Frima Studios’ latest effort features a princess hauling her father’s casket, along with deceased father, through twenty-five levels of looters, ice hazards, and pits of molten magma. In order to clear many of these obstacles, the princess must ride her late father’s casket/body over whatever the game throws at you. Just when you thought the days of the 2D, couch co-op, puzzle platformer were over, along comes Chariot; a game that balances unique gameplay with classic gaming nostalgia.
At its heart, Chariot is an escort game, but not in the sense that you may be thinking of. The gameplay is built around the idea of a simple, but yet innovative, rope mechanic. The player may push the casket/chariot – hence the title – through the levels, but players will often find themselves attaching a rope and pulling the chariot over the steep inclines and large gaps, because the princess has upper body strength that would put Rich Froning to shame.
The rope mechanic allows the chariot to become a tool to help you reach higher and further platforms, as much as you help it. The executive producer of the game, Martin Brouard, cited that the rope mechanic as the starting point of production, everything came into the fold afterwards. It was Chariot’s creative lead, Philippe Dion, who created the mechanic that makes the game special.
Frima Studios was inspired by a love for traditional couch co-op platforming games, which lead the fifteen (sometimes twenty five) person team to create a truly co-op experience. Just like the games that Chariot harkens back to, there is no online multiplayer feature. You have to call your buddies, significant other, or children over to play the game with you if you want the full experience of the game. If you’re truly a single player, you’ll manage to get by, but you may miss out on some of the additional puzzles you will notice littered through the levels you’re traveling through.
The gameplay mechanics aren’t the only thing Chariot has to offer. Frima is an independent studio which does animation work-for-hire for film and television. As a result, Chariot’s animation and artwork has a charm to it that you don’t often see in indie games. It features a high polished cartoon look which creates a lot of the games charm and atmosphere. The level designs and art is often crisp and contrasting, something that seems simple, but may be problematic to properly preform in practice. This is where Frima’s experience with animation becomes paramount, as the game has simple art that is pulled off with expert execution.
Along with the artwork comes the game’s humor, which is what the story really hinges on. As you may have gathered from the introduction, the story for the game could easily be too morbid for younger players, but Frima manages to takes cues from earlier games, such as Monkey Island, and keeps the story absurd enough that the story and tone of the game is light and comical – and not in a gratuitous or dark way, either.
Chariot is a game that could be enjoyed by gamers of any age or skill level. The game starts off easy, maybe even too easy for more experienced gamers, but the difficulty ramps up with every level you pass. The earlier levels hold your hand, teaching you skills, mechanics, and concepts that you need in later stages. And you’ll need the skills the game teaches, because the difficulty reaches a point where some may consider Chariot’s more complex puzzles an exercise in patience, and may find themselves replaying sections for long periods of time.
Even so, players will likely find that these puzzles are worth the effort since most of the time Chariot is fun, which is the most important part of your gaming experience. Some may nitpick that the music isn’t exactly memorable, but it does its job and complements the game’s atmosphere. The only real drawback to Chariot is the lack of online multiplayer. It’s true that the game brings you back to the golden era of platform gaming, however much of the game’s target audience may not have the time to have a friend come over to play with them. Though admittedly online would make the game experience easier for players, it may not be as fulfilling as having a friend come over and play alongside you, which is what Frima is going for with Chariot.
Single player or not, pick up Chariot. The game is fun and simple, featuring new but familiar gameplay. You’ll find yourself logging hours on the game navigating through Chariot’s twenty-five levels, with multiple exits and speed run prompts. It’s worth the download if you come across it. Largely, it’s what indie gaming is all about.
Brouard, Martin. email exchange Tom Surette. 03 Oct 2014. email.