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EIEIO 08: Hail to the Chimp impressions


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Not being much of a "next-gen" follower (sorry!) I had a vague belief that Wideload's Hail to the Chimp was a downloadable game. I was, then, surprised to find it a full-sized (but budget-priced) release. Developer Wideload Games used the retail-game budget to create not only a unique party game, but also a hilarious audiovisual experience that doesn't really have an analogue on modern systems.

Hail to the Chimp's menu interface is the GRR News Network, with pompous anchor Woodchuck Chumley (seen above enjoying some... hot coffee ... with Bean the Sloth) onscreen authoritatively intoning ridiculous stories, while the menu options take the place of all the ubiquitous TV news infoboxes and text clutter. Wrapping the game inside this TV-station premise allows Hail to the Chimp to have something resembling a storyline, and also provides the opportunity for the funniest aspect of the game, which I'll get to shortly.

Gallery: Hail to the Chimp | 29 Photos

As the story goes, the king of the jungle (the lion, obviously) has died, and the animal kingdom is holding its first-ever presidential election. As we "watch" via GRR (and also play), ten candidates, ranging from Murgatroyd the jellyfish to Hedwig the polar bear, campaign for the position fiercely and violently, forming temporary alliances that dissolve as soon as it is advantageous.

This premise translates into a new take on the party minigame collection: while WarioWare birthed a genre of quick games based around performing wildly divergent tasks, and most other party games provide distinct games sharing a common theme, Hail to the Chimp offers many different game types that use the same basic gameplay. It's kind of a cross between Power Stone 2 and Wario Ware. For example, in one game, players attempt to win votes by "hacking" voting machines that fall into the stage. The goal here is to get to the voting machines and bash them before the other players do. Another gametype involves collecting clams (the game's currency) from around the stage, with each player able to beat some of the earnings out of the other players. In these games, the players are sometimes put in direct physical conflict with each other, and in others, combat is used to deter opponents from a goal. In any case, the basic mechanics are the same, which aids the learning curve of the game.

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In any gametype, two players can choose to team up with a "team-up" button. One player calls for a partner with this button, and the next player to press the button will join. This enables team-up attacks that vary by pair of characters -- like the Simpsons arcade game. A bigger character may swing a smaller one like a club, or two may roll up together; in all cases, control of these team attacks is cooperative.

What makes the TV conceit work especially well is the bonus content, which is unlocked during gameplay. This takes the form of parody commercials, spanning all of the "popular" junk we're subjected to on TV, with animal twists. There was a Head On-like product for scent glands, a high-energy exercise plan called Fly-Chi-Do, and various political smear ads between characters, among a ton of other content. I would have stayed and watched for as long as they were showing them. Wideload Games hired writers from The Onion and The Daily Show, and it shows. Not enough games even try to be funny, and even fewer succeed.

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