Bursting onto the scene for the Xbox One’s Games with Gold program is Chariot, developed by the largest Canadian-owned game company – Frima Studio. Over the years, the people at Frima have spread their wings across multiple areas: mobile and web games, even short animated films. But Chariot is something new as it’s only Frima’s second console title.
Something that’s instantly likeable about Chariot is the story: playing as either Princess or her fiancé, you’re tasked with delivering the King’s coffin to a place worthy of his magnificence. It’s straightforward and isn’t convoluted throughout the game.
Delivering the coffin safely means navigating your way through 25 levels and five different surfaces, whilst collecting precious coins and gems, as well as avoiding the many nasties that lurk above and below ground.
The graphical output from a small game like this is quite impressive. There are basic forest levels with overbearing trees and shrubbery all over the paths. But players will also delve into dark caves where nearby plants and objectives emit a beautiful blue, green and pink luminescence. Further on there are also ice and fire levels, each adding their own slice of graphical uniqueness.
Chariot is a physics-based game, which means bad news for any player expecting to just breeze through without any trouble. On the surface, this appears to be a happy, heart-felt title but underneath it’s something quite different. Pushing or pulling the King’s chariot with an extendable rope, whilst fighting against the slickness of ice, climbing numerous flights of platforms, makes for some challenging gameplay; Chariot is definitely similar to Spelunky, in some respects. Though Crystal Chasm, in particular, is quite dubious when it comes to the platforming sections – leading to painfully slow progression in some areas.
The level design in Chariot is great. Regardless of environment, they all have several paths for exploration, leading to hidden exits, other entrances, or valuable loot. One to three starred signposts are a good visual marker for nearby scores of loot or skull collectibles. A platforming segment will follow soon after and most rewards are obtainable. The ones that aren’t require two players in the game.
This is where Chariot fails. It’s sold as a co-operative game – fair enough – but only in a ‘local’ capacity. In today’s market, where consoles are virtually always online anyway, Frima Studio has implemented local co-op without making online multiplayer first. Why? It’s one of the few blemishes Chariot has but it significantly reduces its enjoyment; it’s a confusing choice by Frima Studio. These days, I’d choose online multiplayer over ‘couch co-op’ every time.
The sense of exploration also encourages the player to search for silver and gold scrolls. Silver scrolls will unlock valuable abilities, such as a Peg to hold the chariot in place, and a Sprint to increase movement speed and push the chariot faster. The gold scrolls will unlock blueprint upgrades for the chariot – to prepare you for the oncoming change in terrain.
With all this in mind, there are the Looters to think about. While pushing/guiding the chariot – depending on your play style – soundwaves will come from the chariot every time it’s dropped or you collect loot.
Looters are an annoying bunch of creatures that clasp down on the chariot – stealing your precious gems. You must eliminate them quickly or they’ll escape with sizeable amounts of gold. Looters are everywhere and it’s not until you exit the level that you’re actually safe from them; they’re a necessary, but welcomed, addition to Chariot. They are easy enough to despatch but challenge the player to complete a level without aggravating them at all.
Chariot is a good, simple game but its co-operative shortcomings significantly decrease its enjoyment. This is despite an uncomplicated story with charming graphics and only a few gameplay issues.
Loss of momentum.
A gaming experience that goes downhill.