The best kinds of multiplayer games are the ones where you cackle like a mad king, denying your mates a chance at winning thanks to a perfectly placed shot or turning on them at the last second. In Ultimate Chicken Horse, those in-house rivalries will be defined not by a gun, but by the placement of puzzle pieces.
Here’s how it works. You take up to four people, place them in a cartoon like environment where the aim is to get from one side of the map to the goal at the other, then leave it up to them to decide how you do that by building the level up. Each round has you choosing from a selection of pieces, be they simple boxes or platforms to jump towards or traps and weapons that can cause havoc with the party. It’s up to you to decide where your piece goes, whether it helps or hinders you and the other players, then do your best to traverse the map to the goal.
If all four players manage to reach the goal, the game rewards no-one, instead suggesting that it was too easy. It’s all about screwing each other over in the best way possible, which in turns creates a havoc of weirdly placed platforms, crossbows placed right near the goal, moving saw blades that can catch you out if you don’t jump at the right angle … it’s devious yet intelligently designed gameplay that rewards death through creativity.
It also helps that Ultimate Chicken Horse is as colourful in its looks as it is with its gameplay. Looking in from the outside, you’d think it’s some kind of cutesy animal platform game, a sort of Animal Crossing meets Super Mario, but that’s far from the case. There’s also no blood or guts so anyone can play and enjoy the madness, but older players will appreciate it just a little bit more than the younger crowd. Don’t get me wrong, kids will have fun with it too, but I get the feeling I’d enjoy it more with my group of (sadistic) friends.
Did I say sadistic? I meant crazy.
Ultimate Chicken Horse is currently available on Steam and you might notice they’re going through an online beta testing phase. Initially released only with local multiplayer, developers Clever Endeavour Games are hard at work adding an online mode, though it’s not quite finished yet. If you do purchase the game, go test out the online and let them know how it’s going, bugs and all. I’m sure they’d appreciate it, and at the very least you’ll have another perfect excuse to invite friends over for a little party … and death!
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist who knows for a fact that his friends will read this and more than likely agree with his assessment.