At some point in the past decade, people realized that 2D platformers didn't just have to be one, Mario-inspired thing. They could take that basic core of running and jumping, so immediate to the immersive advantages of video games, and expound their own mechanical and artistic creativity on top of it. Now, indie developers are often throwing a singularly new mechanic into the mix and running with it, hoping to build a fully-fledged game with depth and nuance in the end. Frima Studio's 'Chariot' is one such game, and players are tasked to search for the perfect burial ground while hauling some important cargo, the coffin of a King, which must be yanked through catacombs as the search goes on. Seems like a good idea to start a game, but let's see how well it holds up.
There's a strong sense of personality in the presentation, completely light-hearted and charming, yet nevertheless a bit derivative of medieval tropes. It all runs quite smoothly, boasts of color, and some of the more compelling backgrounds hint at larger thematic ideas that never really bleed into the gameplay.
Of worthy mention are the expressive faces of each character. As the Knight pulls and yanks and jumps, her face is in constant and accordant flux. She speaks her mind with her face, basically. Even so, I'm a particular fan of the talking skeleton shopkeeper.
And speaking of talking, the skeleton guy and the dead King are both surprisingly well acted in spite of the mute protagonists. Their lines might end up repeating a little too soon, but they aren't bad lines, and they certainly aren't laid on too thick. It's a breezy atmosphere, thankfully. The background tones never take too much of a presence either.
The physical weights of the Chariot and the little Knight lugging it around are well considered, as are the tugging and jumping "feel" of things. That's a tough thing to do, especially when the idea is brand new. The tougher thing to do, proven here, is realizing the new concept into an entirely satisfying game.
It's rare to encounter a structural design of a game so hurtful to the enjoyment of its basic gameplay. Had Frima Studio done something, anything, to actually incentivize the loot system, and thus made the challenge areas a worthwhile or even compulsory trip, I might've found the experience more rewarding. Yes, I could've forced myself into the challenge areas for the sake of completion, but it turns out they really aren't that interesting on their own. It's still a lot of jumping and lugging, instead of new, compelling ideas.
Easier still, the team could have broken down the levels into bite-sized challenges, as so many more successful platformers often do, and created a more sensible, simplified overarching structure to better focus the level design. Yet, that might've just further amplified the sense of repetition and lacking creativity from beat to beat. There really is a lot of useless filler going on in 'Chariot,' and not enough surprise. Turns out, lugging a coffin through some catacombs can be just as mundane when pixelated.
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