With the rise of online multiplayer over the past decade, local console multiplayer has mostly fallen to the wayside. Sure, there are still LAN parties held every now and then, but most people would rather play with their friends online, rather than right next to them. Looking to reverse that type of thinking is Frima Studio and their latest title, Chariot. Perhaps best known for the Zombie Tycoon franchise, the developer is hoping to bring local multiplayer back to the forefront of gaming.
In Chariot, players are placed into the shoes of either a princess or her fiancé, and tasked with burying her royal father. However, after pushing her father’s rolling casket to its intended final resting place, the ghostly specter of the king soon rises. It appears that dear old dad doesn’t think this grave is worthy of his character, so he forces the two out into the wild in search of additional treasure. By filling his tomb with diamonds and other assorted shiny things, perhaps dad will finally get off his daughter’s case and let the two be.
While the idea of pushing your dead dad’s casket around may sound a little morbid, Frima Studio wisely has a little fun with the idea. The plot, which rarely takes precedence over the actual gameplay, is light and enjoyable. The king, in particular, is a major highlight of the game. He consistently belittles your performance, boasts about his accomplishments and always puffs himself up, even if he is spooked by something such as being left alone in the dark. He is the ultimate over-bearing parent.
Set across 25 levels, the main goal of the game is to collect as much treasure as it takes to satisfy the king. However, neither the princess, nor her fiancé, can grab the treasure themselves. Rather, the royal casket must collect each and every piece of treasure out there. This means that the two must push, pull and swing this hulking tomb into items in order to pick them up. Pushing is pretty self-explanatory, while pulling the tomb is handled with a piece of rope. By tightening up on the rope or letting it droop, players can either pull it up or let it swing respectively.
One of the things I really enjoyed about Chariot is that the tomb feels as heavy as you think it would. While I have no experience pulling a casket on wheels around (or do I?), I imagine that it’s a rather arduous affair. Frima Studio captured this feeling rather well, as the heft of the casket can pull you around if you’re not careful. Learning how to deal with this weight, and adapting when the levels change, is almost as tricky as solving the puzzles themselves. A slightly mistimed leap could soon lead to the massive object pulling you to the ground with a thud. Even if that drop won’t hurt you, it will lead to enemies coming to plunder the tomb. Penguins and bats are just two of the creatures that need to be stopped before they steal your hard-earned gold.
In addition to the myriad of treasure that needs to be collected, there are also several equipment blueprints hidden in each sprawling level. These additions include the likes of a light that is attached to the rolling tomb, a peg to hold it in place for a short period of time, a bomb to ward away would-be attackers and a few others. While mostly optional, these items are necessary to search out if you want to be able to fully complete the title.
Where Chariot shines brightest, of course, is in its co-operative mode. Sitting down with a friend and working together to solve some of these devious puzzles Frima Studio put together is one of the better multiplayer experiences I have had in recent years. It can be difficult learning how to deal with the additional player, as the physics of the casket are made even more difficult thanks to the person attached hanging onto the other end. After while, though, I found myself in pretty good sync with my partner, as we bounced around each level. While it’s certainly not easier to play through the game with another person, it certainly is more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, since the game was designed with multiplayer in mind, flying solo lacks the same enjoyment. Pulling a heavy casket around all by your lonesome quickly becomes tedious, as a majority of the more clever puzzles are only available to teams of two. And while playing locally with a friend adds to the experience, I think the addition of online play may have been a benefit for the title. I understand why this option wasn’t included, as tenuous internet connections and spotty voice chat could mar the experience. But it would have been nice to just have the option just in case you can’t wrangle up a friend to partake in the experience.
With its storyline about lugging a dead king around and tricky puzzles, you may be surprised to hear that Chariot boasts some of the more colorful visuals I have seen in recent years. Each level, whether it’s set in a dark cave or a world of ice, features vibrant colors and are a joy to explore. The character designs are also simple, but are wonderfully animated and a delight to take in.
Despite the fact that it doesn’t feature any online mode, Chariot won me over with its unique blend of puzzle platforming. It’s a fun and colorful affair that features the wonderful gimmick of carrying around a casket with wheels bolted on to it. While I may not be able to play it all the time, again due to the lack of online, its the type of title I can see myself sitting down and enjoying with a good friend over some beverages. And if that’s not the best possible thing I can ask from my multiplayer titles, then I don’t know what is.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the title.
Boasting colorful visuals and slick puzzles, Chariot is a unique and enjoyable adventure that is best experienced with a good friend.