his position of ultimate authority. It’s here that the idea behind Hail to the Chimp comes in, as the game becomes a zany politically themed contest to see who the next King of the Animals will be.

10 candidates assemble for the upcoming election, and much like a real political footrace, try to do each other in to be favored by the popular vote. The difference, of course, is that in place of speeches and verbal debates, the candidates earn the voters’ favor by pummeling their rivals and collecting as many clams as possible. Yes, clams. In Hail to the Chimp, it’s all about the clams.

The execution of this crazy concept is spot on. From the faux CNN visualized front end to the various in-depth character personalities, Hail to the Chimp hits all the right buttons in its parody of a presidential election. The charm and personality of the product is by far it strongest suit.

Story: Great

Graphics:

The visuals in Hail to the Chimp are actually reasonably artistic. When I first heard about the game, I actually thought the developers might make the visuals drab and plain on purpose, as yet another poke at the political concept. However, the character and environment graphics are done to look as if they were created from pieces of textured paper, which really gives the game an original and interesting look. It’s unfortunate, however, that once the camera zooms out during gameplay, the effect of this interesting style is all but lost, as from a distance these details can’t really be seen.

The characters, which come off as your typical Saturday morning cartoons by design, are all of high quality, as are most of the game’s aesthetics. The environments can be less than impressive at times, but they are faithfully portrayed within the game’s style and are usually novel and full of life.

Graphics: Good

Sound:

While the music and general sound effects in Hail to the Chimp aren’t anything noteworthy, the voice acting is pitch perfect, and in most cases, can be considered the strength upon which the game’s clever political humor is executed. Woodchuck Chumley, the face of the GRR Network, is voiced by a Mr. Doug James, who does an excellent job; the delivery of the role as the character rattles off news headlines has to be heard to be truly appreciated, as the voice work of this character alone perfectly captures what Hail to the Chimp is trying to do in regards to it’s theme.

Sound: Great

Gameplay:

Hail to the Chimp offers two game modes: Campaign, a single player experience that will have you playing as each of the 10 candidates in specific stages, and a VS. mode for up to 4 players which can also be played online. The idea behind most of the 16 events in Hail to the Chimp is to get more clams then anyone else. Characters can jump, attack, utilize various traps and other sabotaging devices found within the stage, and even form brief alliances with one of the other candidates, which results in various power attacks that are difficult to evade.

Though the usage of the mighty clam is different throughout all the events that feature them, the main goal is usually the same: collect as many as you can. Some events are simple, like “Front Runner”, which has the 4 candidates battling it out for as many clams as they can get, and the character with the most clams at the end of 2 minutes wins the event. Other events, such as “A Clam in Every Pot”, not only has the candidates scurry about collecting clams, but also has them jamming ballot boxes with them in order to buy themselves more time.

The clam idea works in a similar way to Sonic and his rings. You collect clams by running over them, which accumulates a tally. If you’re attacked by another candidate, or fall victim to one of many possible traps within any given stage, your clams burst forth from your person, allowing them to become the potential property of any of your rivals. If you’re attacked without any clams on your person, your character passes out and respawns a few seconds afterwards at their starting position.

Unfortunately, just about all the games (12 of the 16 offered) have you fighting for clams in various forms and fashions, and, well, they just aren’t very much fun. The clam events as a whole are infused with very little personality when compared to the rest of the game, and generally grow quite tiresome after even a few plays. Some of the other events, like Mud-Slingers and Yard Signs don’t have you duking it out for the coveted clams, and these games, though not great, actually play out better than all this clam nonsense.

Though it’s typically a staple of these kinds of games, it’s difficult to truly understand the jumbled mess of anarchy unfolding during an event well enough to be able to play effectively to begin with, but this combined with several other design flaws amplifies the initial confusion considerably. The sporadic camera is always zooming out, then in on the candidates that are in the lead, which is aggravating, and the visuals, though wonderful on an artistic standpoint, run together during the gameplay, and even with in-place character markers, make keeping track of the actual character you’re playing as a hassle.

I’m sincerely disappointed that the gameplay in Hail to the Chimp fell as flat as it does, as even a passable effort in this department could couple with the game’s great presentation and humor to make it a worthwhile product. The result, as it stands, is a game that’s more entertaining when you aren’t interacting with it. Playing through all the tedious and poorly executed events required to unlock all the various animated shorts in the GRR On Demand archive, even taking into consideration how amusing and well done they are, just isn’t worth it in most respects.

