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Ultimate Chicken Horse Review
Sometimes (not all the time, only sometimes), the most fun you can have with friends is finding creative ways to burn, embarrass or sabotage them. Sometimes nothing fills you with glee quite like watching a buddy fall victim to your machinations, cursing your name as you cackle like an idiot. Or, at least that’s how I rationalize my love for Ultimate Chicken Horse, the new party game that’s all about being a jerk to your friends. Or maybe I just really don't like my friend Aaron. He is Canadian, after all.
Let's Play a Game
Ultimate Chicken Horse, by Clever Endeavor Games, is both a cooperative and multiplayer platforming party game. Up to four players can join a level, each of which begin as a mostly blank slate, with nothing but a starting point, a goal and a huge gaping maw in between. Before each turn, every player is allowed to pick from a box of goodies a various assortment of objects that will help everyone get to the finish line. You’re also able to pick from a variety of traps designed to keep everyone (except, preferably, you) from reaching their goal. The result is madness of the best sort. You can’t be too helpful, because if everyone reaches the finish line, nobody gets any points. You can’t be too devious, either, because if nobody reaches the finish line, nobody gets any points. Each player who makes it to the finish line (assuming at least one player failed) is given points. Additional opportunities to score can come from successfully killing someone with one of your traps, being the first across the goal, being the only one across, or even getting there posthumously. It’s all about trying to trick your friends while giving yourself the advantage you need to become the Ultimate Chicken. Or Horse. Or Squirrel, Elephant, Raccoon or a number of other playable animals.
The Perils of Friendship
It’s a fine balancing act, and one that can easily descend into chaos if the folks you’re playing with aren’t as cooperative as you’d like. Thankfully, you’re also given items that can destroy already-placed objects that make it impossible to win. There is a huge variety of objects you can pick, and a near infinite number of ways you can combine them to create larger, more complex contraptions. If someone places a wooden plank to bridge a gap, you can attach a sticky gear to it that will cause it to rotate endlessly, making that passage much more perilous. If someone has placed a saw right in your path, you can pop a set of stairs right on top of it to eliminate the danger. While there are only 12 levels, the degree of complexity allowed in them varies greatly, and the sheer number of possibilities for configuring each means that the only limit to the fun is you and your friends’ imagination.
It's a Chicken Eat Squirrel World
Adding to the general chaos that ensues when four adversaries are trying to build a world together is the wacky physics underpinning the whole endeavor. All playable animal characters control the same, which is to say they're all a bit too floaty, with controls that are a bit too loose, likely the end product of the completely open architectural possibilities in the game. You're never quite sure if you can make that jump, or if you have to double hop once you land. Throw in icy patches, sticky honey, rotating buzz saws and literal wrecking balls, and sometimes your own worst enemy are your own twitchy fingers.
You Are the Ultimate Chicken
If you’re more interested in simple collaboration, there is a creative mode that lets players pick from any of the objects in the game to create the most dangerously clever puzzles possible and then share them with friends. Time attack modes bring extra fun to couch multiplayer sessions by allowing friends to compete against one another to see who can clear courses the fastest. Various cosmetic unlockables allow you to customize your favorite animal in the most stylish of accoutrement, because nothing says you’re a baller like playing as a chicken in overalls sporting a pink mohawk.
Ultimate Chicken Horse is a simple game isn’t the kind of game you pick up and play every night, as it benefits most from fresh bouts of sadistic creativity, but for the $20 price tag, it’s one of the best pick-up-and-play party games you’ll find on the PS4.