Crispy Gamer

Hail to the Chimp

As the founder of Bungie, Wideload Games' Alex Seropian is no stranger to making games for the masses. After his split from the Halo house, however, he took a distinct left turn with the 2005 release of Stubbs the Zombie, a rare zombie-sympathetic game whose most outstanding feature over anything else was arguably its ability to lampoon a 1950s vision of the future. While Hail to the Chimp, the next game from Wideload, doesn't resemble any of Seropian's past games in a mechanical sense, that same satirical voice can be heard loud and clear. And just in time for election season!

The timing of the game's release is certainly no accident, though the folks at publisher Gamecock wanted to be clear that Hail to the Chimp has its sights set squarely on parodying the media circus that surrounds a good old-fashioned American election, rather than going after any specific, or current, political figures. Kicking things off with a little political drama, the King of the Jungle (a lion, of course) finds himself deposed, and the decision is made that the jungle should be a republic rather than a monarchy. While any good political race can be brutally adversarial, Hail to the Chimp replaces any verbal sparring you might get during a debate with a series of knock-down, drag-out fights.

Hail to the Chimp offers a kind of accessible four-player brawling action that reminded us of games like Power Stone 2 and Kung-Fu Chaos, though with a few unique twists of its own. There's an Ark's-worth of candidates from which to choose, and though they all have the same basic punch, jump and block abilities, we definitely notice some pronounced differences in the way characters handled. While the action is generally a free-for-all melee, the game also encourages some begrudging cooperation, allowing certain players to team up for a brief time, during which they will effectively act as a single fighter. Different combinations can result in different team-up abilities, and we saw candidates get tossed like midgets, balanced on like a bear on a beach ball, and stretched out like ... something stretchy. Ultimately, though, there are no real friends in politics, and you have to be mindful of when your team-up attack comes to an end, or you might find yourself getting pummeled by your former ally.

Simply beating the snot out of everyone won't always lead to victory, as each fight (or primary, as the game likes to call them) can have unique win conditions, including smashing a number of faulty voting machines, stuffing your own ballot box, or avoiding huge bombs that fall from the sky. As you might figure from these examples, some objectives fit into the political theme of the game better than others, though with 16 different game types spread out across 10 different levels, you should be able to find something you like. The game also promises online multiplayer support on both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which seems pretty critical to such a multiplayer-focused game.

Our overall impression of the gameplay in Hail to the Chimp is that it's simple, highly chaotic and a little sloppy, though what really kept us engaged was its sense of humor, which really permeates the game. The main menu is laid out to look like a cable news broadcast, complete with headlines scrolling at the bottom of the screen, though instead of CNN you get GRR (which we're told simply stands for the guttural sound ?grr!?), and instead of Walter Cronkite you get Woodchuck Chumley. It's a convincing mockup and an interesting way to present much of the game's humor.

Trying to describe/transcribe a joke is a fool's errand, but suffice it to say there are a lot of great gags stuffed into Hail to the Chimp, especially in the commercials that will regularly pop up. We saw a promo for an upcoming episode of the midday talk show hosted by the most powerful whale on TV, Ocrah; a caveat-filled ad for the ill-defined pharmaceutical called Vetebexstacil; and an excellent political attack ad against the jellyfish candidate Murgatroid paid for by the Japanese octopus candidate Toshiro. Hearing Toshiro shout ?I approve of this message!? elicited just one of the many belly laughs we had during our time with Hail to the Chimp.

We're told there are hours and hours of this stuff packed in here, which may be reason enough to give this game a look. Hail to the Chimp is currently slated for a May 27 release on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for $39.99. And remember, your vote counts!

This preview was based on a publisher-driven demo of the game.