I unfortunately cannot effectively comment on the online multiplayer component in Hail to the Chimp, as every time I tried to play it (noon, evening, late evening), there were no players available for a match via the Playstation Network. I can tell you that the game offers private, public, and ranked matches for up to 4 players, but that’s it.

Gameplay: Bad

Replayability

I suppose it is entirely possible to get a group of friends together who actually can have fun with the gameplay of Hail to the Chimp, but there are a considerable number of other multiplayer free-for-all games that play better and are more fun.

Unlocking all the videos will certainly take a bit of time, but as I mentioned previously, this requires you to endure the usually poor gameplay. The videos are worth watching, as they are funny, witty, and wonderfully executed, but be prepared for your tolerance of the product to wane long before you unlock them all.

Replayability: Mediocre

Balance:

While playing multiplayer the “it’s anyone’s game” feeling is present in Hail to the Chimp. It’s important to mention the fact that in the campaign mode, your computer controlled rivals are not going to be affected by some of the maddening effects of the gameplay design, namely the camera angle and the inherent confusion that ensues during a match. Though it’s by no means impossible to win a match against the computer, there are times where the AI-controlled opponents will soar gloriously in certain events, and you will be down several clams from fighting with the camera, trying to find your character, the general mess that is the expected gameplay, or any combination of the above.

The fact that the same nuisances don’t apply makes the situation frustrating, not only in actual practice, but in theory as well.

Balance: Poor

Originality:

The often stale and technically hindered gameplay of Hail to the Chimp is not worthy of the effectively humorous, witty, and well executed aesthetics that are attached to it. The political mockery concept has been used here and there in games, but the developers choice to make the association to the animal kingdom is clever and unique, and the content delves deep below the surface to make the parody come together as more than the sum of its parts. The graphic presentation is interesting as well, and though problems arise from the way they are handled during the actual gameplay, the approach and style are definitely worthy of merit.

The gameplay, as mentioned, leaves a lot to be desired not only in regards to technical mechanics, but more so in the way they’re designed. The ideas behind the events are clever, and are equally novel parodies of many actual presidential election activities, but once again that credit goes to the game’s concept and aesthetic execution. The events themselves play out as gaming drivel, with little to none of the product’s established charm and wit intact.

Originality: Good

Addictivness:

Given the ho hum delivery of the games and the technical problems that bog them down, any desire to actually “play” Hail to the Chimp will be reduced after the first few times you do so. If you manage to play enough to unlock all the hilariously high quality video shorts, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll spend more time in the GRR on Demand archive than actually playing the campaign if you choose to ever boot the disc up again.

Addictivness: Bad

Appeal Factor:

With an actual presidential election campaign going on in the US as we speak, I don’t think Gamecock could have released Hail to the Chimp at a better time. But besides fans of the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, it’s hard to imagine how the game’s concept would appeal to gamers who are not fans of politically driven humor.

Regardless of the exceptionally well presented concept, not everyone is going to necessarily get the puns and jokes therein, and though there is a good deal of basic humor strewn throughout, the idea of a Presidential party game seems a little niche-oriented. But given ratings of things like the Daily Show and Real Time with Bill Mahr, there may be a bigger demographic for the title than I imagine.

Appeal Factor: Above Average

Miscellaneous:

The video cartoons are great fun, and you’ll most likely want to watch them with your friends rather then actually partaking in the game itself. It’s also worth mentioning that retail copies of the game come with a special code you can enter for a unique costume that the characters can equip.

Miscellaneous: Above Average

The Scores:
Story: Great
Graphics: Good
Sound: Great
Gameplay: Bad
Replayability: Mediocre
Balance: Poor
Originality: Good
Addictivness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average

FINAL SCORE: Decent Game.

Short Attention Span Summary:

Hail to the Chimp has a clever and well executed premise, but becomes almost unnecessary as an interactive experience due to its lackluster and technically flawed gameplay. The game is worth checking out just the see quality of the aesthetics and humor, but the associated gameplay is honestly not worth the trouble to pull in the whole experience. It’s sad because the game is very well written and presented quite effectively, but a party game whose game element is little to no fun doesn’t get my vote.

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