In Chicken Run, players must help the chickens escape from Tweedy's Farm before they are all turned into pies. Throughout the game, players will take the roles of several main characters, including both Ginger and Rocky. It will require good planning, puzzle solving, and stealth to explore the whole farmyard and find the objects needed for escape.
Chicken Run is a one-player 3D escapade that aims to bring the adventure and comedy of the successful 2000 Aardman Animations film (Chicken Run) home to gamers. It features many of the settings and characters from the story and uses the original voices from the movie.
Terrible children's movies typically spawn even worse platform games. Luckily for home audiences, neither the Chicken Run film nor the predictable interactive spin-off fall into either of these categories. In fact the motion picture performed way above critics' expectations, having raked in beaucoup bucks at the box office and garnered cult status with the young 'uns. Mind you, the stealthy antics featured by this enhanced PC port of an extremely console-centric title can't lay claim to that kind of success. On the other hand, they will however satisfy plucky consumers looking for a fairly humorous product that's none too complex.
It's not the average, everyday product which casts players in the role of a chicken. Then again, nothing about Chicken Run besides the quality of its storyline qualifies as normal. Per the cinematic-displayed plot, players are a talking hen named Ginger hell-bent on escaping from Tweedy's Farm. With the aid of superhero poseur Rocky and other familiar faces like Mac and Babs, not to mention the person behind the keyboard, the heroine might just live to see the correct end of a pot pie. Admittedly, this is probably the lamest setup of the season, but although the setup sounds ridiculous, it actually makes for a rousing adventure that's essentially a barnyard version of Commandos or Metal Gear Solid.
Pessimists will find their doubts melt away once the gameplay starts. A miniaturized radar proves the amazingly versatile device around which events unfold. While you explore, collect, and bounce across a full-screen view of Ginger's immediate surroundings, this readout provides feedback on enemy activity. Foes like dogs and Mr. & Mrs. Tweedy prowl the grounds of each environment, hoping to catch wily cluckers in the act of skidaddling. Avoiding these hazards, each displayed as a blip with a cone shaped line of sight indicator attached, long enough to pick up special items is the main goal. Draw too close and the radar lets you know you've been spotted, providing a moment's warning before all hell breaks loose. At that point it's either run like hell or get caught and lose an item. While you can't 'die' per se, except during boss sequences, the annoyances associated with being captured are incentive enough to plan operations in a low key manner.
Sneaking around chicken coops searching for goods can be a rewarding experience. You'll acquire a taste for covert ops in addition to a knack for vamoosing when the fit hits the shan, both of which are fueled by the simplistic, highly responsive control scheme. That's all well and good, seeing as how every puzzle and mission goal undertaken in pursuit of building a new gadget demands one or more object collection expeditions. The ends at least justify the means, because several of these special items can be used for practical purposes, such as when Ginger hides beneath a boot, or as distractions in sticky situations. While the goofy play mechanics just described can't sustain a long term relationship (and what non-strategic or FPS title can these days?), they're good for a few hours of mindless enjoyment before your cortex reverts back into its usual mushy state.
Eidos tried to be clever and avoid this fate, though. Mixed in with the standard stages are silly mini-games and special levels. If desired, gamers can sometimes skip egg catches and other obvious filler, but they can't avoid certain end sequences. Thus you'll be stuck performing a mannequin balancing act or slogging through some other fruity arcade sequence now and again. Shame that the developers weren't smart enough to have taken the McGruff stance on the issue and just said no altogether. Nonetheless, the complaint carries little weight, given how the screwy interface responsible for the extreme difficulty level of these vignettes (previously a major point of contention with the console versions) is no longer an issue.
Of greatest import as negative impact goes is the unpredictable AI. Once latched onto a scent, bad guys will steamroll their helpless victims. Yet that involves noticing an errant chicken first. Though dogs seem almost preternaturally aware of one's presence half the time, you can stand halfway up their rectum the rest with no adverse effects. Also the red flashes and blaring alarm sounds that let you know when a goon's spotted Ginger's feathered bum could induce a seizure. But how exciting is it when you discover that you can avoid a restart by standing in a corner where troublemakers can't reach the heroine? Even if they're staring right at a cornered victim, under the aforementioned circumstances the helplessly daft evil buggers eventually give up and move on, letting one escape their current predicament. Sad thing is, the AI's actually sharper than on its PlayStation or Dreamcast cousins.
PC owning moviegoers will also benefit from an enhanced visual presentation. Day and nighttime scenes are much easier on the eyes thanks to home computers' expanded color palettes and improved texture display capabilities. Even the characters sport more fluid movements and animations. Apart from occasionally scratchy sounding, but professionally delivered British voice-overs, the offbeat sound effects also won't disappoint. Like the flick, this game has an appropriately cartoonish feel, though it may alienate mature geezers because of the juvenile decor. Because the quirky atmosphere and arcade-like audio effects are honestly suitable for adults as well, hopefully it won't be a major turn-off.
Released with the fanfare of a new Yanni album, this title will likely exit stores as quietly as it tiptoed in. And while the masses won't mourn its passing, those in search of a fun, short-lived action adventure cum platform game should. Flawed in many ways, though entertaining in a smidgen more, Chicken Run deserves a better fate than languishing in bargain bin purgatory. Were ports of console products this plausible as a whole, people wouldn't see so many publishers vacating exclusively for greener pastures. Quoth the disappointed editorial staff, "Damn...so much for that rotten egg pun you had to know was coming."
People who downloaded Chicken Run have also downloaded:
Chrome, Chasm: The Rift, Carnivores: Cityscape, Centipede, Disney's Donald Duck: Goin' Quackers, Disney/Pixar's Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue!, Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters, Chaos Legion
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