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GDC08: Opposable thumbs-on with Hail to the Chimp


Developed by Wideload (Stubbs the Zombie), Hail to the Chimp is a party game infused with political humor. As the story goes, various animals -- ranging from an octopus to an armadillo -- are competing to be elected as president of the animal kingdom. To do this, players engage in a series of arena fighting games with various goals. The game plays more or less like a simplified version of Power Stone with objectives thrown into the mix. The gameplay is simple with few nuances, as one might expect of a party game. The real question is whether or not the gameplay is too simple to maintain the attention of discerning gamers. Strange as it may seem, the satirical humor that frames Hail to the Chimp may be more endearing than the game itself.

Gallery: Hail to the Chimp | 29 Photos

The various game types -- 16 across 10 levels, making for 160 combinations -- in Hail to the Chimp all center around some sort of political objective. One game type has players scrambling to maintain the most clams -- more or less akin to votes -- for a set amount of time. Another has players destroying faulty voting machines. Each character has a handful of melee attacks, which are performed by charging buttons or simply mashing them. There are also team attacks that can be initiated by two willing partners, which make for an excellent way to knock specific characters out of the lead. There are also "curses" that can be inflicted upon other players, causing various negative effects. Finally, there are level-specific attacks as well. It's all simpler than it sounds, and it certainly won't take the studied practice of, say, Street Fighter IV.

And that brings us to the humor. Hail to the Chimp serves as a satire on politics in general and media coverage of politics in particular. Every part of the game, including menus and gameplay, is presented in the style of a news broadcast. When selecting characters before a match, the newscasters make pithy comments about each one, and will continue to do so until everyone has made their selection. Seriously, the comments will carry on for minutes if you let them. This commentary system carries over to the actual matches as well. One of the more amusing features in the game, short movies are unlocked as players progress. The videos are actually surprisingsly funny (at least the ones we saw). For instance, we saw a parody of Oprah featuring a killer whale, cheekily entitled "Orcah." Cute. Another video parodied the metric ton of pharmaceutical commercials one can view on any given network.

That's all well and good, but at the end of the day Hail to the Chimp is a party game, and the question remains whether or not the game's 90 minutes of cut scenes will serve as enough incentive to keep playing (or if they are, whether or not gamers will keep playing once everything is unlocked). We only played a handful of games, so it's a little hard to judge. Frankly, it's hard to tell for whom the game is meant. As an Xbox Live Arcade or PSN title (or perhaps even a Wii game), it would practically be a shoe-in. As a retail title for Xbox 360 and PS3 -- even at the budget price of $39.99 -- it's much harder to call. We're not sure if casual gamers will be driven to collect the game's humorous videos, and hardcore gamers may shy away from the simplistic gameplay. Feel free to vote with your wallet when the game releases this May.

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