Chariot Review (Xbox One)
Chariot is a misleading title, as players are not racing their way through a dangerous arena. The aforementioned item is actually the coffin of a dead king, and it's up to the princess and her fiance to find a suitable sepulcher to place his corpse in a final resting place. Thought it's a pretty dark narrative for 2D platformer, Chariot doesn't get bogged down by its existential overtones.
Most platformers employ the tried and true formula of jumping from side to side and collecting coins, and although one can easily enjoy such a simple diversion, Chariot aims for a much deeper experience. Under single-player mode, one can choose the princess or her fiancee before each stage begins, and since both heroes have the same abilities, picking on or the other doesn't affect gameplay. The adventure's true star is the casket carrying chariot, which gamers must lug around throughout the entire journey.
As they navigate through different terrain, players can only move forward if they learn how to negotiate their forward progress with the chariot in tow. Certain sections requires the princess or fiance to pull the chariot with a rope. When attempting to jump to a new area, they can also drag the chariot up to a higher level with the simultaneous pressing of the right trigger (pulling with the rope) and left button (summoning more strength for the heroes).
Players can jump onto the chariot and when sliding downhill, and if there is nothing in their path, enjoy a few seconds of unobstructed hill surfing. There are also moments when all that's needed is a simple push of the chariot, a task that's accomplished by positioning the hero behind the chariot and moving the controller's analog stick. Much of the game's difficulty rests in the dragging chariot throughout the lands, and after incessantly pushing both buttons my fingers experienced a bit of numbness. A little tinge in the fingertips is a small price to pay for soaking in the sheer enjoyment of this adventure, and if physics based games didn't put a little wear and tear on your fingers, what's the point?
Although you accrue gold and diamonds during each stage, a substantial portion of your treasure may be raided by looters such as bats, red-eyed creatures, and penguins. If you make a ton of noise moving your chariot or accidentally mistime a jump and crash into their hidden domain, they'll rise up and attack the chariot, draining your resources until you move away from their area.
Blueprints and collectible skulls can also be found during your travels, and between missions gadgets will be built to aid your quest. The first important item that's unlocked is a peg which, when pressing the Y button, will keep the chariot in a stationary position while you swing and jump your way to another ridge. Since the chariot is constantly moving, rendering it immobile is necessary while attempting your next jump or climb. Another item, called the canary bomb, will pull looters in and explode (the chariot also has a magnet like quality which immediately sucks in treasure).
Chariot also features co-op play, and if you're blessed enough to have a friend nearby, two heads are usually better than one when solving physics puzzles. As a lifelong soloist, I pushed my king around on single player mode. Co-op fans should encounter a whole new wave of difficulty, as having to move a chariot around, especially in an environment that's difficult to navigate, should prove the "three's a crowd" theory.
Another subtle facet to the title, which I thoroughly love, lies in the absolute greed and self-centered nature of the king. Even in death, he wants to be buried in the most lavish tomb, and during each stage he'll utter lines that may absolutely annoy the gamer. The damsel in distress or saving a kingdom trope is thrown out the window in Chariot, and it's refreshing to witness a different narrative angle reside in this unique platformer.
Even though I probably won't bring a friend over for a cooperative experience on Chariot, the game still excels as a single-player adventure. Throwing a moving coffin into the platforming mix brings an entirely different element to this well worn genre. After years of arbitrarily leaping from one stage to the next, now I'll have to think before I jump. Even if it means taking orders from a deceased, vainglorious king, this Chariot is a ride that's definitely worth taking.
This review is based on a code provided by the publisher of Chariot for the Xbox One.