Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: 'The Chicken Bandit' by SharkArm Brothers

There's nothing weird about SharkArm Brothers' The Chicken Bandit.  What's so strange about a Wild West cowboy staging train heists against robots whilst riding his giant chicken?  Nothing, that's what.  Nope, nothing weird about that premise.  At all.  What you will get, though, is a fun, exciting game that's a throwback to the best of old console games and will have you engaged the whole time.

So what's so nostalgic about The Chicken Bandit?  First, the aesthetics.  The Chicken Bandit just looks like an old school game.  The animation is smooth but it's got that pixelated feel that will bring back memories of your favorite games growing up.  Think Gunstar Heroes or Sunset Riders and you're on the right track.  Bad guys pop out of windows and from behind obstacles.  The sounds effects are the same way, from gunfire to glass shattering.  It's one of those things where you know that that's not really what those things sound like - a little too tinny, a little too distorted...but in a video game, that's exactly what they sound like.  Even the music is a classic Western theme that you could just hear blaring from the television while playing an SNES game.

The gameplay will also bring you back.  It's a sidescroller where you're always on the move, and your only real objectives are to a) shoot robots with your gun and b) snag some cash with your lasso.  Both are fun.  You can blast open doors and windows to reveal money bags (complete with "$" on them, natch), and you can purchase cards from the general store that include things like sticks of dynamite or weapon upgrades.  It's all pretty straightforward, but still nice because you feel like you have an objective, don't have to think too hard about it, and will find yourself replaying levels to beat your high score.  You get to levels by way of an overhead world map, and in between those levels you'll occasionally run into boss battles or showdowns, where you'll have to be quick on the draw to take down your foe and collect a little extra cash.  They're nice interludes between the regular levels and are good in adding a little diversity to the gameplay.

The final bit of nostalgia comes from just how damn frustrating The Chicken Bandit can be.  Everyone has those games, whether it's Contra or Battletoads, that they were ready to chuck their controller over.  The Chicken Bandit isn't nearly as bad, but you'll find yourself gritting your teeth at times.  Maybe it's because you can't hit who you're aiming at thanks to both your character and the screen moving or windows and doors getting in the way of enemies or you accidentally used a bonus card when you were trying to shoot someone.  Really, though, it all works out; you don't want the game to be too easy, after all, and there's a unique sort of gratification in getting through a frustrating stretch that you won't have felt in year.

Throw in a few bonus modes and some great replay value and you've got yourself a fine game in The Chicken Bandit.  The quibbles are just that and really won't detract from the fun you'll experience while you play.  If you're looking for something that's fast-paced, easy to pick up and play, and just might remind you of better gaming days, The Chicken Bandit should be high on your list.

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