Chariot is described by Frima Studios as a “couch cooperative platformer. Recently released for Xbox One, PS4, Wii U as well as PC, it is a fun little platformer to kill a few minutes with. The design is quite pretty and unique. This also applies to some of the gameplay mechanics of Chariot. We at Techraptor thought this week we would give you the lowdown on this frustrating yet rewarding puzzler.
The controls for Chariot are at first glance very simple. You move around using the directional pad or the left analogue stick dragging a casket behind you. The casket is on wheels and in order to pull it you hitch your rope to it via the right trigger button. That’s the basic controls of chariot. At times you will have to drag the heavy casket up a hill or a cliff edge. Doing this normally can be oftentimes hard but with the left bumper button you can pull the rope closer. The right analogue stick can be used to alter how much length the tether has. As well as pulling the cart up the hill, you are also able to ride down on it. This aspect is immensely fun and if done right can net you some massive amounts of cash. The catch when collecting the riches however is it only counts if the casket rolls over it.
The king’s casket (he’s dead) will automatically home in and pick up any loot near him. This includes while hanging off a cliff or life path. While looting in certain levels you will encounter looters. They are little creatures that if disturbed will start robbing the casket of it’s finery. You can ward them off with a press of the x button. This slashes your sword and can be used to protect the gold. The looters are woken up via several means. If you pick up a large amount of gems then it will create a sound wave around the casket. Should you be anywhere near a looter nest it will disturb them. Same goes if you drop the casket nearby. It will make a loud noise that wakes them. This can be somewhat mitigated by putting yourself between the ground and the casket but is not guaranteed to work. Another aspect is as you play you will pick up blueprints. These can be used within the catacombs and built as items that will range from anchors you can plug into a wall to glowing lights that help the casket see in the dark.
The platforming aspect for Chariot at first is easy, jumping from place to place however it fast becomes complicated. You will find yourself having to hop from cliff edge to platforms often while juggling the casket and dragging it to the next platform. This is where the controls become awkward. Having to juggle with split second timing between the jump button, holding the casket and reeling it in can be a chore that fast wears out it’s welcome. That said, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Littlebigplanet series while playing. Having to dangle off cliffs as well as the co-op aspect of paths requiring two players brought with it the familiar frustration of playing solo. It feels tacked on. There’s only a few areas where you require two people and while you can play the whole game coop, ultimately it feels pointless.
There are two special sorts of paths, each with their own attribute. Life paths are green and glow while only the Princess or her fiance can utilise them.The king’s casket can not move across these however you can drag him along underneath. Likewise the death paths are ethereal and ghostly. Only the king may cross these and oftentimes the Princess will just have to hang on for dear life. Figuring out these mechanics very early will help you get relatively far through Chariot unfettered by frustration. Ultimately the controls work well enough and aside from getting stuck occasionally they carry out their function just fine.
The story for Chariot is rather unusual. You play as the Princess, or her fiance should you choose. Her father has died and he is unhappy with the burial that was prepared for him. He tasks his daughter and her husband with helping him search for a final resting place. Strong arming the princess through whining and insults he expects her to find him a sepulcher worthy of his greatness. Did I mention he’s dead? Don’t worry about getting lonely as you brave the depths of the royal catacombs. He never shuts up, complaining when you make too much noise, aren’t moving fast enough or take him to a sepulcher he dislikes. He will express delight and terror as his coffin on wheels roars down hills, death tracks and all sorts of other paths. He comments on anything, even if you leave him alone for a minute or so to flip a switch. He can be obnoxious but it’s still endearing in a way.
The graphics of Chariot are two dimensional. This however isn’t a bad thing. The visuals and animations of gold, the King’s wheeled “Chariot”, the lighting and the verdant burrows of the catacombs are quite breathtaking. The art is some of the most beautiful I have seen in any game since either Odin sphere, Okami or Muramasa (i’ve not played Dragon’s Crown yet.) The colours are incredibly vibrant, and varied with different shades of lighting pastels and a unique art style. It is rather goofy looking but only serves to enhance the charm of the game overall.
Chariot’s sound design for the caves ambiance, atmosphere and characters movement is top notch. It helps pull you into the small illustrious two dimensional world of Chariot and the sound spotting works quite well. Looters have a distinct sound as does gold, hill rolling and swinging the cart left and right while jumping. The game unfortunately is somewhat let down by the musical choice. As you begin your quest the music is upbeat and happy. Chariot’s music is clearly inspired by Celtic tunes and works great with the games aesthetics. The sad thing is you will hear that tune for several levels until you get to a new world. Upon reaching that new world you will be greeted with a new tune. Sadly though that new tune will accompany you to the next world and so on. The music can at times become tiresome and loathing. It’s the one aspect that likely will prevent me replaying this eventually.
All this aside however the overall game of Chariot is unique. The plot is unlike anything I’ve seen in anything before. The humour is kind of subtle at times and compliments the tone of the game. The king is quite funny in how insanely obnoxious he is. He cries while losing loot and if you drop him. He even cries out loud when you go down a hill too fast. The sound, gameplay, characters and art all serve to make this an immensely fun game. It will drag on towards the end but you likely won’t notice as the aesthetics are great at distracting you. It is a very beautiful title. A tad repetitive but considering it’s free right now on Xbox Games with Gold I’d suggest everyone give Chariot a go, no matter who you are.
It is a very beautiful title. A tad repetitive but considering it's free right now on Xbox Games with Gold I'd suggest everyone give this a go, no matter who you are.