Originally Published: 4 November 2011
Hardboiled Chicken is a one-man army. Or a one-chicken army, in fact. Entering your living room to the strains of a song by the rock band New World Revolution (who provide the music throughout the game), Hardboiled Chicken is here to overthrow the penguin dictatorship of Albatropolis. Obviously.
Hardboiled Chicken is a side-scrolling, platforming shoot ‘em up with puzzles thrown in for good measure. It’s presented in a very cartoony way, and looks lovely, to be honest, as you explore a wide variety of locations: dingy bunkers, sunny streets, swanky museums. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to work out where the platforms are, while you’re playing through the levels. Even on the first level I found myself wondering if what I thought was a tunnel was actually a tunnel, and whether the platform I was jumping at was actually a platform or a bit of background art.
The tunnel was a tunnel; the platform, on the other hand, not so much.
The shooting in the game is quite basic. Duck, shoot, move on. Later into the game the enemies wise up a bit to how blindingly simple they’ve been to kill and start using shields, the crafty so-and-sos. But even then you’ll find a touch of duck, roll, turn round and shoot will sort that out. So the combat isn’t great. There’s a variety of guns available and they all dispatch the enemy forces in a puff of feathers, but there’s really not a lot to it.
But the shooting’s not on its own here. There’s puzzles as well. These aren’t mental challenges worthy of the Crystal Maze. They’re usually simple puzzles revolving around your inability to reach a higher ledge, or get through a door. So you’ll find yourself pushing boxes around, or gathering up keycards, to progress. Once you get your hands on the brain bugs, the puzzle element becomes a bit more fun. The brain bugs are tiny bugs that you can throw into passageways much smaller than yourself. They emit a gas which, should an enemy pass by, allow you to control them. It’s a bit like possessing the enemies in any Abe’s Oddworld game. Once you’ve got hold of your enemy, they can open doors or kill their unsuspecting colleagues. It’s a neat little touch that’s a welcome change to building steps out of boxes.
There’s a co-operative mode as well, placing you and a friend in charge of a heavily-armed chick each. The chicks, unlike Hardboiled himself, aren’t able to change weapons during the game, not that that makes too much of a difference, and play through the locales of the single player game, shooting enemies and solving puzzles. This time, however, as well as standing on boxes you can stand on each other’s shoulders to get where you need to be. There’s no brain bug action in the co-op mode, though, so how much you enjoy it depends on how much you enjoy the simplistic shooting and puzzle solving.
I’m a bit disappointed by Hardboiled Chicken, if I’m honest. I wanted it to be better than it is. It’s not terrible, by any means, but it doesn’t grab you as much as you’d hope it would. The combat and puzzles are too simplistic. Even the rare jetpack sections can’t redeem the entire game (though they are the best parts). It’s a shame, because it’s got potential by the bucket-load.